Category Archives: Presentations

Workshop “Popular Culture in Africa- and Diaspora-related Research”

Invitation to join us for a



Popular Culture in Africa- and Diaspora-related research:

Politics and Positionalities


24 May, 2017

1:00 – 6:00 pm


Seminarraum 4,

Department of African Studies

University of Vienna Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 5.1.

1090 Vienna


Has scholarly thinking about popular culture in Africa changed in the discipline of African Studies since Karin Barber (“ Popular Arts In Africa,” 1987) published her highly influential article on popular arts in Africa 30 years ago? If so, how might we tie these changes to new social and cultural ways of perceiving and narrating societies in Africa in the last twenty years or so? What, if anything, does the rise of the new media have to do with the way popular culture is produced, disseminated and consumed?

On the basis of some selected texts dealing with the issues raised above and drawing from insights from current research projects by Onookome Okome, who is visiting the Department of African Studies, and members of the research project “Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces” at the same department, this workshop revisits key issues raised in Barber’s essay as entry points into questions such as:

Is the category of popular culture still useful in Africa- and diaspora-related research and in what sense?

How does it relate to other categories such as popular arts or, more recently, social media?

How can the relationship of popular culture and politics be thought through?

How might we think through the politics of popular culture and the representations of politics in the age of the new media?

What are the positions and what are the methods from which we can approach research on popular culture?


All are welcome to join the discussion – especially also interested students and younger scholars!


Preliminary Schedule:

1:00 – 1:30 pm:                 Introduction of the aims and format of the workshop,  introduction of all participants

1:30 – 3:30 pm:                 Discussion of concepts and approaches on the basis of selected texts

3:30 – 4:00 pm:                 Coffee break

4:00 – 6:00 pm:                 Panel with short inputs and time for discussion, with contributions by


  • Onookome Okome (University of Alberta) on „Nollywood“
  • Birgit Englert (University of Vienna) on film translation into Swahili in Tanzania
  • Katharina Fritsch (University of Vienna) on popular culture in the context of ‘Franco-Comorian diaspora’ in Marseille
  • Hanna Stepanik (University of Vienna) on ‘Cape Verdean’ popular cultural practices and ‘diaspora’ in Lisbon


Key texts as input for discussion:

Englert, Birgit. 2008. Popular Music and Politics in Africa – Some Introductory Reflections. In: Englert, Birgit (ed.). Popular Music and Politics in Africa. Special Issue of Stichproben. Vienna Journal of African Studies, Nr. 14, 1-15.

Newell, Stephanie; Okome, Onookome. 2014. Introduction. Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday. In: Newell, Stephanie; Okome, Onookome (eds.) Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday. New York / London: Routledge, 1-23.

Willems, Wendy; Mano, Winston. 2017. Decolonizing and Provincializing Audience and Internet Studies. Contextual Approaches from African Vantage Points. In: Willems, Wendy; Mano, Winston (eds.). Everyday Media Culture in Africa. Audiences and Users. New York / London: Routledge, 1-26.

Further suggested reading:

Barber, Karin. 1987. Popular Arts in Africa. African Studies Review 30(3): 1-78.


Please register until 22 May 2017 by sending an email to

The texts will then be sent to you via email.


Organised by Birgit Englert, Katharina Fritsch and Hanna Stepanik of the research project „Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces“


funded by the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) together with Prof. Onookome Okome, (University of Alberta).

In cooperation with the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna


First screening of “Histoires de Twarab à Marseille” at the Tropikal Palace in Marseille


We are excited to announce that on 24 November 2016, we present our documentary “Histoires de Twarab à Marseille” (“Twarab Stories from Marseilles”) for the very first time.

The documentary is an international project by the Colombian visual anthropologist and film editor Andrés Carvajal, the Comorian artist Mounir Hamada Hamza and the Austrian researcher Katharina Fritsch. This audiovisual work is the visual part of the research project “Popular Culture in Transnational Spaces” run at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna.

The main aspect of the documentary portrays the social situation of Comorian artists based in Marseilles, France, within the milieu of Twarab, a musical genre that is very popular in East Africa, as well as on the Comorian Islands. As the presence of Twarab music is a strong red line connected to the migration of Comorians to Marseilles, the documentary attempts to trace the history and the development of this music genre from its origins on the Comoros and in Marseilles, from the perspectives and musical trajectories of the artists themselves. Stretching as far back as the mid-1990s, this music has come to dominate events organised by Grand-Comorian associations, mainly based in Marseilles.

We have attempted to place particular emphasis on the role of Twarab as a “cultural work”, to depict the difficulties faced by the artists in terms of the recurring issue of art not being recognised as work on the Comoros, on their position as migrants in Marseilles, as well as the role of Twarab as a means of raising money in a diasporic context. In this regard, the film not only depicts the challenges that the artists face, but also examines strategies and possibilities for change.

Documentary in HD; 74 minutes;

Original in Comorian/French with subtitles in English


More screenings to follow!


“Transnationalität, Translokalität, Diaspora – Gedanken zu verschiedenen Ausprägungen von Mobilität anhand populärkultureller Praktiken”

Vortrag von Birgit Englert im Rahmen der Ringvorlesung “Mobilität und Medialität” unter der Leitung von Annegret Pelz am Institut für Germanistik in Kooperation mit der Forschungsplattform “Mobile Kulturen und Gesellschaften”.

22. November 2016, 13:15 – 14:45 im Hörsaal 31, Hauptgebäude, Universität Wien – alle Willkommen!

“Reflections on using YouTube as an archive from an African Studies perspective”

is the contribution of Birgit Englert to the workshop “Zugänge und Einordnungen”of the Africa Study Network Austria which takes place at the University of Linz, Austria on 17-18 November 2016.

The paper draws on reflections and experiences from our research project on popular culture practices in translocal spaces and will be published in the journal “Stichproben. Vienna Journal of African Studies” shortly.

Presentation at the Conference “Beyond the Master’s Tools”

Katharina Fritsch will present a paper at the conference

“Beyond the Master’s Tools. Post- and Decolonial Approaches to Research Methodology and Methods in the Social Sciences” which takes place at the University of Kassel, Germany on January 14-15, 2016.

January 14, 3:45:

Panel: “Me and the Others – the Researching Subject in Postcolonial Research (Panel Chair: Anke Ortlepp)

For More Feelings of Unease within White Research Practice! A Critical Whiteness Perspective on Postcolonial Research Encounters”
Katharina Fritsch, University of Vienna

“‘Committing Epistemicide?’ On the Impossibility of Doing Ethnography”
Luisa Hoffmann, Goethe University Frankfurt

The Conditions that Make a Difference: Decolonial Historical Realism, the Researcher and the Process of Decolonization” 

Julia Suárez-Krabbe, Roskilde University

See here for the full programm!



Vortrag im Afrikakolloquium der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin: “Translokale Narrative in franko-komorischem HipHop in Marseille”

Am 18. November 2015 präsentiert Birgit Englert Teile ihrer Forschung in einem Vortrag im Rahmen des Afrikakolloquium am Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin:

“Translokale Narrative in franko-komorischem HipHop in Marseille”

Wann: 18.11.2015 von 18:00 bis 19:30

Wo: Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften, Invalidenstr. 118, 4. Etage, R. 410


In diesem Vortrag geht es um HipHop in einem diasporischen Kontext, konkret um Franko-komorische Künstler in Marseille. In der zweitgrößten französischen Metropole im Süden des Landes hat ein hoher Anteil der Bevölkerung Bezug zu den Komoren, der Inselgruppe im Indischen Ozean. Im Zentrum der Analyse, die eine Mobilitätsperspektive einnimmt, stehen Soprano, einer der gegenwärtig populärsten Rapper in Frankreich, und Ahamada Smis, der als Slam-Künstler eher in einer “Weltmusikszene” verortet ist.

Die aktuellen Alben beider Künstler tragen bereits Dimensionen von Mobilität in ihren Titeln: “Cosmopolitanie” (2014) von Soprano und “Origines” (2013) von Ahamada Smis. Beide schaffen – auf sehr unterschiedliche Art – in ihrem Werk translokale Narrative, welche die Dichotomie zwischen „Komorisch“ und „Französisch“ herausfordern und neue Perspektiven auf die Stadt Marseille und die vermeintliche „Komorische Gemeinschaft“ werfen. Aber auch die Verortung der Komoren und nicht zuletzt auch die Verortung des Genre Rap selbst wird verschoben.

Presentation at the Conference “Postcolonial Mobilities in the Francophone World”

This weekend Katharina Fritsch will present a paper based on her research within the POCUTRAS project at a conference organised by the

Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies
In association with Liverpool University Press

Postcolonial Mobilities in the Francophone World

Friday 13 & Saturday 14 November 2015

Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London,
Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

–> Panel 5b: Mobility and the Diaspora (Torrington Room)

    Chair: Claire Launchbury (IMLR/IHR, University of London)

Katharina Fritsch (University of Vienna), ‘Mobilizing ‘Comorian diaspora’ in Marseilles – Twarab and Marseilles’ biopolitics of communitarization

Sheila Petty (University of Regina), ‘Relational Histories in African Cinema’

Clément Cayla-Giraudeau (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), ‘Politics from Abroad: the Case of the Senegalese and Djiboutian Diasporas’

Talk: Postcolonial and intersectional im-/mobilities – Economic and artistic activities among migrants from the Comoros in Marseille

In the context of the series “Afrika Kolloquium” at the Department of African Studies at the University of Vienna, the following talk will take place. You are all cordially invited to attend!

Postcolonial and intersectional im-/mobilities – Economic and artistic activities among migrants from the Comoros in Marseille

Ahmad Abdoul-Malik (Aix Marseille University) and Katharina Fritsch (University of Vienna)

Monday, 30th of November, 2015, 5 p.m.

Seminar room 1, Department of African Studies, UniCampus AAKH, Hof 5, Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna

This talk presents first analyses of two different PhD projects, which share as much difference as well as points of encounter.

Ahmad Abdoul-Malik analyzes informalized trading activities among migrant women from the Comoros in Marseille. Situating these activities within a transnational space, he argues that the respective economic activities have been shaped by what Hirai (2009) describes as a ‘market of nostalgia’. Further, he analyzes these transnational activities as forms of resistance towards gendered power relations, located in the women’s family spaces in France as well as on the Comoros.

Katharina Fritsch focuses on the popular culture practice of Twarab, a cultural market embedded within socio-cultural, political and economic practices of Franco-Comorian communities in Marseille. She argues that the place of Twarab in Marseille has been shaped by a biopolitics of communitarization. It is then against the backdrop of such a biopolitics that she will analyze Twarab events and artists’ positionalities, letting appear the intrinsic relation of ethnicity/’race’, class and gender, with processes of im-/mobilization.

Ahmad Abdoul-Malik is a PhD student at Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, LEST UMR 7317, 13626, Aix en Provence, France.

Katharina Fritsch is a  PhD student at the Department of Political Science, and researcher in the FWF-funded research project ‘Popular culture in translocal spaces’ at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna.

The talk is organized in cooperation with the research project ‘Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces’ which runs at the Department of African Studies, University of Vienna from 2014-2018.

WORKSHOP “Mobilität erforschen – mobil forschen: Methoden – Positionierungen – Repräsentationen”

Die Forschungsplattform

„Mobile Kulturen und Gesellschaften. Interdisziplinäre Studien zu transnationalen Formationen“

 lädt herzlich ein zum

WORKSHOP „Mobilität erforschen – mobil forschen: Methoden – Positionierungen – Repräsentationen“

 am 5. Mai 2015 von 13-18 Uhr

 im Alois Wagner Saal, C3 – Centrum für Internationale Entwicklung

Sensengasse 3, 1090 Wien

Ziel des Workshops ist der Austausch und die Diskussion über Forschungsmethoden im Themenfeld Mobilität sowie über Fragen der Positionierung als Forschende in mobilen Kontexten. Diese Fragen werden anhand von Inputs aus geistes- und sozialwissenschaftlichen Perspektiven reflektiert. Daher werden insbesondere auch Herausforderungen des transdisziplinären Forschens zu mobilen Subjekten und Objekten im Mittelpunkt der Debatten dieses Workshops stehen, der neben Inputs und Diskussion im Plenum auch Gespräche in Kleingruppen beinhalten wird.

Neben den an der Forschungsplattform (FoPla) beteiligten Forschenden sind alle, die sich für diese Fragen interessieren, insbesondere auch Studierende, herzlich willkommen.

Nach Möglichkeit bitte Anmeldung per Email an bis zum 1. Mai 2015. Spontane Teilnahme ist auch möglich, die Voranmeldung würde uns jedoch die Organisation erleichtern.

Organisation: Petra Dannecker, Birgit Englert, Katharina Fritsch


13:00 – 13:15

Begrüßung, Vorstellung des Ablaufs und der Vortragenden

13:15 – 14:45

Input mit anschließender Diskussion: Nadine Sieveking, Centre for Area Studies und Institute of African Studies an der Universität Leipzig

Nadine Sieveking forscht in den Themenfeldern Performance, Embodiment und Gender im Kontext von Transnationalisierung und Migration.

14:45 – 15:15


15:15 – 15:45

Input: Katharina Fritsch und Birgit Englert, Institut für Afrikawissenschaften, Universität Wien

An der Forschungsplattform beteiligtes Teilprojekt: „Populärkultur in translokalen Räumen. Prozesse von Diasporisierung bei Komorianer_innen in Marseille und Kapverdianer_innen in Lissabon“

15:45 – 16:15

Input: Marianne Windsperger, Franz M. Eybl, Annegret Pelz, Institut für Germanistik, Universität Wien

An der Forschungsplattform beteiligtes Teilprojekt: „Constituting Global Convivence. Album – Collection Book – Portable Archive“

16:15 – 17:00

Diskussion in interdisziplinär zusammengesetzten Kleingruppen

17:00 – 17:15


17:15 – 18:00

Präsentation der Diskussionsergebnisse im Plenum und abschließende Diskussion

“Afrikaforschung in Österreich: Zugänge und Einordnungen”, Innsbruck, March 2015

The conference “Afrikaforschung in Österreich: Zugänge und Einordnungen” took place in Innsbruck, Tyrol, on March 19-20 and was the second meeting of researchers working on Africa at Austrian Universities or other institutions.

Birgit presented parts of the film “Creating Comoria. A documentary on the Franco-Comorian music group AFROPA in Marseilles” and a paper on “Forschen mit der Kamera im postkolonialen Kontext. Afrikanische Diaspora im Fokus” (“Doing research with the camera in postcolonial contexts. Focus on African Diasporas”)

The methodological reflections on researching with the camera are going to be continued within the framework of our project and a symposium is scheduled for autumn 2015 which will deal in depth with the questions relating to research with visual means in postcolonial contexts. More information on this event will follow soon!

Presentation of POCUTRAS at the initial workshop of “Mobile Cultures and Societies”

On November 13, Birgit presented the research project at the initial workshop by the research platform “Mobile Cultures and Societies. Interdisciplinary Studies on transnational formations”.

For more information on the platform and its events, please have a look at:

First screening of “Creating Comoria” in Vienna

Afropa_at_BrickCity01Screening of the Documentary

“CREATING COMORIA. Popular Culture and the Comorian Diaspora in Marseilles”

(88 Minutes, HD, French with English subtitles)

by Birgit Englert and Andres Carvajal

Featuring the group AFROPA

Popular culture among Franco-Comorians in Marseilles is viewed through the lens of artists who are on the one hand outsiders with regard to the “Comorian community”, and on the other hand contributing to the creation of “Comoria” in the sense of a translocal and transcultural space. Two musicians, Cheikh and Chaharani, who founded the group „Afropa“ which plays Afro-folk in Shingazidja and French, are at the center of this music documentary which stars also slam artist Ahamada Smis and others.

When: October 30, 2014, 6 pm

Where: Seminar room 1 in the Department of African Studies, UniCampus Hof 5, Spitalgasse 2-4, 1090 Vienna

The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.

Free entrance – all welcome!

Panel at the Afrikanistentag in Bayreuth

Katharina and Birgit organised the panel “Popular Culture and Translocality – Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Africa and its Diaspora” at the 21. Afrikanistentag in Bayreuth with presentations by

James Ogone: “Intra-national Ethnic Diasporas: Popular Culture and Mediated Translocal Spaces in Kenya”

Jules Mansaly: “Translocality and language vitaliy” and

Katharina Fritsch: “‘T’es de quelle origine?’ – Embodying “Comorian diaspora“within popular cultural practices in Marseilles”

Official Start of POCU_TRAS!

Our research project “Popular Culture in Translocal Spaces” (short: POCU_TRAS) officially started on June 1, 2014 and will run for 3 years (at least).
Katharina Fritsch started her work as graduate researcher and Birgit Englert started as project leader as well as part-time (10 hours) researcher in the project. Andres Carvajal started his work as audio-visual documentarist on free-lance basis.