This post builds on the research article “Performing Royalty in Contemporary Africa,” which was published in the May 2013 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.
Cultural Anthropology has published a number of articles on the practical and theoretical intersections of politics, aesthetics, and cultural performance. See Dominic Boyer and Alexei Yurchak's "American Stiob: Or, What Late-Socialist Aesthetics of Parody Reveal about Contemporary Political Culture in the West" (2010), Deborah A. Thomas' "Democratizing Dance: Institutional Transformation and Hegemonic Re-ordering in Postcolonial Jamaica" (2002), and Ana Maria Alonso's "Conforming Disconformity: 'Mestizaje', Hybridity and the Aesthetics of Mexican Nationalism" (2004).
Cultural Anthropology has also recently published a number of articles on globalized brands and cultural identities. See Kedron Thomas' "Brand 'Piracy' and Postward Statecraft in Guatemala" (2013), Andrew Graan's "Counterfeiting the Nation? Skopje 2014 and the Politics of Nation Branding in Macedonia" (2013), and William Mazzarella's "'Very Bombay': Contending with the Global in an Indian Advertising Agency" (2003).
Questions for Classroom Discussion
1. Reconsider Mr. Mamba's interactions with the authors in light of Cook's subsequent position as an administrator for the Bafokeng nation. What is the role of anthropologists in the creation and modification of African "tradition"? How has their role changed from the colonial to the post-colonial eras for communities in Africa and elsewhere?
2. Alternatively, what role have anthropologists played in the creation of African "modernity" or "modern" subjectivities and practices? Is this an example of potential "alternate modernities," and how? How might current global economic conditions, as theorized in this article, qualify this reading?
3. Exercise the comparative question: how is this practice like or unlike what is seen elsewhere around the world? How are royal performances here like or unlike performances of European monarchies or other state spectacles like inauguration ceremonies?