The 2nd Session of African Studies Lecture Series: Tradition, Integration and Change | “Politics of the Everyday”: Understanding Youth Cultures and Social Transformations in Urban Africa

On the afternoon of April 16th, 2021, the second session of “African Studies Lecturer Series: Tradition, Integration and Change” was held in Auditorium 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “‘Politics of the Everyday’: Understanding Youth Cultures and Social Transformations in Urban Africa”. Prof. Cheng Ying, Assistant Professor at the Department of Asian and African Studies at the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University, was invited as the keynote speaker. Doctorate candidates and research professors at Institute of International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) attended the offline lecture, while some external students watched the live stream.

During the lecture, based on her observations and thinking, Prof. Cheng linked the popular culture practices and activities of African youth with social protests and movements, in order to guide the audience to explore how the popular cultures of African youth have extended from commerce, stage and other mainstream channels to a broader extent of urban space. The lecture was comprised of four parts. First of all, Prof. Cheng showed the audience the popular cultures in Africa through a video and introduced the key theories and methodologies in the studies of African youth’s “politics of the everyday” and African culture. In the second part, from the perspective of African cultural studies, she reviewed the daily living conditions of African urban youth and the key reasons why African youth still choose to perform under the inferior living environment. Next, with a large number of photos and her field visits in Nigeria, Prof. Cheng explained how the youth in Lagos reproduce their daily life in drama and performance. In the fourth part, she expressed her opinions on contemporary African youth’s understanding of the relationship between art and society, while inspiring the audience to pay attention to the subtle local knowledge and culture beyond macro narrative and abstract social theories.

In conclusion, Prof. Cheng had in-depth interactions and communication with online and offline participants and responded to their questions, including the gender dimension and field research experience of African cultural studies.

Prof. Cheng Ying is Assistant Professor at the Department of Asian and African Studies at School of Foreign Languages, Peking University and holds a PhD in African Language and Culture Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research interests cover African culture, African literature, visual and performing arts, youth and urban space in Africa. Her publications include “Politics of the Everyday: A Perspective of African Literature Studies and Popular Cultures” and “Art as Action: Gail’s Art and Agency” and “‘Our Tradition is a Very Modern Tradition’: An Alternative Way to Interpret African Text”.

Text by: Dong Hui & Xiao Qijia
Photography by: Dong Hui