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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Anthropology and the study of popular culture: a perspective from the southern tip op Africa
Author:Becker, Heike
Periodical:Research in African Literatures (ISSN 0034-5210)
Geographic terms:Southern Africa
South Africa
Subjects:popular culture
anthropological research
Abstract:This article explores the complex relationship of anthropology with the study of popular culture in southern Africa. In an insightful review of South African culture studies, Karin Barber argued a decade ago that while South African culture studies of the early post-apartheid era closely followed the model of British cultural studies, two of the British school's characteristics were lacking in the South African studies, i.e., ethnographic depth and attention to audiences. These absences seemed astounding, Barber wrote, considering the distinguished history of South African anthropology. The author presents an intellectual history that charts the genealogy of southern African ethnographic studies of popular culture, starting from the 1950s when anthropologists studied a variety of popular cultural forms. This trajectory changed track with the emergence of a neo-Marxist political economy approach in anthropology, which was not much inclined to study 'things cultural'. She shows that South African culture studies of the late apartheid and early post-apartheid periods focused on reading mediated texts; deep ethnographies, on the other hand, were rare. This was due to the fact that after the retreat of anthropology, culture studies had become the domain of scholars, who had been trained in literary criticism, who were, for the most part, more interested in text and representation than in audiences. The author concludes with a brief discussion of the current resurgence of anthropological studies of popular culture, including collaborative projects with media and literary studies, which investigate questions of difference, belonging, and citizenship through popular culture. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]