Popular Culture and Public Space in Africa: The Possibilities of Cultural Citizenship

By Dolby, Nadine | African Studies Review, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Popular Culture and Public Space in Africa: The Possibilities of Cultural Citizenship


Dolby, Nadine, African Studies Review


Abstract:

Popular culture in Africa is increasingly intertwined with the public space of nations. Drawing on contemporary scholarship on popular culture, citizenship, and identity in transnational and global contexts, this article analyzes the phenomenal success of the television show Big Brother Africa in 2003 and argues that people's everyday engagement with popular culture, including television, must be a central component of understanding emergent public spaces and citizenship practices in Africa's present and future.

Résumé: En Afrique, la culture populaire se fond de plus en plus avec l'espace public des états. S'appuyant sur des recherches récentes portant sur la culture populaire, la citoyenneté et l'identité dans un contexte transnational et mondial, cet article analyse le succès phénoménal que l'émission de télévision Big Brother Africa a rencontré en 2003 et démontre que la relation qu'entretiennent au quotidien les citoyens avec la culture populaire y compris la télévision est un élément essentiel pour comprendre les espaces publics et les pratiques citoyennes qui émergent dans l'Afrique d'aujourd'hui et de demain.

Introduction

While research on traditional forms of popular culture has an established history in the field of African studies, there is a growing interest in studying emergent cultural and media forms, such as contemporary music (Hofmeyr, Nyairo, & Ogude 2003; Larkin 2004), movies and films (Diawara 2003), popular magazines (Nuttall 2003), clothing and fashion (Dolby 2001; Hansen 2000; Scheld 2003; Nuttall 2004); television (Barnett 2004; Fair 2003), and urban and rural culture (Barber 1997; Zeleza & Veney 2003). Such intensified research and analysis are timely, as popular culture in Africa-as elsewhere in the world-is increasingly intertwined with the public spaces of nations. For example, in the Kenyan context, Isabel Hofmeyr, Joyce Nyairo, and James Ogude (2003) analyzed the interplay of popular music and politics in the 2002 elections. In Liberia, George Weah, a world renowned football (soccer) star, used his popular celebrity as the basis for his campaign for the presidency of the nation (Rice 2005). Popular culture is also a significant component of transnational imaginaries and spaces (Appadurai 1993, 1996), as demonstrated, for example, by Rob Nixon's (1994) scholarship on the relationship between mediascapes in South Africa and the United States.

In this article, I draw on contemporary scholarship on popular culture, citizenship, and identity in a transnational and global context to analyze the phenomenal success of the television show Big Brother Africa in 2003. I argue that people's everyday engagement with popular culture-including in this case, a television show-must be a central component in understanding emergent public spaces and citizenship practices in Africa's present and future.

Popular Culture and Public Space

Popular culture is a critical component of people's lives and identities in societies throughout the world (Dolby 2003; Grossberg 1989; Hall 1981). Youth are particularly voracious consumers and producers of popular culture (Lipsitz, Maira, & Soep 2004; Willis 1990). Though youths' ability to consume popular culture is largely dictated by their economic means, and is in some cases constrained by religious or cultural norms, the products of a media-obsessed world shape the imaginative landscape of youth's lives.

As Larry Grossberg (1989) argues, popular culture is a central force of affective investment for people: it grips their hearts and minds and strongly influences the possibilities of their imagination. Regardless of their actual access to media, youth around the world are captivated by the images and sounds that flow from screens and boomboxes; being part of popular culture is a key component of modernity and feeling that one is somehow connected to the global flows described by Arjun Appadurai (1996). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Popular Culture and Public Space in Africa: The Possibilities of Cultural Citizenship
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.