Christopher Emdin

Christopher Emdin

Associate Professor of Science Education, Teachers College, Columbia University


Christopher Emdin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University; where he also serves as Associate Director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. Emdin is a social critic, public intellectual and science advocate whose commentary on issues of race, culture, inequality and education have appeared in dozens of influential periodicals including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Emdin has been awarded both the Outstanding Dissertation Award and Emerging Leader Awards from Phi Delta Kappa. He also received the Association for Science Teacher Education Award for Best paper for Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers. He holds a Ph.D in Urban Education with a concentration in Mathematics, Science, and Technology; Masters degrees in both Natural Sciences and Education Administration, and Bachelors degrees in Physical Anthropology, Biology, and Chemistry.

Project Description

S.T.E.M. with no root bears no fruit: Colloquial appropriations of canonical science in contemporary hip-hop

This project explores the ways that hip-hop culture -particularly the words, phrases, and expressions of its cultural ambassadors (hip-hop artists), displays an interest in, admiration for, and in some cases, deep knowledge of science that goes unnoticed by those who are not deeply immersed in both black popular culture and the nature of science. In this project, I conduct an excavation of science themes within contemporary urban black popular music and culture, and explore the ways that these themes can be used to bridge the divides between “non academic” hip-hop language/cultural understandings and canonical academic science.

This exploration is a significant piece of an upcoming book titled, STEM With No Root Bears no Fruit, that illustrates the need to focus on the contemporary urban black experience as a key to developing a new cadre of STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) experts. In particular, I focus on the colloquial use of scientific terms, expressions, and concepts within black popular music and frame them as a conduit to opening up new realms of possibilities for youth who are often relegated to the margins in the selection and preparation of future STEM professionals.

In the upcoming book, I argue that there is a profound sense making of scientific phenomena and best practice for teaching STEM subjects that exists within hip-hop that must be brought to the fore in order to create culturally responsive curricula in the STEM disciplines. In other words, creating a new cadre of STEM professionals requires going beneath surface and inaccurate representations of blackness and into the complex scientific and pedagogical knowledge showcased within hip-hop culture.

Fall 2013: Caperton and Hiphop Archive Fellow


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