African 905: Oral Culture & Africa in the Digital Era

How are new digital media impacting the historical importance of oral discourse in Africa? The theory of “technological determinism” dictates that scientific thinking and technology must emerge from cultures that already have appropriated writing and literacy as their central mode of communication. However, 21st century digital innovation continues to lean toward increasing forms of informal and oral practices. This advanced seminar interrogates the ways in which Africa and its diaspora’s traditions of oral culture are impacted by new media. How are linguistic practices advanced through the use of mobile devices? How are creole and pidgin forms becoming formalized through voice-driven, so-called aural and ambient media? What are the similarities in digital aesthetics and linguistic practices? In what ways does the informal and traditional challenge the idea of Western technoculture and modernity?        

The seminar will culminate in a workshop of research papers. Students may turn to any primary texts or case studies, from anywhere in the world, to advance their arguments.

This course is also open to graduate and doctoral students from interdisciplinary fields.

• Orality & Literacy, Walter Ong (New Media)

• African Oral Literature: functions in contemporary contexts / edited by Russell H. Kaschula.

• Radio in Africa: Publics, Cultures, Communities (eds) Gunner, Ligaga, and Moyo

• Writing through the Visual and Virtual (Francophone Africa/Caribbean), by Renée Larrier, Ousseina Alidou

• Everyday Media Culture in Africa: Audiences and Users, edited by Wendy Willems, Winston Mano

• Technology, Tradition, and the State in Africa by Jack Goody

• The Internet, an ethnography of Trinidad, by Miller & Slater