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At the Threshold of New Political Communities: The Nollywood Epic

October 29, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Matthew Brown outdoors wearing a dark coat and shirt

Monday Seminar

Matthew Brown

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2012-2013)

African Languages and Literature, UW-Madison


Many of the most popular genres of Nigeria’s “Nollywood” video film industry have histories that predate the advent of video filmmaking. The “epic” genre, in particular, draws on expectations generated by the Nigerian state television bureaucracy, which itself draws on expectations generated in literary and oral epic narratives. While some Nollywood epics fulfill these expectations, others substantially subvert them, especially in terms of setting and costume. I argue that, because epic narratives are fundamentally narratives about the establishment of political communities, Nollywood epics offer visions of Nigerian nationhood that, depending on the film in question, fulfill or subvert the ideological trajectory of the Nigerian state.


Matthew H. Brown, IRH Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also earned a Master’s Degree. He researches and teaches African literature and popular culture, regularly employing methods and discourses from history, political science, anthropology, and other disciplines in the pursuit of robust forms of literary and cultural analysis. His dissertation research has been supported by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship and an Ebrahim Hussein Fellowship. He has published widely on African cinema and literature, Nollywood, and Nigerian popular music and he is currently guest-editing an issue of the Journal of African Cinemas about Nollywood’s audiences across the African continent. Brown is also coordinating a Mellon Workshop at UW-Madison on “New Media and Mass/Popular Culture in the Global South.”


October 29, 2012
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States