Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics

By Stephens, Michelle | African Studies Review, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics


Stephens, Michelle, African Studies Review


Akin Adesokan. Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2011. xix + 230 pp. Film stills. Bibliography. Index. $24.95. Paper.

Akin Adesokan's Postcolonial Artists and Global Aesthetics is very much a book for postcolonial studies scholars to think with. Unlike scholars of decoloniality such as Walter Mignolo, who are engaged in a project of updating the oppositionality of decolonization by defining alternative, critical epistemologies located in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, Adesokan provides a systematic way of thinking about the deep structural links that unite globalization and decolonization, as world-historical social formations, in the work of artists from what was once called the "Third World." Borrowing from network theory, Adesokan demonstrates how we might create new cognitive maps of the postcolonial "Third World" based on links and ties across geographic space and in relationship to the métropoles, an approach that justifies his own pairing of African, Caribbean, and South Asian artists and thinkers.

For Adesokan it is precisely the tension between modernity and coloniality, in their globalized iteration, that characterizes the work of contemporary artists. This is a tension not easily collapsed into smooth neologisms such as the "glocal." Rather, Postcolonial Artists rests on the idea that what is postpostmodern and post-postcolonial are artistic modes of production that are neither simply oppositional nor simply co-opted but are rather complexly intertwined with global capitalism. These are the aesthetic effects of a cultural and economic complex Adesokan describes as the "crossroads of capital," that is, an idea of the marketplace as a socioeconomic formation where competing interests and forces of the local and the global not only meet but also intertwine and, at times, find an uneasy reconciliation. Adesokan affirms the indebtedness of such figures as C. L. R.James, Ousmane Sembene, and even to some extent Tunde Kelani to midcentury visions of pan-Africanism and tricontinentalism that allow these artists to maintain a separateness from "First World" values and understandings of the world, and an emphasis on more "local" beliefs, value systems, symbolic orders, and ways of understanding the local in the global. In the work of Jean-Pierre Bekolo, Caryl Phillips, and Arundhati Roy, by contrast, metropolitan locations and funding sources complicate these artists' efforts, and intent, to articulate an oppositional aesthetic politics. …

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