“Disco Dreads” Self-fashioning through Consumption in Uganda’s Hip Hop Scene: Image-making, Branding and Belonging in Fragile Sites

Simran Singh

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis explores interactions between self-fashioning and consumption in the hip hop scene in Uganda. In the performances of musical and social life, hip hop reveals first, tactile interactions between ideas and objects, subjective and relational to processes of consumption and production. Second, these interactions find expression through enactments of activism and hedonism, aspects which hip hop as global cultural product consistently and problematically engages with. This acts as a critical space to contemplate wider social formations and historical processes. In this thesis, such interactions are interrogated through aspects of self-fashioning, mapped through the visual in the form of image and brand showing how these preoccupations, while a first glance divergent, come from a place of belonging, which is wanting a better life.

This project is an interdisciplinary one. Choosing a visual focus with which to engage with this sonic culture, I rely on ethnographic data gathered in the field combined with digital ethnography. I draw on scholarship from ethnomusicology, popular music studies, media and cultural studies and perspectives from post-colonial studies to reveal a dialogue between plenitude and paucity. This is a conversation informed by the images and imagery of hip hop, its music, its media narratives and mythologies, set against a backdrop of deep socio-economic inequity and thus, profound fragility.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Ramnarine, Tina K., Supervisor
  • Gallagher, Julia, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 21 Dec 2017


  • Hip hop
  • Uganda
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Popular Music
  • Media and Cultural Studies
  • Politics
  • post-colonial studies
  • Postmodernism

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