LUCAS Annual Lecture 2020-21: ‘#AskAMan and the Cultural Itineraries of Courtship in South Africa’ – Professor Grace Musila

Professor Grace Musila (University of Witwatersrand, South Africa) will deliver the Leeds University Centre for African Studies annual lecture of the academic year 2020-21.

The lecture is co-organised with the “Language in Africa” (LIA) special interest group of the British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL) as part of its 2021 annual conference about “African Languages and Social Change: Politics, Activism, and Justice”.

The lecture will be delivered virtually via Zoom. To receive the link, please register for a ticket via eventbrite . There is no charge for this event.

#AskAMan and the Cultural Itineraries of Courtship in South Africa

A regular narrative among the relationship dilemmas featured on the South African radio advice show, #AskAMan, is women disappointed after financially supporting men in anticipation of marriages which rarely materialise. Taking seriously agony genres as major players in the formation of what Lauren Berlant terms intimate publics, I read the radio advice show #AskAMan and its accompanying multilingual debates on Twitter as a platform where the affective contours of neoliberal capitalist ethos that inflect South African practices of courtship and marriage intersect with ethno-cultural norms.

The debates on #AskAMan offer a glimpse of the processes of crafting, imagining, reconfiguring and reinforcing often contradictory practices of intimacy, courtship and marriage, particularly in a post-apartheid South Africa where the tripartite blend of ethnocultural protocols, Anglo-American heteropatriarchy and neoliberal capitalist values not only shape gender fabrics but inform understandings of freedom and the good life. I read these debates as a social barometer that not only registers ongoing shifts in understandings of courtship in South Africa; but also participates in the production of values, protocols and moral regimes that eventually sediment into normative public discourse on courtship, intimacy and marriage. Through a regularly updated lexicon of affective sociality distilled from multiple pools of resources, #AskAman demonstrates how young couples in South Africa navigate the tensions between marriage as a social obligation and love-based companionate marriage, in a context that encourages aspiration to modern love-based companionship while privileging bride-wealth and the breadwinner husband.

About Prof. Musila

Grace A. Musila is Associate Professor in the African Literature Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She holds a PhD in African Literature from the same University. Her teaching and research centers on Eastern and Southern African literatures and popular cultures; and she has published in these areas. She is editor of Wangari Maathai’s Registers of Freedom (HSRC Press, 2020), author of A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (Boydell & Brewer, 2015); and co-editor of Rethinking Eastern African Intellectual Landscapes (Africa World Press, 2012; with James Ogude and Dina Ligaga). She is favourably disposed to ideas, and the freedoms ideas afford or impede especially in women’s lives.