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The South as a Trap: Trap Music and the Carceral Geography of the South

Dr. Corey Miles will present "The South as a Trap: Trap Music and the Carceral Geography of the South." The lecture is part of the Sociology and Anthropology Spring Speakers Series.

"Carceral" refers to a prisonlike space. Trap is a subgenre of hip hop music that originated in the South during the early 1990s. The genre gets its name from the Atlanta slang word "trap," which refers to a place in which drugs are sold illegally.

Description: Through ethnographic research in North Carolina, this presentation examines the ways Black Southerners use racialized emotions to produce understandings of the South as a racialized space.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a political sociologist and professor of sociology at Duke University, points to the ways that race and gender are infused within the emotional repository of racialized actors and the ways emotions draw the boundaries that set forth racialized identities.

Based on 14 months' of fieldwork with Black Southern trap rappers, this research contends that Black Southerners feel the structural weight of the criminalization of Blackness and experience the South as a carceral space. In what ways can a theory of trap music provide a framework to understand how Black southerners experience structural exclusion mediated through carceral geography?

Trap music, hip-hop centered on guns and drugs, attends to the structural, political, and institutional contexts in which the logics and technology of imprisonment have been configured within the everyday lives of Black Southerners.

Engaging with the text, context, and texture of trap music provides a more nuanced reading of the sound rather than solely reducing it to advocating for criminal activity. Furthermore, this framework allows us to think about the ways Black Southerners, while having legal text (e.g., birth certificates) to stake claim to the South, still face ontological exclusion through the texture and context of their experience.


Zoom webinar




Carrie Hough