Consumer Culture in Africa
How did things like mini skirts, skin lightening creams, soccer, and rap music become so popular in Africa? How did African consumer demand shape industries in cities like Lowell, Massachusetts, Manchester, England, and Paris, France? This course explores such questions by exploring the development of consumer society in Africa throughout the twentieth century. It traces networks of commercial exchange to examine the connections, rather than the differences, between Africa and the rest of the world. In addition, the course challenges both academic and popular perceptions of Africans as producers and laborers within the global economy and the idea that African consumers are copying or imitating the practices of shoppers in wealthier places like North America and Europe. Readings will focus on African consumption of changing fashion trends, popular music and films, and the buying of specific items like beer, soap, and second-‐ hand clothing. Major themes include, African consumption as a site of resistance and empowerment, the shifting meanings of consumer goods and identities, and the effects of global capitalism and inequality on African desires and aspirations.
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