Workshop “Popular Culture in Africa- and Diaspora-related Research”

Invitation to join us for a



Popular Culture in Africa- and Diaspora-related research:

Politics and Positionalities


24 May, 2017

1:00 – 6:00 pm


Seminarraum 4,

Department of African Studies

University of Vienna Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 5.1.

1090 Vienna


Has scholarly thinking about popular culture in Africa changed in the discipline of African Studies since Karin Barber (“ Popular Arts In Africa,” 1987) published her highly influential article on popular arts in Africa 30 years ago? If so, how might we tie these changes to new social and cultural ways of perceiving and narrating societies in Africa in the last twenty years or so? What, if anything, does the rise of the new media have to do with the way popular culture is produced, disseminated and consumed?

On the basis of some selected texts dealing with the issues raised above and drawing from insights from current research projects by Onookome Okome, who is visiting the Department of African Studies, and members of the research project “Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces” at the same department, this workshop revisits key issues raised in Barber’s essay as entry points into questions such as:

Is the category of popular culture still useful in Africa- and diaspora-related research and in what sense?

How does it relate to other categories such as popular arts or, more recently, social media?

How can the relationship of popular culture and politics be thought through?

How might we think through the politics of popular culture and the representations of politics in the age of the new media?

What are the positions and what are the methods from which we can approach research on popular culture?


All are welcome to join the discussion – especially also interested students and younger scholars!


Preliminary Schedule:

1:00 – 1:30 pm:                 Introduction of the aims and format of the workshop,  introduction of all participants

1:30 – 3:30 pm:                 Discussion of concepts and approaches on the basis of selected texts

3:30 – 4:00 pm:                 Coffee break

4:00 – 6:00 pm:                 Panel with short inputs and time for discussion, with contributions by


  • Onookome Okome (University of Alberta) on „Nollywood“
  • Birgit Englert (University of Vienna) on film translation into Swahili in Tanzania
  • Katharina Fritsch (University of Vienna) on popular culture in the context of ‘Franco-Comorian diaspora’ in Marseille
  • Hanna Stepanik (University of Vienna) on ‘Cape Verdean’ popular cultural practices and ‘diaspora’ in Lisbon


Key texts as input for discussion:

Englert, Birgit. 2008. Popular Music and Politics in Africa – Some Introductory Reflections. In: Englert, Birgit (ed.). Popular Music and Politics in Africa. Special Issue of Stichproben. Vienna Journal of African Studies, Nr. 14, 1-15.

Newell, Stephanie; Okome, Onookome. 2014. Introduction. Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday. In: Newell, Stephanie; Okome, Onookome (eds.) Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday. New York / London: Routledge, 1-23.

Willems, Wendy; Mano, Winston. 2017. Decolonizing and Provincializing Audience and Internet Studies. Contextual Approaches from African Vantage Points. In: Willems, Wendy; Mano, Winston (eds.). Everyday Media Culture in Africa. Audiences and Users. New York / London: Routledge, 1-26.

Further suggested reading:

Barber, Karin. 1987. Popular Arts in Africa. African Studies Review 30(3): 1-78.


Please register until 22 May 2017 by sending an email to

The texts will then be sent to you via email.


Organised by Birgit Englert, Katharina Fritsch and Hanna Stepanik of the research project „Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces“


funded by the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) together with Prof. Onookome Okome, (University of Alberta).

In cooperation with the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna


Article on”YouTube as an Archive from an African Studies Perspective” now published and available open access

has now been published in the open access African Study journal
No. 31/2016,Vol. 16, 27-56.
In this paper I reflect on the characteristics of YouTube as an archive, with a focus on its relevance for African Studies. I discuss the challenges of dealingwith the audiovisual sources stored in this archive of popular culture and beyond, given the mobility that characterises the platform and its sources.
I explore how to contextualise audiovisual sources found on YouTube and reflect on which ethical aspects need to be considered when using them for research purposes, and how to refer to them in citations.

“A tale of two Olympans: Race, Gender, Nation”

–  Talk by Prof. Dr. Shirley Anne Tate, University of Leeds, UK.

organised by Katharina Fritsch and Hanna Stepanik of the research project POCUTRAS in cooperation with „Forschungsverbund Geschlecht und Handlungsmacht / Gender and Agency“ and the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna.

30 November 2016, 18:00

Alois Wagner Saal, C3 – Centrum für Internationale Entwicklung,

Sensengasse 3, 1090 Wien

First screening of “Histoires de Twarab à Marseille” at the Tropikal Palace in Marseille


We are excited to announce that on 24 November 2016, we present our documentary “Histoires de Twarab à Marseille” (“Twarab Stories from Marseilles”) for the very first time.

The documentary is an international project by the Colombian visual anthropologist and film editor Andrés Carvajal, the Comorian artist Mounir Hamada Hamza and the Austrian researcher Katharina Fritsch. This audiovisual work is the visual part of the research project “Popular Culture in Transnational Spaces” run at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna.

The main aspect of the documentary portrays the social situation of Comorian artists based in Marseilles, France, within the milieu of Twarab, a musical genre that is very popular in East Africa, as well as on the Comorian Islands. As the presence of Twarab music is a strong red line connected to the migration of Comorians to Marseilles, the documentary attempts to trace the history and the development of this music genre from its origins on the Comoros and in Marseilles, from the perspectives and musical trajectories of the artists themselves. Stretching as far back as the mid-1990s, this music has come to dominate events organised by Grand-Comorian associations, mainly based in Marseilles.

We have attempted to place particular emphasis on the role of Twarab as a “cultural work”, to depict the difficulties faced by the artists in terms of the recurring issue of art not being recognised as work on the Comoros, on their position as migrants in Marseilles, as well as the role of Twarab as a means of raising money in a diasporic context. In this regard, the film not only depicts the challenges that the artists face, but also examines strategies and possibilities for change.

Documentary in HD; 74 minutes;

Original in Comorian/French with subtitles in English


More screenings to follow!


“Transnationalität, Translokalität, Diaspora – Gedanken zu verschiedenen Ausprägungen von Mobilität anhand populärkultureller Praktiken”

Vortrag von Birgit Englert im Rahmen der Ringvorlesung “Mobilität und Medialität” unter der Leitung von Annegret Pelz am Institut für Germanistik in Kooperation mit der Forschungsplattform “Mobile Kulturen und Gesellschaften”.

22. November 2016, 13:15 – 14:45 im Hörsaal 31, Hauptgebäude, Universität Wien – alle Willkommen!

“Reflections on using YouTube as an archive from an African Studies perspective”

is the contribution of Birgit Englert to the workshop “Zugänge und Einordnungen”of the Africa Study Network Austria which takes place at the University of Linz, Austria on 17-18 November 2016.

The paper draws on reflections and experiences from our research project on popular culture practices in translocal spaces and will be published in the journal “Stichproben. Vienna Journal of African Studies” shortly.

“Feminist Postcolonial and Decolonial Performativity Approaches“

Workshop with Prof. Dr. Shirley Anne Tate from the University of Leeds, UK.

Organised by Katharina Fritsch and Hanna Stepanik of POCUTRAS in cooperation with the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna.

The workshop takes place on 1 December 2016, 10 – 16, at the Department of African Studies, Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 5.1., 1090 Wien


Please register until 7 November 2016 and indicate in which sub-group you would like to participate:

(1) Performativity and subjectivities (questions of belonging, identity etc.)

(2) Performativity and artistic performances / popular culture practices

(3) Performativity and Positionality/-ies (self-reflexivity etc.)

“Reflections on the Role and Production of Research Films in African Studies”

is an article which draws on experiences of producing audiovisual output within our research project.

Here are all the details:

Englert, Birgit. 2016. Reflections on the Role and Production of Research Films in African Studies. in A. Exenberger, & U. Pallua (Hrsg.), Africa Research in Austria.: Approaches and Perspectives. (Edited Volume Series). Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press, (S. 43-64).

Radio broadcast “Leben in der Diaspora”

Birgit Englert and Katharina Fritsch were interviewed for a radio broadcast which is part of the series “Dimensionen – die Welt der Wissenschaft” on the radio channel Ö1

Therefore tune in on Monday 30 May, 2016 at 7:05 p.m. in order to listen to

“Leben in der Diaspora. Einblicke in die Vielfalt afrikanischer Communities in Österreich und anderen europäischen Ländern.”

a programm which has been created by Gabriele Anderl.

For details see (the programm is in German!)



Talk and Film “Diasporic Popular Cultural Practices” :23 May 2016

The Global African Diaspora Studies Plattform invites to a seminar on

“Diasporic Popular Cultural Practices in Marseille and Lisbon: Focus on Twarab and Batuku”

 with Katharina Fritsch, Hanna Stepanik, Andres Carvajal and Birgit Englert (University of Vienna)

Date: May 23, 5pm to 7pm

Location: Kleiner Saal, Afro-Asiatisches Institut in Wien, Türkenstraße 3, 1090 Wien (1st floor)

We will present work-in-progress from an ongoing project on popular cultural practices in diasporic contexts. Diaspora is often used as homogenising term, which ascribes people to one group on the basis of an assumed “shared origin”. Therefore, differences in terms of class positions or gendered experiences – to give just two examples – are often overlooked. This is why we take an intersectional perspective in this project by focusing on specific popular cultural practices, which contribute to the construction of diasporic identities. The aim is to analyse if and why certain group constructions gain relevance in specific contexts and what this says about broader societal structures in which they are embedded.

After a short introduction of the project by Birgit Englert, the presentation will focus on the popular music/dance genres Twarab and Batuku which are in the focus of research by Katharina Fritsch and Hanna Stepanik, respectively.

The presence of Twarab in Marseille, a popular music genre in Eastern Africa and on the Comoros, has been strongly related to histories of migration from the Comoros to Marseille. Since the mid-90s, this music genre has becomes dominant within events organized in the realm of Franco-Comorian associations. Batuku – presumably the oldest musical style on the Cape Verde islands – only became relevant in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area in the 60s / 70s and is now practiced in a number of contexts.

Further, filmmaker Andres Carvajal will present short sequences (about 15 min) of a research film that he realised as part of the project together with artist Mounir Hamada Hamza, in cooperation with Katharina Fritsch. The film deals with the social situation of artists working in the milieu of Twarab in Marseille and is currently in the post-production phase.

 We look forward to discussing the work-in-progress – written as well as visual – with you!

Workshop “Writing and Publishing about Africa: Challenges and Strategies”

“Stichproben – Vienna Journal of African Studies” invites you to the

Workshop: „Writing and Publishing about Africa: Challenges and Strategies“

Date: Friday, 27th of May, 2016 14:00-19:00 Uhr

Location: Department of African Studies, Seminar room 1 Spitalgasse 2, Hof/Yard 5.1, 1090 Vienna

Birgit Englert of the POCUTRAS-Team will give a talk on

„Reflections on the Role and Production of Research Films in African Studies”

and chair the panel discussion with Katrin Bromber, Tunde Adeleke, Tomi Adeaga and Kirsten Rüther.

See here for the full programm: 2016_05_Workshop Stichproben_programm_endversion

No Registration necessary.

We are looking forward to welcome you at our Department!

Miša Krenčeyová on behalf of the Editorial Board of the ‘Stichproben’

„Reinventing and Multiplying ‘Comorian Diaspora’ within Popular Culture: Marseilles as ‘Diaspora Space’.”

is the titel of our first co-authored article in the framework of our research project!

Here are all the details:

Englert, Birgit und Katharina Fritsch: „Reinventing and Multiplying ‘Comorian Diaspora’ within Popular Culture: Marseilles as ‘Diaspora Space’.” Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture 6.2 (2015), S. 247-265.

Presentation at the Conference “Beyond the Master’s Tools”

Katharina Fritsch will present a paper at the conference

“Beyond the Master’s Tools. Post- and Decolonial Approaches to Research Methodology and Methods in the Social Sciences” which takes place at the University of Kassel, Germany on January 14-15, 2016.

January 14, 3:45:

Panel: “Me and the Others – the Researching Subject in Postcolonial Research (Panel Chair: Anke Ortlepp)

For More Feelings of Unease within White Research Practice! A Critical Whiteness Perspective on Postcolonial Research Encounters”
Katharina Fritsch, University of Vienna

“‘Committing Epistemicide?’ On the Impossibility of Doing Ethnography”
Luisa Hoffmann, Goethe University Frankfurt

The Conditions that Make a Difference: Decolonial Historical Realism, the Researcher and the Process of Decolonization” 

Julia Suárez-Krabbe, Roskilde University

See here for the full programm!



Vortrag im Afrikakolloquium der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin: “Translokale Narrative in franko-komorischem HipHop in Marseille”

Am 18. November 2015 präsentiert Birgit Englert Teile ihrer Forschung in einem Vortrag im Rahmen des Afrikakolloquium am Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:

“Translokale Narrative in franko-komorischem HipHop in Marseille”

Wann: 18.11.2015 von 18:00 bis 19:30

Wo: Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, 4. Etage, R. 410


In diesem Vortrag geht es um HipHop in einem diasporischen Kontext, konkret um Franko-komorische Künstler in Marseille. In der zweitgrößten französischen Metropole im Süden des Landes hat ein hoher Anteil der Bevölkerung Bezug zu den Komoren, der Inselgruppe im Indischen Ozean. Im Zentrum der Analyse, die eine Mobilitätsperspektive einnimmt, stehen Soprano, einer der gegenwärtig populärsten Rapper in Frankreich, und Ahamada Smis, der als Slam-Künstler eher in einer “Weltmusikszene” verortet ist.

Die aktuellen Alben beider Künstler tragen bereits Dimensionen von Mobilität in ihren Titeln: “Cosmopolitanie” (2014) von Soprano und “Origines” (2013) von Ahamada Smis. Beide schaffen – auf sehr unterschiedliche Art – in ihrem Werk translokale Narrative, welche die Dichotomie zwischen „Komorisch“ und „Französisch“ herausfordern und neue Perspektiven auf die Stadt Marseille und die vermeintliche „Komorische Gemeinschaft“ werfen. Aber auch die Verortung der Komoren und nicht zuletzt auch die Verortung des Genre Rap selbst wird verschoben.

Presentation at the Conference “Postcolonial Mobilities in the Francophone World”

This weekend Katharina Fritsch will present a paper based on her research within the POCUTRAS project at a conference organised by the

Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies
In association with Liverpool University Press

Postcolonial Mobilities in the Francophone World

Friday 13 & Saturday 14 November 2015

Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London,
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

–> Panel 5b: Mobility and the Diaspora (Torrington Room)

    Chair: Claire Launchbury (IMLR/IHR, University of London)

Katharina Fritsch (University of Vienna), ‘Mobilizing ‘Comorian diaspora’ in Marseilles – Twarab and Marseilles’ biopolitics of communitarization

Sheila Petty (University of Regina), ‘Relational Histories in African Cinema’

Clément Cayla-Giraudeau (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), ‘Politics from Abroad: the Case of the Senegalese and Djiboutian Diasporas’

FWF-Research project at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna: “Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces: Processes of Diasporisation among Comorians in Marseilles and Cape Verdeans in Lisbon”