Kemi Adeyemi

Kemi Adeyemi is currently pursuing her PhD in Northwestern University’s Performance Studies department. Her dissertation centers on the visual and performative production of black hipsters in narratives of gentrification, asking how black hipster bodies have been used to stage debates about race, culture and belonging in the city.



"Hipster Soul: Sonic Blackness and the Gentrifying City"

Scholars such as Fred Moten and Alex Weheliye have interrogated the ways in which "the sonic break" contributes to theoretical and conceptual understandings of race. There has been only limited academic attention, however, to the intersections of quotidian experiences of race and aurality in the city. This paper attempts to address this void by discussing “soul music nights” held in traditionally white bars and clubs in Chicago, asking how sonic blackness shapes the gentrifying landscape as well as the largely white bodies held within. Using ethnographic research, visual and performance analyses, I ask how black sounds organize everyday community affiliation and enjoyment, particularly for “hipsters,” in Chicago’s racial landscape.

The soul music “revival” in Chicago is bound up in the expressly spatial logic of the city’s history of hypersegregation. Recently, record labels such as Numero Group have become famous for releasing “recovered” and “lost” soul recordings by black South Side musicians, effectively re-issuing them for the consumption of the largely white North Side population. The physical and narrative movements of sonic blackness from the South Side to North Side iPods, living rooms and indie rock venues map the precarious locations of blackness in the city, particularly in the gentrifying neighborhood. In tracing the routes of sonic blackness to and through Chicago’s soul nights, this paper examines the relationships between the sonic and the body as they move through the city.


My Speakers Sessions

Saturday, March 24

2:15pm EDT