Virtual Encounters in Postcolonial Spaces

Nollywood movies about mobile telephony

Authored by: Carmela Garritano

The Postcolonial World

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138778078
eBook ISBN: 9781315297699
Adobe ISBN: 9781315297682


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In recent years, African film critics have begun to consider dramatic changes in African cinematic production and distribution across various boundaries, as well as the aesthetic and narrative innovations these transformations have made possible. Critics such as Manthia Diawara, Lindiwe Dovey, Kenneth W. Harrow, Jon Haynes, and Alexie Tcheuyap have called for updated approaches attuned to reading these new forms of African cinematic and media production and, in the cases of Harrow and Tcheuyap, the dismantling of an outdated dominant critical paradigm. 1 Nollywood, the name used widely to refer to English-language commercial movie production in Ghana and Nigeria, is among the most vital developments in the field, and although for many years, with a few important exceptions, the study of Nollywood was taken up primarily by cultural and media anthropologists, the industry’s ever- expanding transnational reach and extraordinary powers of reinvention have made it impossible for African film critics to ignore. Understanding Nollywood – an unabashedly commercial and apolitical, informal, low-budget, and wildly heterogeneous and syncretic cultural formation that aspires to be as big and bold as Hollywood and Bollywood – has entailed questioning some of the most deeply entrenched ideologies of the field. Governed by what Sarah Nuttall and Cheryl-Ann Michael describe, in a slightly different context, as “the overdetermination of the political,” 2 African film studies has set out to articulate a uniquely and authentically African film language and aesthetic, recover the buried histories of African resistance, educate and politicize audiences, and give voice to Africans marginalized by dominant narratives, including Hollywood cinema. Its methods have been rooted in the hermeneutics of what Alberto Moreiras calls “locational thinking” 3 and Achille Mbembe has described as “an intellectual genealogy based on a territorialized identity and a racialized geography, which privileges Africa as a site of identity and alterity.” 4 These approaches to African film are ill-suited to Nollywood, a product of the structural and technological transformations of neoliberal capitalism that articulates with the entangled temporalities and geographies of our current historical moment. This is a period, Mbembe notes, in which the sites of politics have been displaced and the social has assumed the shape of an assemblage of events and accidents, desires and uncertainties. It also is a time in which the logic of margin and center, which has been reiterated by African film studies, has proved inadequate to mapping the deterritorialized and fluid spatial relations put in motion by globalization and articulated in contemporary cultural forms like Nollywood. As I discuss here, recent Nigerian movies destabilize the field’s racialized maps even further, remarking on developments in digital technologies and the spatializing processes they enable.

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