Popular Culture, Racialized Identities, and African Visual Culture
This chapter introduces the intrinsic purpose and aim of the book: the imagining of Africa through popular culture. The book focuses on three case studies, each of which has repackaged African visual culture for the American consumer. These cases involve Mattel’s world of Barbie, the 1996 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and the Walt Disney World Resort. The study focuses primarily on the way in which visual culture reinforces, challenges, and represents social relations, especially as they have been articulated around racialized identities in the past twenty years. The first task in this study, then, is the analysis of how three companies used African visual culture, and how they have generated ideological understandings of Africa for an American public. The second task involves the investigation of the way that African visual culture focuses Americans’ understanding of themselves, particularly around black and white racialized identities.
Keywords: Africa, popular culture, African visual culture, American consumer, Barbie, Sports Illustrated, Walt Disney World Resort, racialized identities