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Ebony Utley  

Hip-Hop, Pop Culture & Race Expert

Ebony A. Utley, PhD is an expert in popular culture, race, and romantic relationships. Her critically acclaimed book Rap and Religion: Understanding the Gangsta’s God addresses all of the above by closely examining the juxtaposition—and seeming hypocrisy—of references to God within rap music. Utley asserts that religion has always been part of the urban environments that birthed rap music and she shows exactly how a God-sanctioned “gangsta” identity can be empowering.

In addition to identifying the many similarities between rap and religion, Utley also uncovers love’s presence in some of hip-hop’s most unlikely places. Her co-edited volume Hip Hop’s Languages of Love was the first scholarly examination of hip-hop and love, celebrated for its historical, conceptual, geographical, and methodological diversity. In her most recent research, Utley asks probing questions about women’s experiences with infidelity and investigates African American beliefs about marriage.

Utley shares her exciting work with interested audiences at universities across the country. The Utley Experience is a multimedia interactive presentation that challenges audiences to examine old texts in new ways. Utley’s critical analyses of popular culture’s complex combinations of power and pleasure—which have earned her the title of “the woman with ideas”—are educational as well as entertaining and rooted in her increasingly comprehensive research agenda.

Utley’s academic writing has appeared in Black Women, Gender, and Families; Critical Studies in Media Communication; Marriage and Family Review; Rhetoric and Public Affairs; The Journal of Men’s Studies; and The Western Journal of Black Studies. She has also written for Ms. Magazine, Religion Dispatches, and Truthdig. Her blogs have been cited by national and international news outlets including AlterNet, Beliefnet, Essence, Jezebel, and Racialicious.

Professor Utley earned a certificate in journalism and a BA in speech communication (with highest distinction) from Indiana University Bloomington where she was a Herman B. Wells and a Ronald McNair scholar. She earned her MA and PhD in communication studies at Northwestern University as a Jacob K. Javits fellow. She is currently an associate professor of communication studies at California State University, Long Beach.


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Speech Topics

The Rap on Rap & Religion

Rap music has been condemned for inciting violence, promoting misogyny, perpetuating racial stereotypes, and encouraging religious blasphemy. Despite these assessments, Dr. Ebony Utley argues that religion has always been an integral part of the complex urban environments that birthed rap music.

The Rise of Young Money & the Fall of America

Dr. Ebony Utley examines the meteoric rise of Young Money artists as well as their materialistic artistry during the most tumultuous economic crisis in United States' recent history.

Sex, Sexism & the Search for Pleasure in Hip Hop

Dr. Ebony Utley explores women's representations within hip hop and explains how and why oppression often becomes seductive.

Why All the Silly Devil Talk Should Be Taken Seriously

Dr. Ebony Utley breaks down the race, gender, and class implications of the accusations that popular culture's mainstream artists are devil worshippers and witches.

Social Movement Strategies & the Hip-Hop Generation

Dr. Ebony Utley discusses the role of race in the hip-hop generation's pursuit of social justice.

Black Women's Relationships: What's Really Real

Dr. Ebony Utley analyzes popular culture's controlling images of black women and compares them to the lived experiences of the participants in her research studies about love, marriage, and infidelity.

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