Academic Mission Statement
Kalonji Nzinga, Ph.D. | Cultural Psychologist
In my research I investigate how adolescents and emerging adults develop their sense of right and wrong over the course of their lived experience. I study how they come to understand moral concepts like authenticity, loyalty and justice as they grow up.
Part of my research includes thinking about the moral concepts they are exposed to in their various cultural environments. When you hear the term cultural environments, you are probably thinking about their household (growing up in a Latino family), their neighborhood (being raised in Brazilian favelas) or their religious communities (attending a progressive mosque). Those places and spaces are integral to the process of moral development. However, I focus mostly on what youth learn about morality from their peers, from digital media, and from various scenes of youth subculture (i.e. rap music). In a globalized world, how are millennials navigating a kaleidoscope of conflicting ideologies and constructing their own moral identity?
I do this work in conjunction with the MOSAIC Cultural Psychology Lab at Northwestern University where I am currently a Lecturer in the School of Education and Social Policy.
Supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Northwestern University Department of Learning Sciences, SCORE Lab, Circles & Ciphers, and Solidarity Studios
What's "Good" In The Hood?
The Ethical Philosophies Taught and Learned in Rap Lyrics
My dissertation research project is a psychoanalysis of young people that are heavy listeners of rap music - sometimes called hip-hop heads - and how their perspectives on morality and ethics are influenced by their engagement with hip-hop culture. This research shows that rap culture has produced distinct ethical philosophies, that were grounded in the Black experience of the American "hood." By examining rap culture I argue that the hood has weighed in heavily on ancient philosophical questions like "What is good?" or "What are the components of a good life?" As the moral perspectives in rap have spread globally, it has made a lasting impact on young people's understanding of authenticity, masculinity and divinity.