ACCRA, IJITSU, & CAPE COAST 2014
Thanks to my Ph.D. Teaching Fellowship and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi's Love of Learning Award, I traveled to Accra, the Spiritan University College at Ijitsu, and the University of Cape Coast in Ghana during May 2014.
Based on my experiences and research for the class "Ghana in the Black Cultural Imagination," I wrote “Posing Brunis and Selfies: Developing the Postcolonial Gaze in the Twenty-First Century.” My paper has been accepted for presentation at the Popular Culture and American Culture Association Conference in New Orleans, LA during Spring 2015.
In my paper, I argue that as a tourist, photography is a logical, convenient means of collecting memories and encapsulating narratives to later share with others. In contrast to Richard Wright’s time in Ghana during the 1950s, where he lugged his camera around and struggled to find a photography developer, there has been a shift from film photography and newspapers, and even beyond internet cafés, to where smart phones and phone cameras are an essential way of life in twenty-first century Ghanaian culture.
While much scholarship considers the colonial gaze and the power dynamics of photography and tourism, my contemporary experience in Ghana points to a more complex understanding of power. Ghanaians can record tourists just as tourists can record Ghanaians; inevitably, agency fluctuates between the photographer and the photographed. Drawing on these cultural readings of photography, the proposed essay examines the works of Richard Wright, Mohammad Naseehu Ali, Caryl Phillips, and puts them in conversation with my own experiences in Ghana. All of these cultural narratives complicate the power dynamics between tourist and African, “Bruni” (white person) and “Bibini” (black person) and consider the impact of technology to more deeply understand what colonial dynamics have changed and endured in terms of the photographic and tourist gaze in the twenty-first century. In light of these cultural readings, I will also consider the social media platform Instagram to more deeply explore how Ghanaian users have agency to self-fashion their identities for a larger international imagination today.
Please feel free to click through the gallery images of my adventures in
Accra, Ijitsu, and Cape Coast