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Amanda Bennett

Amanda Bennett, an Atlanta native, is a first-year PhD student in the Literature program at Duke University. She also holds a BA and an MA from the University of Alabama. Her interests include critical race theory, continental philosophy, black Marxism, and cultural studies.

“Claiming the Culture: An Examination of Black Christianity and Black Masculinity within Neoliberal Political Rationality”
The structural forces that enable Chance the Rapper (born Chancelor Jonathan Bennett) to claim that he is “the culture” are the same ones that strive to alienate certain ideas (in this case, the political uses of black Christianity) in order to maintain the social hierarchy inherent to a white supremacist society. The proof of his cooptation of black Christianity for depoliticized personal gain exists in the actual lyrics of Bennett’s music, his relationship to the music academy, and his various publicity stunts and business deals. He uses these components to negotiate a space that allows him to maintain the black cultural capital that has accumulated within the genre of hip hop over the last 40 years while also promoting an image of himself that is “safe” enough (and therefore profitable) to ingratiate himself to various corporations and political leaders such as Barack Obama. Bennett is able to profess a position of “independence” within the music industry because of his refusal to accept a traditional record deal. Bennett’s public persona represents a simultaneous exploitation of black Christianity and black male emotional vulnerability for financial gain and media visibility. Bennett’s ability to appropriate and disseminate a black Christian aesthetic through his media presence represents a form of neoliberal political rationality and governance that Wendy Brown outlines in Undoing the Demos. Additionally, the configuring of Bennett as “safe” within of a false dichotomy of “safe” and “unsafe” rappers performs a domestic version of Stuart Hall’s paradigm of the “noble” vs “ignoble” savage in The West and the Rest. The construction of such a dichotomy also limits the opportunities for emotional vulnerability among black male rappers who are determined to be “unsafe” (and therefore “ignoble”).