An HWS honors project paper by Sarah DeGray ’06 will be included in Authentic Artifice: Cultures of the Real, to be released soon. Her paper, “Hip-hop and Authenticity: Navigating the Semiological, Ideological and Commercial Functions of Authenticity in Rap Music and Culture, investigated authenticity in the hip-hop subculture and will be part of the 2007 cultural research collection.
“It is wonderful to see Sarah continue her intellectual pursuits after graduating from HWS, commented Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn, the adviser for DeGray’s honors project. “She produced a wonderfully insightful and original Honors Project, and it is rewarding to see her develop that into a publishable piece in an academic collection.
DeGray’s paper, which she presented at a social science and humanities post-graduate conference on authenticity in the United Kingdom in September 2006, examined the relationships between the ideas of authenticity and the hip-hop subculture, exploring the realms of rap, graffiti, and break dancing.
“Participants of this subculture are consistently making claims to be real, DeGray said of her paper. “I sought to find out what this means and determine the semiological significance of it, by examining the signs and signifiers.
Drawing her paper topic from an interest and connection to Afrocentric rap in high school, DeGray’s media studies at Hobart and William Smith gave her cause to confront her despondency with mainstream rap music and its representation of culture.
The edited volume, Authentic Artifice: Cultures of the Real, from the European Studies Research Institute, includes the work of 10 contributing authors, who explore everything from piracy to publishing to tourism in relationship with art, music, and film. Despite the array of ideas and examples in these chapters, DeGray explains that they all center on the common theme of “reproduction, representation, and redeployment. Fueling the connections within each paper as well as connecting them in the volume, these themes question how authenticity is communicated through art and culture and subsequently used to redeploy meanings of signs and images in society.”
DeGray, who is currently a paralegal and legal assistant for Langrock, Sperry & Wool law firm, is the sole contributor to the volume with only a B.A. degree. She spoke to this, saying, “It speaks highly of the quality of the HWS honors project in its ability to be akin to work at the master’s level: it simulates the graduate environment and prepares students for professional post-graduate work.
DeGray’s experience with the honors project and her subsequent publication and success have opened her eyes to opportunities in the academic field, and she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology/cultural studies.
“I am proud of Sarah for writing such quality work, said Dunn. “The Honors Program allows motivated students to really delve into a project and produce something of substance; for really excellent students like Sarah, the results can be the first of what may be a long line of academic publications and triumphs.
DeGray concluded, “What I was able to accomplish in one undergraduate year makes me very excited about what I can achieve in graduate school. I will continue to work in this area; these are important and relevant topics in our culture.