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Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture

Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture

Toyin Falola
Augustine Agwuele
Volume: 42
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 347
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  • Book Info
    Africans and the Politics of Popular Culture
    Book Description:

    This anthology provides insightful data on and discussions of a wide array of popular cultural manifestations and theoretical perspectives, covering such issues as kinship, religion, conflict resolution, music, cinema, drama, andliterary texts. The issues

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-709-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Augustine Agwuele and Toyin Falola

    Culture can be seen as the shared patterns of habitual behaviors, responses, and ideas that people acquire as members of a society. Each generation passes onto the next its tested ways of being and of doing things in the world. These shared norms and values, from an anthropological perspective, constitute the heritage of members of a given community. However, culture is not static; it is continuously modified in response to changing circumstances. As such, what amounts to culture at any given time and what each society recognizes as its heritage requires continuous documentation, examination, reexamination, explication, and careful reflection with...

  6. 1 From Primitive to Popular Culture: Why Kant Never Made It to Africa
    (pp. 17-38)
    Hetty ter Haar

    Students may be forgiven for thinking that African, often taken to mean sub-Saharan, cultures are typically popular cultures, while at the same time entertaining the notion that, as postcolonial theorists have it, the idea of the “primitive” is “a long-abandoned relic of anthropology’s colonial ancestry.”¹ Anyone interested in the theoretical background of popular cultures in Africa may find the literature somewhat unclear in this respect.² It is not always evident whether the phenomenon of African popular culture refers to a (new) category of practice or a shift in paradigm. Rather than examining any particular popular culture as practice, the focus...

  7. Part One: Politics of Culture in Habitual Customs and Practices

    • 2 Popular Culture of Yoruba Kinship Practices
      (pp. 41-63)
      Augustine Agwuele

      The quest to understand human behavior has remained one of the enduring tenets of anthropological inquiry. In studying the customs and habits of people, understanding the growth and spread of ways of solving perennial problems is one intention, especially gaining insight into the wealth of thoughts that underlie such practices. Thinking along the line explored by Stuart Hall,¹ it is extremely difficult to explain complex social processes through one narrow approach, no matter how powerful, especially to explain emblematic narratives that yield predictable outcomes. Nonetheless, the Yoruba kinship system as indexed by its nomenclature provides a useful means for contemplating...

    • 3 Justice from Below: Cultural Capital, Local/Global Identity Processes, and Social Change in Eastern Niger
      (pp. 64-83)
      Antoinette Tidjani Alou

      Lougou and Bagagi are two villages marked by the survival of the traditional Azna culture and religion in Hausa-speaking eastern Niger.¹ Sarraounia in the Hausa language means “queen”² or female chief but may designate various more or less minor functions of female leadership when written with a lower case s. More significantly, this title refers, in the specific context of our field enquiry and of Niger’s recent history, to the functions of the priestesschief of Lougou. Lougou, village of the Sarraounias, is situated in one of the relatively densely populated zones of Niger, part of the eastern Hausa-speaking region sometimes...

    • 4 Popular Culture and the Resolution of Boundary Disputes in the Bamenda Grasslands of Cameroon
      (pp. 84-103)
      Emmanuel M. Mbah

      The Bamenda Grasslands of Cameroon, former British colonial Bamenda Division, or present-day North-West Province, is one of the ten provinces that make up Cameroon. This region has been variously referred to as the Western Grassfields, Bamenda Grassfields, Bamenda Grasslands, Bamenda Division, Bamenda Province, and North-West Province.¹ It covers a total surface area of roughly 17,409 square kilometers, approximately 3.7 percent of the total surface area of present-day Cameroon.² The North-West Province is composed of the former administrative divisions of Bamenda, Wum, and Nkambe, which together made up Bamenda Province, which lasted until the independence of Cameroon in 1961. Four new...

    • 5 Reverse Mission or Asylum Christianity? A Nigerian Church in Europe
      (pp. 104-132)
      Asonzeh Ukah

      The presence of African Christian churches in Europe is not a new phenomenon.² However, in recent decades there has been an expansion of these churches that has coincided with the era and processes of globalization. These organizations have not only captured public (popular) imagination by their specific roles as ethnic minority congregations developed in response to the critical experiences of marginality,³ but they have also become the subject of news items due to their activities. This chapter examines the dynamics of expansion of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in the United Kingdom (RCCGUK). This church opened its first parish...

    • 6 Performing Pop Tradition in Nigeria: From Yorùbá Bàtá to Bàtá Fújì
      (pp. 133-164)
      Debra L. Klein

      Wasiu Alabi’s catchy melody and lyrics, consisting of every possible combination of the words èmi (me), láiyé (alive in the world), and mi (me), became a popular choral refrain with the cohort of fújì-loving bàtá artists in the rural town of `Ẹrìn-`Ọṣun, Nigeria, during the late 1990s. Whenever I joked with these artists about their potential stardom as globally renowned fújì front men, they would try to out-perform each other by singing and dancing some version of the tune, “Èmi láiyé mi.” Not only are the words and melody easy to remember, but they represent a significant shift in the...

  8. Part Two: Politics of Culture in Popular Representations:: Films and Performances

    • 7 Reclaiming the Past or Assimilationist Rebellion? Transforming the Self in Contemporary American Cinema
      (pp. 167-184)
      Celeste A. Fisher

      Drawing on the work of pragmatic philosopher George Herbert Mead, symbolic interactionists argue that the self is a “reflexive process that includes a person’s subjective stream of consciousness (perceptions, thoughts, feelings, plans, and choices) as well as his or her concept of self as a physical, social and moral being.”¹ What is central to this perspective is that transformation, as well as the ability to sustain one’s sense of self, is inextricably linked to one’s relationship with others. Thus, it is through our interactions with others that we get a sense of who we are—our selfhood.²

      Working outside the...

    • 8 Neither Bold nor Beautiful: Investigating the Impact of Western Soap Operas on Kenya
      (pp. 185-213)
      Maurice N. Amutabi

      In this chapter, I treat The Bold and the Beautiful as a device, as a social force or agent of change—an apparatus that reorganizes domestic and public space, introduces new tastes and nuances, and provides possibilities of rearranging family relations, redefining love, and reorienting gender relations in societies. This soap is an example of a device that the West uses to stir up social change in the South, whether intentionally or unintentionally. I believe that the discussion of this soap opens up the discursive spaces in which various taboo subjects such as love and sex, marriage and divorce, gender...

    • 9 The Lions in the Jungle: Representations of Africa and Africans in American Cinema
      (pp. 214-236)
      Sarah Steinbock-Pratt

      During the twentieth century, more than two hundred films about, set in, or dealing with Africa were made in the United States. Yet most Americans have never experienced Africa firsthand, and it could be argued that America has had stronger financial and ideological ties to the Middle East or Latin America. Despite this, Africa exists as a fascinating and well-defined place in the American imagination. Even those without personal experience of Africa can describe what it ought to be like: dark, lush jungles, broad grasslands, sweltering deserts, and, in the distance, drums and animal noises; a place of breathtaking beauty...

    • 10 Sexuality in Caribbean Performance: Homoeroticism and the African Body in Trinidad
      (pp. 237-260)
      Denise Amy-Rose Forbes-Erickson

      I grew up in Jamaica, where there is pervasive homophobia in the popular expressive dancehall performance and society. I felt pressed to research sexuality in performance after the controversy over Buju Banton’s song “Boom Bye Bye” (1992), advocating violence against gays.¹ Other DJs and entertainers produced gay-bashing songs as part of their repertoire against gays and lesbians to the dizzying frenzy of the audiences’ cheers.² I was also struck by the tragic, untimely death in 2004 of Brian Williamson, a well-known gay rights activist and founder of J-FLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays).³ The numerous unsolved stabbing murders...

    • 11 Family Health Awareness in Popular Yorùbá Arts
      (pp. 261-274)
      Arinpe Adejumo

      Popular culture finds its expression in the mass circulation of items from seemingly diverse fields such as drama, poetry, music, and fashion. Drama and poetry have played significant roles in the presentation and representation of human experiences among the Yorùbá of southwestern Nigeria.¹ In the traditional society, popular arts like drama and poetry are used to reveal contemporary issues. For example, during festivals and ritual performances, the alárìnjó (itinerant) theater satirizes and makes mockery of social and political ills. Through popular poetry, the itinerant theater groups are able to run commentaries against political leaders and expose their wrongs without fear...

  9. Part Three: Politics of Culture in Popular Texts

    • 12 Literary Cultural Nationalists as Ambassadors across the Diaspora
      (pp. 277-298)
      Nicholas M. Creary

      In 1915, African American philosopher Alain Locke argued that race was a cultural (versus a biological) construct. He maintained that for black Americans to liberate themselves and integrate themselves as equals into the dominant white American culture, they needed to produce artists who looked to historical African American experiences not only as the source of their works but also as a source for a positive cultural identity. This ideology provided the theoretical foundation upon which the Harlem Renaissance was established in the years following World War I.

      During the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, there were seven similar movements among people...

    • 13 Popular Resistance Literature and The Nigerian Railway Corporation, 1955–60
      (pp. 299-320)
      Tokunbo A. Ayoola

      The construction and management of railroads in Africa attracted many workers, not only from Africa itself but also from Europe and Asia. In the particular case of Africans, well into the postcolonial period the railroad industry was the largest employer of their labor. For example, by 1952 no fewer than 30,000 Nigerians were employed by the Nigerian Railway (NR).¹ As a result of the important role played by rail transport in the political economy of colonial Africa, railroad workers played very prominent roles in the struggles between Africans and the colonial authorities. According to Oberst, this was because

      They were...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 321-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-333)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 334-337)