Rethinking the Everyday:
Approaching Asia-Africa through Daily Life and Popular Cultures

Speaker: Ying Cheng
Venue: Hosted via Zoom
Date & Time:
2022-4-29 | 20:00-21:30 (Shanghai)
2022-4-29 | 8:00-9:30 (New York)
2022-4-29 | 16:00-17:30 (Abu Dhabi)

What happens when an African audience watches Indian or Chinese films on Saturday nights? What exactly a Chinese student gets out of a seminar about youth dance culture in West Africa?

The presentation draws attention to current studies on the transnational cultural flows between Asia and Africa that have been largely ignored in dominant discourses of postcolonialism and globalisation. I try to illustrate how popular culture functions as an essential site of mutual representation and knowledge production within a Third World context. Popular culture forms exemplify ‘the episteme of the everyday’ (Newell and Okome, 2014) that speaks to ordinary people’s concerns, values, desires and desperations. The transnational circulations of pop cultural forms not only shape people’s imagination of self and other, but provoke alternative imaginaries of modernities and globalisation within a Southern context. 

The presentation calls for a southern, comparative theoretical endeavour among scholars of Asian and African studies: From which kind of shared daily experiences are the ‘African-Asian affinities’ (Jean-François and Jeychandran, 2022) generated? How could we think of Asia-Africa as an epistemological framework that challenges traditional models of academic theorisation in area studies and other disciplines? And how could we reactivate our academic debates with languages or ‘vernaculars’ rooted in the lifeworld of Asia and Africa?

Ying Cheng is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian and African Languages and Cultures, Peking University. Her research interests include youth and popular culture in Africa, African visual and performance arts, cultural interactions between China and Africa, and so on. Dr Ying Cheng is an editorial board member of the Journal of African Cultural Studies. She has also been a research associate (Arts of Africa and the Souths) of Rhodes University, South Africa since 2017. In recent years, she has published articles in African Arts, Routledge Handbook of African Literature, African Theatre, Journal of African Culture Studies and so on.

Introduction by M. Yunus RAFIQ, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NYU Shanghai.

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