Monday, November 22, 2021

Anima Adjepong's "Afropolitan Projects"

Anima Adjepong holds a faculty position as Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexualities Studies at the University of Cincinnati. They research, write, and teach about identity, culture, and social change and are particularly interested in how cultural struggles can bring about social transformation.

Adjepong applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Afropolitan Projects is in Chapter 4, titled “Afropolitan Politics in Accra.” The page discusses the cultural politics embedded in language choice, examining how class and gender shape the Ghanaian languages used in Afropolitan spaces. The page dives into how Pidgin, the language choice proposed as inclusive can potentially be exclusive in gendered and classed ways. Sociolinguists interested in language use in Ghana have shown that Pidgin is a language used by men across social class. In other words, the language acts to bond men. By contrast, while working class women may have access to Pidgin as a vernacular, in the privileged class spaces that Afropolitans create, working class women might not prefer to use this language as it could betray their class status and marginalize them. For class-privileged women, pidgin is not typically a language to which they have access. As I write, “Given these realities, I found the suggestion that Pidgin was an inclusive language for progressive organizing to be both surprising and potentially troublesome.” Taking the argument further, I note that the “least self-consciously inclusive linguistic space” was one that was already exclusive by class. Within this space, English, Ewe, Pidgin, Ga, and Akan were used without hesitation or concern about being inclusive. As such, I conclude that perhaps the issue is not about how language includes or excludes, but rather about working through class tensions as a part of a politics that claims a desire to be inclusive.

Afropolitan Projects examines how a privileged class of Ghanaians who claim a politics of inclusion and a desire to articulate Africa as a part of a transnational community navigate the contradictions of this position via their cultural work. Focusing on my interlocutors’ articulations and experiences of class, gender, sexuality, and race, the book explores how these identity categories shape cultural politics. Based on years long ethnography, in-depth interviews, and analyses of various cultural materials including visual art, music videos and songs, memes, and Twitter trends, I found that what I call Afropolitan projects – the cultural politics of class-privileged Ghanaians (and potentially other Africans who occupy similar positionality) are characterized and hampered by neoliberalism, heteronormativity, and Christian nationalism. Although this finding seems paradoxical given the claim to progress and inclusivity, the larger cultural context in which this politics occurs offers some explanations as to why and the book explores this context in depth.

In my view, page 99 is surprisingly helpful as an introduction to some of the paradoxes and tensions about which I write. This page offers insight into key themes of the book, which included how patriarchy (in this instance normalizing men’s experiences to the exclusion of woman) and class inequality impose themselves on Afropolitan efforts to be inclusive. Although a definition of Afropolitan is not provided on this page, a reader might conclude that Afropolitan is a privileged class identity. By reading page 99, readers can begin to familiarize themselves with the tensions that are opened up throughout the book.
Visit Anima Adjepong's website.

--Marshal Zeringue