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SOSC 4510 Chapter Notes - Chapter --: Karen Barber, Egungun, Frankfurt School


Department
Social Science
Course Code
SOSC 4510
Professor
Elleni Zeleke
Chapter
--

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Seminar 2: Sept 17th
Karen Barber, “Introduction” in Barbar (textbook 1): pages 1- 12
-despite the overwhelming reality of economic decline, imaginable poverty, wars, malnutrition,
disease and political instability, african cultural productivity grows apace: popular literatures,
oral narrative and poetry, dance, drama, music and visual art all thrive
-it is not wholly traditional in the sense given to this term by much africanist scholarship that is
purely oral, expressed in exclusively indigenous african languages or images and coming
from or alluding to the precolonial past
-it is not elite or modern, westernized culture in the sense of inhabiting a world formed by
higher education, full mastery of european languages and representational conventions
defined by its cultural proximity to the metropolitan centres, and addressed to a minority but
international audience
-the african cultural universe is often represented as being divided into two halves made up of
egungun masquerades on the one hand (traditional art) and soyinkas the road on the other
(elite/modernized/westernized art)
-popular music was one of the first african arts to be seriously studied in which
ethnomusicologists deplored the contamination of authentic igneous traditional sounds by the
infusion of Western rhythms, melodies and technologies
-people know africa by traditional carvings and westernized african novels and plays
-traditional art was appropriated by the western art market into its established categories of
values
-preference was given to the pieces that could be slowed into the category of sculpture for
exhibition and contemplation: hence the almost automatic euro-american choice of a stylized
wooden mask as the immediately recognizable signifier of african culture
- many seem unaware of the existence of flourishing popular african language literatures since
they dont fit the paradigm they become invisible
-for the nationalist african elites, celebrating the traditional was an affirmation of self worth, an
assertion that african civilizations had long ha dither own artistic glories to compare with
those of the colonizers
-historical study of popular culture is strong in east africa
-the assumption made by some early enthusiasts of african popular art that it is by definition
naive, cheerful and carefree has been replaced by the recognition that genres bulled as
entertainment usually talk about matters of deep interest and concern to the people who
produce and consume them
-the concept of the popular is always ambitious because it comes to us inscribed with the
history of political, and cultural struggles
-the popular is to be low class and low class is not a good thing
-mechanically produced pap controlled by a manipulative state to brainwash its passive
citizens (frankfurt school)
-anything produced by the people is automatically valued
-popular culture in many discourses occupies a self evidently positive position and the task
then becomes one of distinguishing between what is truly popular and what is contaminated
by hegemonic ideological infiltrations from above
-different meaning of the people—the nation, part of the nation not of the state, dominant
classes,etc
-the conceptions of popular circulating today are not just contested and ambivalent,
simultaneously descriptive and evaluative but historically layered and subdivided, carrying
with them residues of regret for worlds we have lost
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