African 405: Lec 2, Colonialism & its Cultural Critique

Fall 2019

Ron Radano
3 credits
W 1:20-3:15pm

Fulfills Humanities, Intermediate

How did the legacy of colonialism affect the arts and the idea of the aesthetic in Africa? How, in turn, did new African cultural practices carry a power and influence into world cultures?

This course will examine the many ways in which cultural practices were created and employed as forces of critique over the course of Africa’s colonial history. Working with multiple media (most notably, literature, music, objects, film, radio), the class will investigate how creative forms became the focal point of contests of power and struggle that ironically generated new artistic practices. Rather than making absolute claims about art’s singular role as an oppositional force, the course will consider the various ways in which creative articulations developed from and at times sustained colonial-based knowledge and ideology. In many instances—as in the racial representation of Africa on film, or in the invention of “tribe”—colonial ideologies became the basis of subsequent resistance movements and newly imagined constitutions of the African modern.

We will be particularly interested in exploring the points at which “critique” registers as a modern ambivalence, at once marking loss of a past and identifying newly constituted African subjectivities. Discussions will be informed by regular, contextual readings on the social and political history of African colonialism.

Class materials may include works of such as these: Senghor, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, (Dreams in a Time of War); conference proceedings of the 1956 Congress of Black Writers and Artists (Paris); Gary Wilder (Freedom Time, on Negritude and decolonization); Hochschild (King Leopold’s Ghost); Zimmerman (Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany); Leo Frobenius (On African History, Art, and Culture), Nancy Hunt (A Nervous State); Recordings of the International Library of African Music (Johannesburg); Black Europe (15-CD compilation of Africans and African Americans in Europe before 1930); earaly exploitation films such as Voodoo Vengeance (1913); the rise of Egyptian cinema.