The term political activism would seem, on the surface, to be relatively straightforward. Employed in casual conversation (certainly among those on the political Left), its implicit meanings encompass ideological commitment to social justice and equality issues, community-based outreach, organizing skills, and an unrelenting desire, as Andreana Clay suggests in her exciting new publication, to “do something for a cause” (176). With an array of prior examples and generations of models available for emulation, the common assumption when speaking of activism is that we simply know it when we see it.

In her eminently accessible book The Hip-Hop Generation Fights Back: Youth, Activism, and Post–Civil Rights Politics, Andreana Clay revisits the concept of activism, critically engaging the commonplace assumptions about what it is and how contemporary sociopolitical conditions require distinct community organizing practices. Clay, an associate professor of sociology, based her project on two years...

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