Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Recent calls in media anthropology encourage an ethnographic approach to media analysis so as to better grasp the dynamics between global forces and local specificities. Furthermore, current debates in global/international media studies not only draw attention to the paucity of research on popular media genres but also expand the contours of the discipline’s universalizing theorizations and examples that mainly emanate from Europe and the United States. In this presentation, I respond to these calls through an ethnographic investigation into a cyberfraud phenomenon in Ghana called ‘sakawa’ that is allegedly linked with occult rituals. Specifically, I seek to unravel the impetus that drives sakawa by analyzing the two principal--but ideologically contrasting--narratives on the phenomenon. The first involves media reports of Ghanaian political leaders’ denunciatory reactions to this criminal activity. The second is a nuanced dramatization of the sakawa phenomena in popular Ghanaian video-films. Approaching these films as ‘fictionalized reality’ that mediates popular Ghanaian views on sakawa, I show how the ‘sakawa film series’ provide a robust counter-discourse to official denunciations. While the films also are critical of sakawa, they go beyond simplistic condemnation by exposing the socioeconomic and political conditions that engender this criminal practice by youth fraudsters.
P.S: The seminar will be in English.