Descendants of Zabarkan, Citizens of the World: A History of Cosmopolitan Imagination in Decolonizing Niger, 1958-1974

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2022

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This dissertation is a history of cosmopolitanism in the francophone, musical, and Islamic intellectual traditions of western Niger from 1958 to 1974. It builds on scholarship that seeks to counter conventional nationalist narratives of African decolonization by viewing it through an anti-teleological lens. While most of this literature focuses on the alternatives to the nation proposed by African leaders prior to independence, framing them as lost futures, this project argues that cosmopolitanism constituted a core state project of Niger’s francophone elite even after independence. Its account begins with this official cosmopolitanism of the PPN-RDA regime, most thoroughly articulated by Boubou Hama in the language of the civilization of the universal derived from Negritude. Drawing on sound studies and a wide variety of audio recordings in addition to period newspapers, films, and other primary sources, it also demonstrates the ways that this utopian cosmopolitanism in a repressive, one-party state was contested and undermined by intellectuals operating from both inside and outside the machinery of the state as well as the exuberant, unruly cosmopolitanism embedded in the radio soundscapes and film screens of Niger. From the traditional Sahelian cosmopolitanism transmitted in the epics of Zarma griots to the unworldly worldliness of vernacular Muslim poets and preachers, the dissertation paints a dynamic portrait of cosmopolitan imagination in modern Niger.

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Berndt, Nathaniel Aaron (2022). Descendants of Zabarkan, Citizens of the World: A History of Cosmopolitan Imagination in Decolonizing Niger, 1958-1974. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26802.

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