The Ethics and Politics of Empathy in US Hip-Hop Diplomacy
The Case of the Next Level Program
Kendra Salois asks how the US State Department's hip hop-focused musical diplomacy program, Next Level, expresses an ideological and methodological shift towards privileging musicians' affective labor over their musical talents. Next Level has taken the unplanned encounters and unexpected consequences of earlier tours, such as the »Jazz Ambassadors« programming of the mid-century, and made them the center of its programming strategy. Under this ideal, person-to-person musical diplomacy is mobilized not for the wholesale winning of hearts and minds, but for a micropolitics of empathy, where the goal is an affective sense of being mutually recognized and appreciated, if not understood. Beyond framing »hip hop diplomacy« solely as a contradiction, the chapter argues for viewing it, instead, as an extractive application of the State Department's understandings of human and musical intersubjectivity.