What is the RAP Lab?

The RAP Lab is both a place and an idea. The idea is to cultivate a “humanities hothouse” for cutting edge trans-disciplinary research, teaching, and outreach related to race and popular culture. The research might take the shape of individual or joint publications, public archives, or other platforms. The teaching might take the shape of courses offered to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Colorado or informal work in K-12 schools or communities at large. The outreach might take the shape of research and/or teaching partnerships between the Lab and civic organizations or volunteer initiatives that bring CU students into the community.

Why race and popular culture together?

In the United States it is impossible to talk about popular culture without talking about race. In music (from jazz and blues to hip hop and Tejano music), in film (from The Jazz Singer and Birth of a Nation to 12 Years a Slave), in television (from Archie Bunker to The Wire), and beyond Americans have used artto come to terms with both the inspirations and the tensions born of our racial diversity. The Lab defines this relationship between race and culture broadly, cutting across disciplines, time periods, and geography to support the individual and collaborative projects at work at any given time.

Where is the Lab?

The RAP Lab is located in rooms 253-254 of the Cristol Chemistry and Biochemistry building on the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado.

How long has it been running?

The RAP Lab was founded in the fall of 2013, under the directorship of Professor Adam Bradley from the Department of English at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Who is the Lab's director?

The RAP Lab is under the current direction of Professor Kalonji Nzinga from the Department of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Professor 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. 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.

What are some typical projects?

The Lab is designed to be nimble enough to shift its attentions based on the interests and expertise of the individuals involved. At any given time, we may have as many as a half-dozen different programs and initiatives at work. This might include outreach initiatives like Hip Hop in the Classroom or the Lyripeutics Storytelling Project, which work with Denver and Boulder middle and high schools to use hip-hop as a vehicle for teaching the language arts. It might also include incubatory research projects that foster the development of individual or collective publication or hosting performance spaces like Shades of Honey. Check back often to see what the Lab is doing!

How can I get involved?

The lab is always looking for potential collaborators and partners. Whether you are a University of Colorado affiliate (faculty, staff, student, or alumni) or are located outside of the university, please email us at raplab@colorado.edu to discuss possible collaborations.