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Media/Fetish: A Postcolonial Archeology of New Media and Africa


Media/Fetish analyzes the history of media technologies in anglophone West Africa with a special emphasis on Ghana from the early twentieth century to the present. Each chapter examines representations of a different media technology—gramophones, cinema, television, and mobile phones—at the time when they were new. Through an engagement with African studies, critical race theory, and postcolonial studies, Media/Fetish addresses a recurring deficiency in the history and theory of new media. By reorienting the emphasis from historical moments of invention, which tacitly privilege Euro-American ontologies of new media, to the analysis of the meanings of media technologies once they are adopted and adapted, Media/Fetish shows how the world is structured by new media use in Accra as much as it is by new media design in Silicon Valley. I argue that media have, in part, been made “new” by their discursive relationship to racialized development narratives. Be it the colonial civilizing mission to bring Western knowledge to Africans through mobile cinema or the promise of black uplift through the formation of Ghana’s national television, race has been crucial to global theories of new media.

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