Spring 2009

Reading Popular Culture: Screening Africa

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-15  |  English, as ENGL-13


Marisa Parham (Section 01)


(Also Black Studies 15.) Against a backdrop that moves from Heart of Darkness to (PRODUCT)RED™, this semester we will focus on the current proliferation of “Africa” in the western imaginary. Such surges in interest about the continent are not new, and we will trace this literary and cultural phenomenon across the twentieth century, coming to settle mainly on contemporary American films. We will read our films as films, but also as cultural texts. We must wonder: why these films now? Are there certain conditions under which the West turns to its imagination of Africa? And how might we account for the repetition of such turns over time? We will end the course in a consideration of cultural appropriation and what it means for expressive traditions. To get at this question, however, we will also look to some of the ways African filmmakers have responded to and have themselves appropriated elements of texts similar to those with which we began the semester. Spring semester. Professor Parham.