Waiting for gumbo : cargo cults, media and the bikutsi of Cameroon

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Title: Waiting for gumbo : cargo cults, media and the bikutsi of Cameroon
Author: Rathnaw, Dennis Michael
Abstract: This dissertation examines the interaction between music , politics and the Cameroonian media in the production and role of the popular music called bikutsi . In the context of Cameroonian music , bikutsi had long been associated solely with the Beti region surrounding the capital of Yaoundé , and as such considered a marginal music patronized by the “villageois .” Nevertheless , after Paul Biya assumed the presidency of Cameroon in 1982 , and his subsequent inauguration of the Office de Télévision Nationale du Cameroun (Cameroon Radio and Television -CRTV ) in 1985 , bikutsi acquired the importance of a national music , and indeed a minor global phenomenon . Using the politico -economic backdrop of capital at the millennium , I show how the ethos of neoliberalism has helped turn African nation -states such as Cameroon into what has been called “regimes of unreality ,” divorced from economic control , dependent on a multitude of development projects in the manner of contemporary cargo cults , and left with only the semblance of fetishism with which to connect to its people . In recent years , however , the process of media liberalization has taken away the state media’s ability to enact that message , and thus the regime’s power of persuasion . Instead the populace is left with a new type of cargo , in the form of sounds and imagery to go along with the narrative of global consumer culture . This has left an opportunity for those with the skill and imagination to make use of the new information , allowing artists , musicians and writers to be the next members of a new civil society . This is what I refer to as the emancipatory promise of the new cargo cult , where instead of capital accumulation there is only ephemera—signs , sounds and images that multiply and intensify in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous ways . I use the national lens of bikutsi to analyze these dynamics on a local and global level , in the city , the quartier and the village . Ultimately , understanding the media process and cargo has the ability to allow individuals to overcome the narrow vision of political machinery , and act as another potential cog in the civil society of meaningful relationships .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /7676
Date: 2010-06-03

Citation

Waiting for gumbo : cargo cults, media and the bikutsi of Cameroon. Doctoral dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /7676 .

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