The Nuclear Family in Drum and How to Become Rich

In “Drum Magazine (1951-9) & The Spatial Configurations of Gender,” Dorothy Driver argues that Drum magazine, in its reproduction of American gender constructions, sought to establish “a modern form of romantic love within an ideology of domesticity, aiming for the establishment of a consumer-oriented nuclear family” (156). Importantly, Driver notes that this worked against the economic interest of black South Africans, as the extended family provided an otherwise absent mode of social security. If “How to Be Rich and Avoid Poverty,” is any indication, there was similar cultural pressure in Nigeria to move from a model of extensive kinship networks to nuclear families. Driver’s argument that female “promiscuity” and “male polygamy” signify the opposites of modern domesticity seems as apt a description for Anorue’s work as for Drum magazine. In How to Become Rich and Avoid Poverty, both genders are constructed through the disciplining of men into sound financial subjects. For example, “A Story of a Man Who Married So Many Wives” discourages polygamy by positing it as an undisciplined financial action, a waste of money rather than a means of social security. Likewise, association with “harlots” (which would constitute a tacit male approval of the practice) is framed as a poor financial decision. The ideal female subject is therefore constructed as a singular, well-behaved, thoroughly domesticated wife, worthy of a financially responsible man, summarized succinctly by the statement “It is only a bad wife who fights with her husband.”

Anorue’s text further advocates a restricted, privatized sense of community. While at times the text seems to promote the idea of community, it overwhelmingly creates a paranoid sense of distrust and a tacit suggestion of isolation, as with lines such as “Do not trust all you see in the world. Many friends are dangerous enemies I have told you . . . Do not lend money to your friend without a strong agreement received and do not tell all your secrets and planes to your friends.” This last statement is particularly distressing, as it implies a movement away from communal trust and toward independent agents bound only through the legal obligation of contract. What interests me is that, in these locally produced and locally circulated texts, both Drum and ­­How to Become Rich and Avoid Poverty, we see a production of globalized and neoliberal subjects. While we’ve discussed and praised the ways in which these texts are produced by and spoken directly to Africans, the influencing voice of Europe is still present and disciplining, eroding traditional forms in favor for European forms that, as Driver points out, are often at odds with, and counter-productive within, the social and economic realities of the readership.

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