Matthew H. Brown
Position title: Associate Professor
Phone: (608) 262-8983
1468 Van Hise
- PhD’14 University of Wisconsin-Madison
- MA’08 University of Wisconsin-Madison
- BA’02 Truman State University
Matthew H. Brown’s research focuses on media and politics in modern Africa. He is the author of Indirect Subjects: Nollywood’s Local Address (Duke UP, 2021), which explores the relationship between state television and commercial filmmaking in Nigeria. His other publications include research on popular culture, print literature, music, and literary and critical cultural theory. He also serves on the editorial board of the Journal of African Cinemas. Brown’s teaching covers African literature, screen media, popular culture, and theories of African cultural studies.
Brown’s research is motivated by an impulse to understand modernity more fully—the idea that there could be no modern world, as we know it, without Africa and forms of African cultural production. He approaches his work as a media historian, always striving to locate, revisit, and continually rethink the types of media, modes of address, and narrative forms that have contributed to, and arisen from, various historical conjunctures. Brown’s work on Nollywood, for example, is primarily concerned with the conjuncture where video film emerged from state television in Nigeria. And if state television was modeled on colonial cinema, then that means that the forms and contexts of video film cannot be fully understood without examining the forms and contexts of colonial cinema. The biggest questions he hopes to address concern the ways in which Africa’s contemporary contributions to modernity are and are not like those contributions extracted, by force, during the imperial age. Ultimately, the modern world may be fundamentally unequal, and Africa may have contributed on less-than-ideal terms, but we can never hope for a better version of modernity without a better understanding of Africa’s place in it.
- “Genre as Ideological Impulse: Reflections on Big Data and African Cultural Production,” The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry 4.3 (2017): 1–15.
- “African Screen Media Studies: Immediacy, Modernization, and Informal Forms.” Black Camera 7:1 (2016) 140-158.
- With Nyasha Mboti, “‘Nollywood’s Unknowns’: An Introduction,” Journal of African Cinemas 6:1 (2014) 3-9.
- “Bringing the Rain Indoors: Rereading the National Allegory in Ousmane Sembene’s Xala.” Ousmane Sembène and the Politics of Culture . Eds. Lifongo Vetinde and Amadou Fofana. Lanham [MD]: Lexington Books, )2014). 67-83.
- “The Threshold of New Political Communities: Some Notes on the History of Nollywood’s Epic Genre,” The Global South 7:1 (2013) 55-78.
- “Discourses of Language in Nigerian Popular Music: The Dialogic Imagination of Lágbájá.” African Creative Expressions: Mother Tongues and Other Tongues. Ed. Akintunde Akinyemi. Bayreuth and Trenton: Bayreuth African Studies no. 89 and Africa World Press, (2011). 224-242.
- African 201: Introduction to African Literature
- African 210: The African Storyteller
- African 405: Nollywood
- African 669: African Screen Media
- African 901: Melodrama
- African 905: Africa and (Neo)Liberalism
Brown has served on several Master’s and PhD committees, both in and outside of African Cultural Studies. The topics of graduate work to which he has contributed include film and television studies, representation in the news media, African language pedagogy (both in the U.S. and in Africa), political cartooning, and more. Brown invites students from any discipline to talk with him about contributing to their work. Given that advising is a mutually-edifying process, he is keen to learn from students working on subjects close to his own work as well as subjects tangentially related.