Tropical Cowboys

Tropical Cowboys

Westerns, Violence, and Masculinity in Kinshasa
Ch. Didier Gondola
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/10/2016
Format: Hardback 21 b&w illus., 2 maps, 2 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-02066-6
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During the 1950s and 60s in the Congo city of Kinshasa, there emerged young urban male gangs known as "Bills" or "Yankees." Modeling themselves on the images of the iconic American cowboy from Hollywood film, the "Bills" sought to negotiate lives lived under oppressive economic, social, and political conditions. They developed their own style, subculture, and slang and as Ch. Didier Gondola shows, engaged in a quest for manhood through bodybuilding, marijuana, violent sexual behavior, and other transgressive acts. Gondola argues that this street culture became a backdrop for Congo-Zaire’s emergence as an independent nation and continues to exert powerful influence on the country’s urban youth culture today.

Author Bio

Ch. Didier Gondola is Chair of the History Department and Professor of African History at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. He is editor (with Peter J. Bloom and Charles Tshimanga) of Frenchness and the African Diaspora: Identity and Uprising in Contemporary France (IUP).


“An innovative and original study that sheds light on masculinity, youth culture, performative violence, and the circuit of global imagery in the townships of Kinshasa.”
 — Stephan F. Miescher, author of Making Men in Ghana and Modernization as Spectacle in Africa

“Aligns social banditry with popular cultural formations and subcultures. This has been a longstanding feature of Didier Gondola's scholarship that is of great interest.”
 — Peter J. Bloom, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Its approach in terms of poverty and unemployment combined with a subtle interest in performance and the creation of an original culture makes this book an eye-opener. Both the dramatic subject and the author's vivid style make it a pleasure to read and also food for thought regarding issues that haunt not only Africa but also the world at large.”
 — American Historical Review

“In conclusion, both undergraduate and graduate students of African history, urban history, women's sexuality, gender studies, and even transnational film studies would benefit from this book. . . . Additionally, as the provocative title suggests, American undergraduate students—even those unfamiliar or new to Central African literatures—will find this book both engaging and accessible because of parallels and differences drawn between the American Far West and Kinshasa.”
 — Research in African Literatures

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Table of Contents

Part I. Falling Men
1. "Big Men"
2. A Colonial Cronos
3. Missionary Interventions
Part II. Man Up!
4. Tropical Cowboys
5. Performing Masculinities
6. Protectors and Predators
Part III. Metamorphoses
7. Pere Buffalo
8. Avatars