Performance and Politics in Tanzania

Performance and Politics in Tanzania

The Nation on Stage
Laura Edmondson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/20/2007
Format: Paperback 20 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-21912-1
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In Performance and Politics in Tanzania, Laura Edmondson examines how politics, social values, and gender are expressed on stage. Now a disappearing tradition, Tanzanian popular theatre integrates comic sketches, acrobatics, melodrama, song, and dance to produce lively commentaries on what it means to be Tanzanian. These dynamic shows invite improvisation and spontaneous and raucous audience participation as they explore popular sentiments. Edmondson asserts that these performances overturn the boundary between official and popular art and offer a new way of thinking about African popular culture. She discusses how the blurring of state agendas and local desires presents a charged environment for the exploration of Tanzanian political and social realities: What is the meaning of democracy and who gets to define it? Who is in power, and how is power exposed or concealed? What is the role of tradition in a postsocialist state? How will the future of the nation be negotiated? This engaging book provides important insight into the complexity of popular forms of expression during a time of political and social change in East Africa.

Author Bio

Laura Edmondson is an assistant professor of theatre studies at Dartmouth College.


“"[A] masterful tale of the political and social formation of Tanzanian national identity." -Gregory Barz, Vanderbilt University This engaging book provides important insight into the meaning and value of popular forms of expression during a time of political and social change in East Africa.”

“[A] masterful tale of the political and social formation of Tanzanian national identity.”
 — Gregory Barz, Vanderbilt University

“. . . Edmondson’s book is a significant study for Africanists, anthropologists, and post-socialist scholars looking to identify the way the artists, the state, and audiences negotiate and interpret meaning in public performances. It is also an important contribution to the limited academic writing on the theatre arts in Tanzania.”
 — Journal of Folklore Research

“. . . the book is also highly stimulating, thought-provoking, and informative. It is a significant contribution to the study of contemporary musical and theatrical performances and society in Tanzania.51, 3 Dec. 2008”
 — Imani Sanga, University Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

“. . . What Edmondson accomplishes with a real sense of dramatic tension in her writing is to explore the particular appeal and philosophy of each group as they battle for artistic and financial supremacy. She does this within a framework which sees each group as expressive of a particular attitude towards the post-one-party and newly capitalist state that emerged in the 1990s.#70 Dec. 2008”
 — Jane Plastow, University of Leeds

“. . . this study of the multifaceted character of the three troupes’ [TOT (Tanzania Theatre One), the Muungano Cultural Troupe, and the Mandela Cultural Troupe] artistic practices is a valuable contribution to mapping the state of the performing arts in sub-Saharan Africa. It invites further investigation into one of the region’s most fascinating phenomena: the traveling, popular, commercial theatre movement.Vol. 61.1 March 2009”
 — Joachim Fiebach, Berlin

“[Edmondson's] research is solid, her theory sound, and her writing style enjoyable. Performance and Politics in Tanzania will make a valuable addition to any scholar’s library.”
 — Cultural Analysis

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Table of Contents



Introduction: Acts of Complicity: Meanings, Methods, and Maps

Part 1. Imagining the Nation
1. Performing, Transforming, and Reforming Tanzania: A Historical Tale
2. Alternative Nations: Locating Tradition, Morality, and Power

Part 2. Sexing the Nation
3. National Erotica: The Politics of Ngoma
4. Popular Drama and the Mapping of Home

Part 3. Contesting the Nation
5. Culture Wars: TOT versus Muungano
6. A Victor Declared: Popular Performance in the New Millennium

Glossary of Swahili Terms
List of References