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The Rhetorical Circulation of Afropolitan Projects
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In a 2005 essay titled “Bye-Bye Babar,” Taiye Selasi coined the term “Afropolitanism” to name a material and conceptual space inhabited by cosmopolitan Africans. The essay recounted her encounters with Africans of mixed heritage with sophisticated taste in music, fashion, literature and of the world itself. Selasi’s Afropolitans were Africans whose private and professional lives were split between cities in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Over time, the term Afropolitan(ism) has come to stand for a literary movement, a way of being African in urban multicultural spaces, and an analytical category for capturing contemporary African modernity. From that single essay, google “Afropolitan” today and you will find hundreds of writers, bloggers and vloggers, artists, chefs, fashionistas, theorists, and philosophers who describe their work, lifestyle, merchandise, or online presence as Afropolitan. These performances reflect a growing attempt by Africans to rewrite their place in the world, to recover the image of Africa and Africans beyond the brutal legacies of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, and racism. While much popular and scholarly engagement with Afropolitanism has sought to take sides, criticize or positively appraise Afropolitanism, this dissertation joins the discourse by another route. In this dissertation, I demonstrate how the Afropolitan idea circulates in different media and spaces, and argue that it is by this circulation – in critical theory (Chapter 1), in literary representation (Chapter 2), in digital and visual spaces (Chapter 3) – that a material Afropolitan public emerges. In the field of Rhetoric, circulation refers to the unintended dispersion of texts and ideas as well as the transformations that occur when texts move through time and space. I argue that the circulatory process created a new “post-demographic” public which identifies itself as Afropolitan. Consequently, this new public gives us new language by which to discuss the global mobility of contemporary Africans, their artistic and philosophical contribution to the world, and their attempts to complicate the image of Africa beyond its unfortunate past (and present).
Adanu, Elias Meseneo Kodzo (2020). The Rhetorical Circulation of Afropolitan Projects. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from