Fictions that Save: Migrants' Performance and Basotho National Culture

Essay Excerpt

As I hope the texts herein interpreted suggest, the study of popular performance is one significant way to address the problem of "how to represent the embedding of richly described local cultural worlds in larger impersonal systems of political economy" (Marcusand Fischer 1986:77). In contemporary Nigeria, juju music and its public performance mediate the disjunction between conceptions of precolonial polity and nation state, and help to maintain the postcolonial invention of a unitary, pan-Yoruba identity (Waterman 1990:147). This identity in turn serves to extend and reinforce the historically rooted moral economy of hierarchical but reciprocal patron-client relations in the face of ethnically un- marked processes of class formation. The juju metaphor, as Waterman puts it, "may help to transform the world by sustaining the illusion that it remains, in some deep and essential sense, the same" (Waterman 1990:227-228). (Coplan, 187)

About the Author

David B. Coplan is Professor and Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He has also held visiting appointments at institutions as diverse as University of Basel, École des Hautes Études Sciences Sociales (Paris), Rice University, NYU, DePauw University, and the University of Cape Town. He acted as the Chief Researcher for the “Mobilising Culture and Heritage for Nation Building” in South Africa’s Arts and Culture Department and worked as an ethnographic research consultant for University of Pennsylvania Museum and International Library of African Music.

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