Discussant: Louise Meintjes

11am – 12:30pm

Both environments of mass uncertainty and emergent efforts at radical social change inspire calls for the arts to “get the word out.” Project initiators presume that the pleasures of creativity will make messages travel further, reach more diverse audiences, and stick in the minds of audiences. Yet the distribution of information is inseparable from the distribution of resources, and the logics of broadcast are inherently colored by the politics of patronage. For all the enjoyment a catchy song or entertaining radio drama might offer, audiences are quite happy to dismiss attached messages if they understand them to be motivated by corrupt relations, whether with political party bosses or NGOs. Moreover, the audiences addressed by such media are not open-ended, democratic masses but rather distinct publics constituted by the very forms of discourse chosen by the works: gender roles are consolidated around songs addressed either to men or women, political preferences swayed through the promotion of certain celebrities, ethnic identities unified or exacerbated via the use of different languages, and so on. Further, this section exposes the discrepancies between aid agencies’ pre-conceived expectations—such as faith in the local appeal of particular traditions or the universal youth appeal of hip-hop—and the highly specific sociopolitical realities that complicate artists’ and audiences’ interpretations of the projects in question. This section purposefully focuses on sonic media, as the portability of discrete songs and the supposed universality of rhythm and melody render music the art form simultaneously most amenable and least questioned for broadcast. However widely it spreads, distribution is never even nor unbiased; it is always colored by processes of disparity.


Mobutu’s Ghost: Musical Patronage and Policy in Congo’s Economies of War and Peace
Chérie Rivers Ndaliko (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Songs of Conscience and Sexual Politics in Guinea
Nomi Dave (University of Virginia)

Humanitarian Theatre in the Great Lakes Region: Performativity, Catharsis and Individual Subjectivity within a Transnational Dramatic Genre
Maëline Le Lay (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique/French National Center for Scientific Research)

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