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Second Acts: Theatricality, State, and Popular Culture in an African Setting

April 23, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

“Bí a bá perí akọni, a ó fida lalẹ”! When the soul of the beloved is addressed, it is right that the gestures be proper.

In a career that spanned over three decades, Tẹjumọla Ọlaniyan pursued a unique, capacious, and generous vision of humanistic scholarship in the field of African literary and cultural studies, including the black world as a whole and extending beyond it. “My deep interest,” he once asserted with characteristic precision, “is transdisciplinary teaching and research. My goal is the cultivation of critical self-reflexivity about our expressions and their many contexts.”

In this spirit, the UW-Madison Department of English and the Center for the Humanities is honored to present the first annual Tejumola Olaniyan Memorial Lecture with Moradewun Adejunmobi, professor and former chair in the African American and African Studies Department at the University of California, Davis.

This presentation tracks the changing dispositions for theatricality in contemporary Nigerian political and popular culture. It ponders the persistence of theatricality as a dimension of Nigerian and African civic culture under varied political dispensations. It also considers the extent to which new media technologies have or have not fundamentally altered the functions of theatricality in the African world. An examination of the interface between media and theatricality in Nigerian popular culture serves in this paper as the point of departure for a reflection on the nature of theatricality in twenty-first century Nigeria, as well as the import and potential outcomes of current forms of theatricality for political and civic culture in the present age.

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Moradewun Adejunmobi is a Professor and former chair in the African American and African Studies Department at the University of California, Davis. She holds courtesy appointments in the French and Comparative Literature departments, and is a former chair of the Performance Studies Graduate Group at UC Davis. Her research interests are in African literature and performance, popular media, and popular culture. She is the author of two books: JJ Rabearivelo, Literature and Lingua Franca in Colonial Madagascar, and Vernacular Palaver: Imaginations of the Local and Non-Native Languages in West Africa. She is also a co-editor (with Carli Coetzee) of the Routledge Handbook of African Literature.

The Tejumola Olaniyan Memorial Lecture is sponsored by the UW-Madison Department of English with support from the UW-Madison Department of African Cultural Studies and the Center for the Humanities.