There are over fifty cities throughout Africa with a population of more than one million inhabitants. However, urban spaces tend to be left out of America’s collective imagination of the continent. Cities are cosmopolitan places where ideas circulate, people mix and mingle, trends are set, and influences of innumerable origins meld together. In this episode, we explore the experiences of young people in urban settings throughout Africa. We focus on the ways youth cultures can affirm a vision of Africa that cuts against the grain of stereotypes and dominant narratives.
Afrofuturism: A cultural aesthetic that combines science-fiction, history and fantasy to explore the African-American experience and aims to connect those from the black diaspora with their forgotten African ancestry (tate.org)
Cosmopolitanism: Having wide international sophistication; having worldwide rather than limited or provincial scope or bearing (merriam-webster.com)
Afropolitan: Someone who has roots in Africa, raised by the world, but still has an interest in the continent and is making an impact (cnn.com)
Collective Effervescence: A powerful form of synchrony that is associated with intense emotions and communal shared experiences (psychologytoday.com)
Vibe: A distinctive emotional quality or atmosphere that is sensed or experienced by someone (thefreedictionary.com)
Anima Adjepong, PhD, is a sociologist and Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies at the University of Cincinnati whose research examines culture, identities, and social change in West Africa and the diaspora.
Lilian Sibanda is a English Second Language Teacher in Peru and a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Massachusetts Boston who is from Zimbabwe.
Shamiso Ngongoni is a Salesforce Administrator at The African, a nonprofit in Columbus, Ohio focused on the socioeconomic advancement of the African Diaspora, and is from Zimbabwe.
Irene Asuwa is a graduate of the University of Nairobi and an environmental activist in Kenya.
Katherine Manning is a World History teacher and Model UN Advisor at Lexington High School in Lexington, MA.
Free Resources and Featured Books
Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra by Anima Adjepong illuminates and critiques the various forms of Afropolitan projects in Houston, Texas and Accra, Ghana, looking at these political and aesthetic expressions through the lenses of race, class, gender, and sexuality.
“I Didn’t Know There Were Cities in Africa!” is an article by Brenda Randolph and Elizabeth DeMulder published by Learning for Justice focused on the misconceptions and prejudices frequently associated with Africa that can be countered through teaching that includes, among other approaches, an emphasis on urban life.
“Bye-Bye Babar” is an article by Taiye Selasi is an early and iconic expression of Afropolitanism and which offers accessible and vivid imagery of the vibrant cultural hybridity embodied by Afropolitan youth.
“Don’t Ask Where I’m From, Ask Where I’m a Local” is a TED Talk by Taiye Selasi which presents a vision of global interconnectedness and identities that transcend borders, origins, and static definition.
“15 Most Beautiful & Developed African Cities in 2021” is a video by African Insider that provides succinct descriptions of urban spaces throughout Africa, featuring descriptions of the cultural scenes across the continent.
“Young, Urban and Culturally Savvy, Meet the Afropolitans” by Mark Tutton is a CNN article the presents Afropolitanism through the prism of a U.S.-based media outlet.
The Afropolitan Podcast is a podcast series that delves into the contours and particularities of Afropolitan identity by hosts who identify with and embody the spirit of certain forms of its expression.
“Why I’m Not an Afropolitan” by Emma Dabiri is an article that provides a critique of Afropolitan expressions as the new “single story” that has its own blindspots and limitations for representing Africa and Africans.
Thanks to Anima Adjepong, Lilian Sibanda, Shamiso Ngongoni, Irene Asuwa, and Katherine Manning for sharing your insights and expertise.
Thanks to Nico Rivers for audio editing, mixing and mastering this episode.
“Lights and Ambience at Kona Bar, Osu Oxford Street” by Warmglow, under CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo of Anima Adjepong University of Cincinnati website.