Close-Up on Marginalization of African Media Studies (And More) in Black Camera Film Journal Special Issue (Now Available)
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Film , Television , Web Series

Close-Up on Marginalization of African Media Studies (And More) in Black Camera Film Journal Special Issue (Now Available)

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Why are there so many obstacles to the study of African media in colleges and universities around the world? What can we do about this marginalization of a continent’s worth of cultural production? I’m a professor of media studies at the City University of New York, Queens College, where I’m lucky to be able to teach entire courses on African cinema—collaborative courses in which my students (many of them from Nigeria, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and other African and Afro-diasporic countries) regularly share crucial videocassettes, videodiscs, posters, and other materials borrowed from their parents and grandparents, passing along a vital experience of African media that is scarcely respected, or even recognized, in academia.

Even as I benefit tremendously from the rare opportunity to teach these courses, I recognize the diminishing opportunities for students and faculty members at other institutions worldwide, where “Africa” is understood to be, in a word, irrelevant. In the United States, federal funding has all but dried up for the sustained study of African culture; government support for the Fulbright program is perilously low, and Title VI funding for African studies programs is regularly slashed, often on the implicit assumption that Africa simply doesn’t matter—at least not to students’ job prospects. Just last year, at the University of Pennsylvania, these unfortunate realities led to the closure of the Africa Center, sparking student protests. In my own field, film and media studies, embarrassingly little attention is presently being paid to seismic developments in African media industries—developments that ought to be at the center of our formulation of film and media theory.





Two incidents led me to edit a special issue of the always-provocative journal Black Camera. One occurred in February 2015, when, at an academic conference, I heard Nicole Amarteifio, creator of the fabulous and immensely popular Ghanaian web series An African City, being berated by an audience member who accused her of being more American than African, and who suggested that her series had no place in the study of African media. Another occurred just weeks later, at another academic conference—a major film and media studies conference for which I had organized a special workshop on the marginalization of African media studies, only to discover that almost no one was willing to attend it, despite its well-publicized inclusion of some of the biggest names in the field of African studies.

Out of my frustration grew this special issue of Black Camera, whose contributors tackle a range of topics, demanding a serious and sustained engagement with media produced on the African continent, from Nigeria to Kenya to South Africa and beyond.

Digital copies of this special issue (Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring 2016), as well as individual articles from it, can be purchased and downloaded here.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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