Kalonji Nzinga
Assistant Professor
Learning Sciences & Human Development

Miramontes Baca Education Building, Room 400F
University of Colorado Boulder
249 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309

Dr. Kalonji Nzinga is a cultural psychologist, rapper, and educator exploring how young people’s holistic development is influenced by the cultural lifeworlds and scenes that they inhabit.  His work explores how the histories and cultures of our communities are inherited in our bodies, minds, and practices.  This research program counters a Eurocentric bias in the learning sciences that has disregarded the thought traditions and intellectual lifeways of communities from the Global South Side (third world/POC/the hood).

As an educator, Dr. Kalonji researches and designs learning environments that aim for cultural legitimacy; 1) they draw on thought traditions that are endogenous and sacred to communities of color, and 2) they empower learners to resist oppression, heal intergenerational trauma, and remake worlds in their image.  This has led him to explore the axiological dimension of learning environments, how the ethical and aesthetic values of communities are (re)produced within learning environments.  In trying to better understand their ethical sense-making, cultural worldviews and psychological adaptations, he has had the privilege to learn from youth across the Global South Side; including East Palo Alto-California, Chicago-Illinois, the Palestinian West Bank, Ghana-West Africa and most recently a community based partnership with Denver’s North High School.

One major strand of his research has attended to young people in hip-hop scenes and how their participation as hip-hop artists, critics, writers, composers, and producers provides them with philosophical orientations, literacy skills, and technological savvy to engage in self-authorship, cultural production, and community artivism.  Using methods of validated psychological instruments, clinical interviews, cognitive think-alouds and ethnographic observation his research investigates the philosophies and voices of youth hip-hop practitioners.

As a rapper and hip-hop practitioner himself Dr. Kalonji also produces music that draws on Black ancestral legacies, depicts the sociopolitics of the hood, and explores visions of Afrofuturist healing.  His research has informed the design of learning environments for all ages, multimedia arts exhibitions, and is published in the Journal of Cognition & Culture and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  He is currently the Director of CU Boulder’s RAP Lab (Ritual Arts & Pedagogy), an interdisciplinary hub for the study of hip-hop praxis.

Nzinga, K., & Medin, D. (2018). The Moral Priorities of Rap Listeners. Journal of Cognition & Culture. 18(3-4). 312-342.

Vossoughi, S., Nzinga, K., Berry, A., Irvine, F., Mayorga, C., & Gashaw, M. (2021). Writing as a Social Act: The Feedback Relation as a Context for Political and Ethical Becoming.  Research in the Teaching of English.  56(2). 200-222.

Nzinga, K., Rapp, D., Leatherwood, C., Easterday, M., Rogers, L., Gallagher, N., Medin, D. (2018). Should social scientists be distanced from or engaged with the people they study?.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 115(45). 11435-11441.

Nzinga, K. (2020). Exploring Fanon’s psychopolitical project as a theory of learning. Book Review of “Fanon, education, action: child as method,” by Erica Burman. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1–5.