The philatelic imagination of pan-African independence under platform capitalism

Eshun, Kodwo (2019) The philatelic imagination of pan-African independence under platform capitalism. [Doctorate by Public Works]

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Three main artworks - In the Year of the Quiet Sun, 2013, Statecraft, 2014 and WORLD 3, 2014 - and one adjacent artwork - Sovereign Sisters, 2014 - submitted for the degree of PhD by Public Works are analysed in the Context Statement in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of PhD by Public Works.

The works are linked by the argument that Ghana’s army coup of 1966 can be understood as an attempt to limit the prospective ambition of the mid-century African political imaginary by delegitimising Kwame Nkrumah’s project of Pan-African nationalism for future generations. Using the media of digital video, installation, bookwork and digital animation, the four works adopt the artistic methodology of visual study as defined by Nicole Brenez in order to question the Cold War-era consensus that continues to contain the contemporary imagination of the African political imaginary. By renarrating the theory and practice of Pan-African nationalism from the post-nationalist perspective of Afro-pessimism as defined by Kobena Mercer, the artworks situate their artistic reflection within an expanded lineage of Afro-pessimism redefined as the artistic critique of the limits of decolonisation understood as Okwui Enwezor’s biography of Africa’s modernity. The postage stamp is not treated as an image or an artefact but as an infrastructure of modernity that enacts 19th century imperialism’s Pan-European desire for a universal network of communication and exemplifies the postcolonial state’s desire for centralisation. Postally used stamps issued by the newly independent state of Ghana between 1957 to 1966 provide the opportunity to philatelically reimagine the ‘official mind’ of Ghana in the form of a historical timeline that narrates Ghana’s infrastructural progress towards continental unification. The form of the timeline is adapted for the chronography of Independence of the new African states that constitute the contemporary African state system. By using stamps acquired from online auction websites to assemble the collections required for assembling these comparative chronologies, the digital platforms of the electronic market function as the technological precondition for the practice of visual study. To that extent, these works can be understood as investigations into the limitations placed upon the artistic imagination of the prospective African political imaginary by the enabling technologies of contemporary platform capitalism.

Item Type: Doctorate by Public Works
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 26858
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2019 08:28
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:04

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