African 403: Theories of African Cultural Studies

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This course is a study of the many ways of understanding the entire spectrum of culture and cultural production, circulation, consumption, and meaning-making in Africa. It foregrounds material and imaginative cultural forms and practices–their origins, languages, contents, forms, functions, genres, audiences–as well as how these have been conceived and theorized by practitioners and scholars in the context of Africa and the world. The course will also examine the uses to which particular meanings of culture and its forms are put, by whom, and to what purpose, and how meanings are fought over, reshaped, and reconstituted, and under what conditions those are or can be possible. This is what “theory of African cultural studies” means in its most robust and imaginative senses. We will survey the entrenched modes of both conceptual and critical apprehension of the cultural forms and practices (from Negritude to postcolonialism and postmodernism), explore their methods of reading, raise the issue of their linkages to sources in Euro-America, and assess the extent to which the unique concerns of the biography of culture in Africa (expressed by its creators and scholars) have tried to tame and refashion what are now globally shared critical tools of cultural reading.