Comedy and Modernity: New Media and Genres in Postcolonial Africa, 1965-1995


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2020-2021


This is a study of the history of affect, and especially comedy, in Africa. Comedy is the essential cultural currency, a condition of global citizenship as envisioned by Moses Adejumo, who developed àwàdà, a comedic genre of irony, lightness, and unassuming wit when he began the first televised comedy series in Africa, in 1965. The confluence of a newly available mass audience and the unique personality of the artist induced imitators throughout Anglophone Africa and permanently marked Nigerian society. Grounded in the theory of comedy and the modes of popular culture that have come to saturate the modern, global understanding of that phenomenon, the study probes how comic creativity and innovative technologies, from television to mobile technologies, modify sensibilities and affects to produce new conceptions of public culture. It illuminates how performative and creative qualities original to socially embedded African forms coexist with powerful influences and technologies from the West.