Kalonji Nzinga
Assistant Professor
Learning Sciences & Human Development

Fleming Building, Room 400F
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Dr. Kalonji Nzinga is a cultural psychologist exploring how millennials and post-millennials develop their ethical worldviews. Using methods of validated psychological instruments, clinical interviews, and ethnographic observation he studies how young people come to understand moral concepts like authenticity, loyalty and justice as they grow up.  His research illuminates the polycultural process where young people encounter moral discourses from various traditions; in the form of sacred texts and traditional myths, but also in episodes of Law & Order, rap verses, and the comment threads of Twitter posts.  From these interactions with ideology, young people craft their own hybridized ethical perspectives.  His research has informed the design of various learning environments, multimedia arts exhibitions, and is published in the Journal of Cognition & Culture and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

His dissertation research project was an exploratory analysis of young people that are heavy listeners of rap music - sometimes called hip-hop heads - and how their perspectives on morality and ethics are structured 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 he argues 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, hip-hop culture has made a lasting impact on young people's understanding of authenticity, masculinity and divinity.  He argues that insights gleaned from the study of youth culture can inform the design of learning environments that assist us in unleashing our creative potential.