Beyond the Tunes: The Animal Gaze, Critique and Pedagogies of the Everyday in Highlife Music in Ghana


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of English


This study explores the speaking animal and animal gaze in highlife sung tale in Akan as a mode of political critique and a pedagogy of the everyday by focusing on the representation of animals as ethical observers and commentators on socio-political norms. The study argues that the Akan sung tale interrogates the public sphere through the representation of the animal as a thinking, critical and intimate Other. The sung tale is conceptualised as a site of contestation of human exceptionalism and a commentary on human duplicity and shame. This has implications for the scholarship on music and the public sphere, the animal turn, cultural production and framing of knowledge and critique. Although scholars have discussed the genealogy, socio-cultural and political dimensions of highlife music in Ghana, the representation of animals has not received much attention. The study adopts an interdisciplinary approach that draws on folklore, musicology, animal studies, and literature.