Tracing the histories of concrete commodities and cultural practices, this panel explores both urban/rural integration within specific African countries and transregional and transnational interconnections between African cities and multiple, shifting continental and global metropoles.
This panel will explore the history of leisure and consumption in African cities by considering the relationship between the urban and the transregional and transnational. Whereas many scholars of Africa have analyzed historical relations between the urban and the rural, fewer have considered how the experiences and politics of urban Africa have been shaped by the movement of people, ideas, and things between cities on the continent and those in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. How have African cities served as nodes in the international and global circulation and development of various forms of leisure and consumption, ranging from the likes of cinema-going, soccer, and beauty contests in the twentieth century to the procurement and enjoyment of alcohol, spices, cloth, and other commodities over several centuries? To what extent have these forms introduced new political economies and modes of sociality to Africa, and to what extent have Africans remade the structure and meaning of these forms? How has the fact that African cities have long been intimately tied to vast rural hinterlands shaped these processes? Together, we will consider two themes. First, our panel will highlight how, when it comes to forms of leisure and consumption, traffic with cities in Asia and the Americas - as well as European metropoles - has been important to developments in urban Africa. Second, we will examine the many different historical actors - including traders, business owners, slaves, employees, consumers, entertainers, audiences, players, fans, media entrepreneurs, journalists - who have shaped these developments.