Everyday I’m Hustlin’: Pop Culture, Youth, and the African City





Daniel E. Agbiboa  (Department of African and African American Studies)
Freshman Seminar 72I  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Cities today face broad challenges ranging from public health emergencies (e.g. Covid-19), to anti-police brutality protests (e.g. #ICan’tBreathe), and unemployment. Stuck in a frustrating period of “waithood” or waiting for adulthood, urban youths in Africa are increasingly devising enterprising ways to improvise their livelihoods and assert their right to the city. One creative way in which youths are responding to everyday uncertainty and frustrations is through the power of pop culture, which includes creating new artistic, musical, performance, and fashion forms that extend across and beyond African cities. Consider, for example, the cross-cultural power and global appeal of Afrobeats. Notable American musicians, from Beyoncé to Pharrell Williams and Chris Brown, are fast integrating African pop music into their sounds as part of the upward trend of the “Afro-Cool” in the United States. This, of course, raises important questions about the boundaries between what is cultural appreciation and what is cultural appropriation.

In this seminar, we ask: In the face of the contradictions of modern city life in Africa, in which people’s opportunities and expectations are simultaneously broadened and constrained, how do young people fashion new ways of being and interacting with society? In what ways can crisis become opportunity? To address these questions, we will watch films, listen critically to music, analyze written texts, take virtual tours, and visualize fashion and popular art forms that shed new light on the “hustle economy” in urban Africa, its relationship with pop culture in American cities, and the innovative ways in which young people are making their voices heard in the city.

See also: Fall 2022