Courses > 2020 Spring

Graduate Courses


ARTH 791 | AFRC 791 | COML 791 | ENGL 707
401 | SEM | Karen Redrobe, Dagmawi Woubshet | R 12-3pm | VANP 425

his graduate seminar offers an intensive, critical, and collaborative study of contemporary African film and media production. The past three decades have seen an unprecedented shift in the African media landscape. Not only has the wide availability of satellite media across the continent made international film and television programing part of African popular culture, but moreover the growing film industries within the continent, most notably Nollywood, have altered how Africans are carving an image of themselves on the big and small screens.

In partnership with local, regional, and international film and media centers, we will study a range of films—features, shorts, documentaries, and television shows—paying close attention to the means and sites of production as well as the formal qualities that distinguish these works. Many of the films we will analyze stand out both for their exceptional aesthetic quality as well as their remarkable ability to confront pressing political and social themes. But we will also think about trash: what counts as trashy media, and for whom? Who watches it, where, and why? Other questions we will ask include: What particular indigenous modes of storytelling do African films employ? What categories begin to emerge under the umbrella category of "African film and media," and where do diasporan film and media practitioners and critics fit in this landscape? How are these films tackling some of the urgent questions of our times, including migration and globalization; ethnic, political, and economic polarization; gender and sexuality; and massive urbanization and industrialization sweeping Africa and other parts of the Global South? What role do festivals in various countries play in shaping media production and distribution? How important is the concept of authorship in this context? And how do these films challenge the dominant western trope of Africa as a spectacle, instead offering novel ways of picturing everyday African experiences that we rarely glimpse in western media?

To explore these questions, we will visit multiple sites of film production, distribution, exhibition, and education, including Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, Sankofa Films in Washington, D.C., and the College of Performing and Visual Art at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. Location and knowledge production are inextricably connected, and by considering African media production from these multiple sites, and collaborating with multiple stakeholders, this course offers a directly engaged pedagogy of the complex artistic, cultural, social, and political dynamics of African audiovisual creation.  The travel component of this course entails a day trip to Washington, D.C. during the semester and a week-long trip to Addis Ababa at the end of the spring term (students applying for this course should be prepared to travel May 30, 2020-June 7, 2020). Ultimately, this course aims to use film and media production to intervene in a larger discourse on how Africa is figured in the global humanities, not as an absent or passive actor but one actively engaged in producing art and humanistic knowledge that has much to teach us and the world.

Admission to the course will be by permission only and students are required to submit a short statement of interest (max. 200 words) to and by November 1, 2019.