Taylor Swift did me a huge favor this fall. Right at the beginning of the semester, she released her “Wildest Dreams” video during the broadcast of MTV’s Music Video Awards.
I’m teaching a section of ENGL 282 (Intro to Fiction) themed around Fictions of the Global South, and my students had just read Binyavanga Wainaina’s fabulous satirical essay, “How to Write About Africa.” I really couldn’t have asked for a better current exemplar of the traction of some of these older colonial/imperial motifs in a Western cultural imagination of Africa. Note, in the video’s call to action at the end, the displacement of African recipients of aid from people to animals, which accords with Western conservationist campaigns’ failures to engage the political and economic circumstances in which poaching, etc. takes place. (James Ferguson has a great chapter about this in his book Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order, Duke 2006 – Ferguson may or may not end up on our syllabus.)
Here’s an early response to Swift’s video by Viviane Rutabingwa and James Kassaga Arinaitwe, published on NPR’s website.