New Article: Music Videos, Global Imaginaries and Frictions

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been studying Kenyan music videos. My first article from this research project, “Global frictions and the production of locality in Kenya’s music video industry,” was just published online at Media, Culture & Society. I’m really excited about this piece, and I hope that it will be useful to other scholars of global media.

The article’s main contribution is an analytical framework for studying global cultural production. Here are the main points:

  • People feel a sense of belonging with those outside their direct proximity. This is illustrated nicely by Benedict Anderson’s book Imagined Communities and also by Charles Taylor’s book Modern Social Imaginaries. Within the context of globalization, Manfred Steger and others have written about “global imaginaries”—imagined communities that extend beyond national borders.
  • These social and global imaginaries shape our social practices. Our sense of “fit” with others contributes to our self definition, which, in turn, informs what we do. In this framework, I’m particularly interested on how social imaginaries help shape the practices of media and cultural producers.
  • Frictions occur when cultural producers with different global imaginaries are put in contact with each other. This concept of “friction” was introduced by Anna Tsing in her book, Friction. Tsing writes that when people ostensibly work together, there are differences in how they approach and understand their work. These difference result in frictions that are “productive,” in that they shape the outcome.
  • In the context of cultural production, frictions between hybridized subjects shaped by disparate global imaginaries result in what Arjun Appadurai calls “the production of locality.” These frictions are the building blocks of media and cultural production.

In short, this article provides a framework for scholars of global cultural production to study hybridity as both an antecedent (via global imaginaries) and an outcome (via frictions) of transcultural exchange. I use three cases from the Kenyan music video industry to illustrate how to use this analytical framework. These case studies also reveal three different types of frictions that occur in cultural production.

Here’s the abstract:

This article explores the relationship between global imaginaries, frictions, and the production of locality through an examination of the Kenyan music video industry. Localities are constructed, in part, through the constitutive work of the imagination. Friction occurs when divergent constructions of the global imaginary become entangled with each other. Through an examination of the production, distribution, and reception of Kenyan music videos, this study identifies three types of friction that occur in cultural production: collaborative frictions, in which collectivities work across differences toward a common cause; combative frictions, in which collectivities are positioned in direct opposition to each other; and competitive frictions, in which the interests of different collectivities conflict at times and align at others. This study contributes to scholarship on cultural production in non-Western contexts by articulating hybridity as both an antecedent to and outcome of transcultural exchange.

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