‘African Witchdoctors’ and Popular Culture: Global Hierarchies and the Reinforcement of the Colonial World Order

Adrian G Flint*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

This paper makes the case for a closer study as to how Africa and African people are portrayed within popular culture in the Global North, adding to the discussion surrounding the importance of ‘low politics’ in producing and reproducing global hierarchies. It focuses on representations of African traditional healers in Anglo-American popular culture as a way of highlighting deeply entrenched outsider ‘understandings’ of the continent. The colonial trope of the ‘African witchdoctor’ has remained a fixture in the collective Anglo-American cultural imagination since the days of H. Rider Haggard. Evidence demonstrates that these colonial stereotypes have remained remarkably durable, having seen little change in over one hundred and fifty years. Following Cynthia Enloe (1996), this paper argues that, in the interests of gaining a deeper appreciation of the power structures shaping African ‘development’, the realm of the ‘imaginary’ and the ‘made up’ where popular culture is concerned, demands greater scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contemporary African Studies
Early online date13 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Africa
  • colonial tropes
  • traditional healers
  • popular culture
  • witchdoctor

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