Academic journal article Africa

The Idiom of Age in a Popular Kenyan Newspaper Serial

Academic journal article Africa

The Idiom of Age in a Popular Kenyan Newspaper Serial

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article examines the narratives constructed around age in Kenya. Noting the 'spatial crossings' of the Kenyan subject, who is as much attuned to the village ethos as he is to the globalized world, the article problematizes our approach to the study of age in Africa. It discusses the multiple narratives now constructed around age within the context of a society in rapid flux, especially underscoring its relationship to authority. The article proposes that there are multiple ways some new, others merely reinvented in which social and political relationships are now (re)constructed around age in Africa. The article is based on a critical reading of popular fiction, an important site of popular cultural production where the performance of political power is manifest and narratives around power are created and enacted. The work is based on a popular Kenyan newspaper serial 'Whispers', an important site of cultural production in the 1980s-1990s. This period witnessed ruthless political repression in Kenya when spaces of popular expression were all but monopolized by the government. It is in such sites as 'Whispers' that 'spaces of freedom' emerged, narrating the travails of the period and challenging the 'bounds of the expressible'. Through 'Whispers', the article explores how age and gender are used as 'instrumentalities of political survival' but also how African maledom reacts to the challenges of globalization that threaten to disrupt the status quo, especially regarding the normative grammar of patriarchy. Further, the article explores how the twin elements of gender and age are manipulated by the Kenyan polity but also simultaneously reproduced and contested by society, resulting in a largely contradictory discourse that challenges but at the same time reaffirms the (il)legitimacy of gerontocracy and the sanctity of the male order.

RESUME

Cet article examine les recits construits autour de l'age au Kenya. Notant les "croisements spatiaux" du sujet kenyan, aussi sensible a l'esprit du village qu'au monde globalise, l'article problematise notre approche de l'etude de l'age en Afrique. Il examine les recits multiples aujourd'hui construits autour de l'age dans le contexte d'une societe en mutation rapide, en soulignant notamment son rapport a l'autorite. L'article suggere que les relations sociales et politiques se (re)construisent aujourd'hui de multiples facons (certaines nouvelles, d'autres simplement reinventees) autour de l'age en Afrique. L'article se base sur une lecture critique des romans populaires, champ important de production culturelle populaire ou le jeu du pouvoir politique est manifeste et les recits autour du pouvoir sont crees et interpretes. Ces travaux reposent sur un feuilleton populaire, Whispers, paru darts un journal kenyan, champ important de production culturelle darts les annees 1980 et 1990. Cette periode a ete temoin d'une repression politique impitoyable au Kenya, au cours de laquelle tous les espaces d'expression populaire etaient monopolises par le gouvernement. C'est dans des champs comme Whispers que des << espaces de liberte >> sont apparus, narrant les difficultes de la periode et defiant les << limites de l'exprimable >>. A travers Whispers, l'article examine la maniere dont l'age et le sexe sont utilises comme << instruments de survie politique >>, mais egalement la maniere dont la gent masculine africaine reagit aux defis de la globalisation qui menacent de perturber le statu quo, notamment concernant la grammaire normative du systeme patriarcal. L'article examine ensuite la maniere dont le sexe et l'age, elements jumeaux, sont manipules par les institutions kenyanes, mais egalement simultanement reproduits et contestes par la societe, provoquant un discours sensiblement contradictoire qui remet en cause et dans le meme temps reaffirme la legitimite (ou l'illegitimite) de la gerontocratie et de l'inviolabilite de l'ordre masculin. …

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