Religion and Hip Hop (Hardback) book cover

Religion and Hip Hop

By Monica R. Miller

© 2013 – Routledge

208 pages

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Religion and Hip Hop brings together the category of religion, Hip Hop cultural modalities and the demographic of youth. Bringing postmodern theory and critical approaches in the study of religion to bear on Hip Hop cultural practices, this book examines how scholars in religious and theological studies have deployed and approached religion when analyzing Hip Hop data. Using existing empirical studies on youth and religion to the cultural criticism of the Humanities, Religion and Hip Hop argues that common among existing scholarship is a thin interrogation of the category of religion. As such, Miller calls for a redescription of religion in popular cultural analysis - a challenge she further explores and advances through various materialist engagements.

Going beyond the traditional and more common approach of analyzing rap lyrics, from film, dance, to virtual reality, Religion and Hip Hop takes a fresh approach to exploring the paranoid posture of the religious in popular cultural forms, by going beyond what "is" religious about Hip Hop culture. Rather, Miller explores what rhetorical uses of religion in Hip Hop culture accomplish for various and often competing social and cultural interests.


"Miller's well researched and thoughtfully written book is a vital contribution to scholarship, one that holds great promise for helping readers better understand both the nature and meaning of religion and the deep significance of hip hop. Anyone interested in the intersection(s) of religion and hip hop should read this book. I highly recommend it."Anthony B. Pinn, Rice University, USA

"Milller's new volume is a sweeping, provocative look at the complex relationship between hip hop and religion. Drawing on her rich and wide-ranging understanding of the art form, Miller asks very basic and profound questions about religion itself. Looking past popular and academic moralizing alike, Miller interrogates religion as an emergent and unpredictable phenomena, asking what it means-and can mean-for hip hop artists and audiences today. In so doing, Miller generously and expansively clears the ground for all future work on this necessary and vital topic."Greg Dimitriadis, University at Buffalo, SUNY, USA

"Monica Miller has produced a lucid and unpredictable book that easily separates itself from the pack. This is destined to be a classic in critical hip-hop studies and a definitive contribution to ongoing debates about the very contours of African American religious and political life in the 21st century." John L. Jackson, Jr., University of Pennsylvania, USA

"Miller’s ambitious enterprise sets out to rethink difference in black popular culture. Concise, engaging and original, this book should be read by students and teachers engaged in the social scientific study of contemporary religion."Abby Day, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

"Religion and Hip Hop makes significant contributions to scholarship on religion and Hip Hop as well as to theory and method in the study of African American religion generally. Miller’s shifts in focus, from a priori and sui generis definitions of religion to a social constructionist perspective, and from rap lyrics and institutional Christianity to material culture and lived religion, should prove a watershed moment in the field of religion and Hip Hop." - Dusty Hoesley, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA, in Religion

Table of Contents

Introduction: (Re)Finding Religion 1. Scapegoats, Boundaries, and Blame: The Civic Face of Hip-Hop Culture 2. Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover 3. And the Word Became Flesh: Hip-Hop Culture and the (In)coherence of Religion 4. Inside-Out: Complex Subjectivity and Postmodern Thought 5. Youth Religiosity in America: The Empirical Landscape 6. Faith in the Flesh Conclusion: When the Religious Ain’t So Religious, After All Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Monica R. Miller is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanistic Approaches to the Social Sciences at Lewis & Clark College, Department of Religious Studies. She is co-chair of a new American Academy of Religion (AAR) group entitled 'Critical Approaches to the Study of Hip Hop and Religion' and Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS), Washington, DC.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Religion, Media and Culture

This series of Routledge monographs provides both new and established scholars the opportunity to publish original research in Religion, Media and Culture. The series includes a wide range of investigations of media in relation to religious practice and belief in any historical period or geographical domain. Media examined in this series include everyday objects such as statues, dolls, and photographs; visual media such as wood cuts, icons or illuminated manuscripts; and newer media such as radio, film, television, and Internet. Volumes go beyond focusing on how messages are delivered to passive audiences, and contribute to an evolving paradigm of understanding creative audiences for whom media are an integral part of lived religion. Studies draw on a variety of methods for their investigations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Rap & Hip Hop
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Theology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture