By Sarah Vistocco ’13
Newly minted Siena College graduate Miguel Franco ’13 thought outside the box when deciding what to research for his honors thesis. As a student in the J. Spencer and Patricia Standish Honors Program, Franco produced an in-depth scholarly paper on a topic that, to the casual observer, may seem a little off beat. The religious studies major, multicultural studies minor and hip-hop music fan spent the past three semesters combining two personal areas of interest in his paper titled, “Rap’s Religious Sensibilities: A Window into the Soul of the Oppressed.”
“His work has the potential to open up new scholarly conversations regarding religious rhetoric in hip-hop music, a subject that is often overlooked by hip-hop scholars and historians,” said Todd Snyder, Ph.D., assistant professor of English.
Snyder had a profound impact on Franco’s work. Franco took Snyder’s Rhetoric(s) of Hip-Hop Culture class and it became a conduit for the academic content he needed to support his thesis. “A lot of what I wrote for this class ended up in my thesis,” said Franco. His work demonstrates how the worlds of rap and religion are not as separate as one might think.
Franco’s research looked at the historical foundations of the African-American community and their influence on rap through a religious lens. “I want to show how the historical and socioeconomic contexts help shape the type of stories you cling to,” said Franco.
“Miguel has a remarkably synthetic intelligence. He sees exciting, important connections among seemingly disparate ideas and practices,” said Professor of Religious Studies Tom Dickens, Ph.D., who served as Franco’s mentor throughout the writing process.
In April, Franco presented his work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. Four other Siena College students also attended the conference. Their trips were funded through Siena’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.