Fulfills Comm B, Elementary, Humanities
“If Africa was a bar, what would your country be drinking/doing?” asked Botswanan writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa in 2015. The hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar exploded within days as Africans throughout the continent participated in the conversation to reveal how they saw themselves and one other, sharing their political and cultural viewpoints in under 25 words. By focusing on social media movements, online trends, and digital challenges in Africa, such as the ones developed by Mohutsiwa, this course will examine the politics of gender, sexuality, food, and fashion. One key question will guide our discussions: how do social media platforms shape politics in Africa? To address this question, students will explore themes like the legacies of European colonialism, diverse challenges in the post-colonial period, agency, social justice, human rights issues, digital footprint, Pan-Africanism, and queerphobia. Specifically, students will study hashtags like the #EndSars protest, which, much like #Blacklivesmatter in the United States, exposes police brutality in Nigeria. Students will also consider the Twitter hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar from Botswana, which frames internet platforms as “playgrounds” where humor and sarcasm forge unity across Africa. In addition, students will examine how marginalized African groups, the LGBTQIA community, in particular, use social media to air their grievances and reclaim their agency from government leaders who maintain that queerness is un-African. Finally, we will explore critical theories and diverse African cultural forms, such as novels, films, and music. Class assignments include a Social Media Discovery Project which asks students to use social media technologies to engage with content about politics in Africa.
Assigned materials for this course include:
1. Selected readings from God’s Children Are Little Broken Things, a fictional anthology that explores queer identities in a religious Nigerian society as well as the #EndHomophobia campaign in 2020.
2. Selected readings from Sọ̀rọ̀sókè, a collection of poems that memorialize #EndSars.
3. Selected chapters from Cultural Netizenship: Social Media, Popular Culture, and Performance in Nigeria, a book by James Yeku that explores how social media activism intersects with popular online forms.
4. Selected chapters from Standing on the Wall: The First 2000 Years, a text by Tom Standage which explores the history of social media.
5. Selected readings in Government and Politics in Africa by Tordoff William.
6. “How Young Africans found their Voice on Twitter,” a TED Talk by Siyanda Mohutsiwa that explores Pan-Africanism in digital spaces.
7. Citation, a Nigerian movie that spotlights the #SexforGrades movement that went viral on Instagram and Twitter in Ghana and Nigeria in 2019.