Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 4-26-2023

Thesis Advisor

Lauren Ristvet


hip hop, nihilism, phenomenology, religion, black culture, music, spirituality, performance, Detroit


My objective was to investigate the relationship between nihilism among young black men of the inner-city and their creative impulse towards the creation of hip hop music. Using ethnographic methods, I interrogate the interplay between nihilistic dispositions among black men in the city of Detroit and the urge towards creating music as a way of constructing and renegotiating one’s own sense of “meaning” in life. Additionally, I seek to address the moral implications of nihilism in the social spheres of the black inner-city, utilizing Neitzsche’s conceptual distinction of active vs. passive nihilism to discuss the disillusionment with and reimagining of religion and God in the social circles of black men. Here, I argue that for some young black men, hip hop performance has fulfilled a yearning for a phenomenological value of life, in spite of a lingering sense that there is no innate, God-ordained purpose of living. This is indicative of a kind of “constructivist nihilism” that has formed and taken root in the black American underclass, a sense that precisely because life is essentially meaninglessness, they are empowered through conscious experience to find subjective meanings and inscribe alternative value structuring into reality.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted:26 April 2023


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