Overcoming the Hip-Hop habitus

Rachael Gunn, John Scannell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


It is not enough to simply observe the dance floor as a site of free expression as the body is always a product of its social conditioning. As a female breaker1 in the Sydney scene, my corporeal experience of the dance is always shaped by the masculine history of its organisation. While breaking does, of course, offer great potential for developing new techniques of bodily expression, the female breaker must contend with the requisite codes and techniques of gender that precede any "free" movement. Any woman who wishes to break does so under inherent cultural assumptions that regulate "what a body can do" (Deleuze 1988, pp.17-18), where these unspoken rules of appropriate gender conduct already fashion one's capacity for self-expression. That female breakers are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts is a reflection of the culture's male domination; that 'breaking' is traditionally (and more properly) referred to as 'B-boying', means the girls remain distinctly second-string. While the culture's inherent gender inequalities are a feature of this paper, this is not to say that the Sydney scene is actively discouraging of female participation. Instead, the argument of this paper is that female participation in the breaking scene is already preceded by a complex set of learned bodily techniques that regulate what the female subject can nominally 'do' long before she even steps onto the dance-floor. Perhaps the biggest discouragements to the B-girl are those entrenched cultural techniques and expectations that impede the capacity of 'flow' as the formulation of self-expression. In this respect the paper will argue that a cursory observation of social interaction on the dance-floor is not enough to account for the broader cultural frameworks that both govern and "gender" participation in the Sydney breaking scene, but rather that issues of equity must take into account the recognition of complex bodily techniques that have just as much to do with what happens off the dance floor, as anything that happens on it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShifting sounds
Subtitle of host publicationmusical flow : a collection of papers from the 2012 IASPM Australia/New Zealand Conference
EditorsOli Wilson, Sarah Attfield
Place of PublicationDunedin, New Zealand
PublisherlASPM Australia/New Zealand
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780975774793
Publication statusPublished - 2013
EventInternational Association for the Study of Popular Music Australia-New Zealand Conference - Hobart
Duration: 5 Dec 20127 Dec 2012


ConferenceInternational Association for the Study of Popular Music Australia-New Zealand Conference


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