Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
O'Neill, Stephen
Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism
‘It's William Back from the Dead’: Commemoration, Representation, and Race in Akala's Hip-Hop Shakespeare
1 ()
Optional Fields
Recent work oriented towards race in Shakespeare studies has involved calls not just for critical attention to race as an ever-present, constitutive element of 'Shakespeare' but also for modes of scholarship and criticism that actively promote critical race studies, diversity and inclusivity within the field. The kind of Shakespeare desired by critical discourse within the field is, I argue, already available within popular cultural productions. This article focuses on British hip-hop artist Akala, who has emerged in the United Kingdom as the face of a contemporary, diversified Shakespeare. From his tracks that reference Shakespeare and engage in a battle-rhyme with the Bard to his founding of the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, Akala has been presented in the media – and to a lesser extent in Shakespeare criticism – as simultaneously a critic of a traditionally valorized Shakespeare, one associated with high culture and white privilege, and an exponent of a more culturally hybrid, pliable Shakespeare that appeals to a young, multicultural demographic. Exploring Akala’s earlier work, in particular his track ‘Shakespeare’ and accompanying video, and then turning attention to representations of his role in the Shakespeare quatercentenary, this essay argues that Akala has long being negotiating the difficulties that occur with Shakespeare’s cultural capital when race enters the equation. It further argues that in order to enact a responsible and ethical Shakespeare criticism, the critic has to allow for the possibility that Shakespeare’s cultural prestige, as Thompson importantly acknowledges, may prove unconducive to a progressive race politics (2011: 6).
Grant Details