Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

Synopsis

What happens when social and political processes such as globalization shape cultural production? Drawing on a range of writers and filmmakers from Africa and elsewhere, Akin Adesokan explores the forces at work in the production and circulation of culture in a globalized world. He tackles problems such as artistic representation in the era of decolonization, the uneven development of aesthetics across the world, and the impact of location and commodity culture on genres, with a distinctive approach that exposes the global processes transforming cultural forms.

Excerpt

Living in Lagos, Nigeria, in the early 1980s, I was surrounded by art in all media: music, literature, cinema, television, radio, comic strips, photoplays, and theater, not to mention the unplanned spectacle of the expressive every day and night, the living art of the street itself. It was the heyday of Nigeria’s profligate Second Republic, a democracy only in name, and these urban media were at once art, business, and life, catering to a network of relations across social classes. I was more interested in enjoying this expressive culture than in understanding how it came to be, but felt a sense of loss when much of it began to fizzle out, probably coincidentally, following the military overthrow of the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. By the end of that decade, the country was deeply enmeshed in the neoliberal economic dragnet of a structural adjustment program, from which it has yet to fully extricate itself. Where did all those manifestations of a vibrant artistic culture go? Why was sustenance so easily denied them? How does one think productively about subsequent or residual forms of this culture, which never totally disappeared, even deep in those years of structural adjustment?

This book is written in part with these questions in mind. It seeks to explore the aesthetic consequences of the decline of the nation-state prefigured in that disconcerting reality, turning toward works of art and the contexts of their emergence for possible leads. If all I cared for then was aesthetic pleasure, now I concern myself also with the complex socioeconomic and institutional questions of how art is constituted, focusing on the transformation of genre through the specific technological and social changes of the past several decades. These changes are mirrored in the move from the concept of the Third World to the concept of postcoloniality, and to get an accurate sense of what they represent requires even-handed attention to a number of structural formations that do not always appear to have much to do with one another. How could I have known that something called “the Washington Consensus” could be responsible for the poor quality of the movie being shown inside a theater in a Lagos neighborhood? What connections might exist between the publication of little pamphlets by a group of socialists in postwar Detroit and the best-seller status of a first novel by a young Indian woman in the final years of the twentieth century? Starting from the premise that genre, the aesthetic typology of kinds in textual production, is shaped by context, I focus on six authors and filmmakers who produce works within the historical span of both decolonization and globalization. The various aspects of both globalization and prior processes . . .

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