Performance and Politics in Tanzania: The Nation on Stage

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In Performance and Politics in Tanzania, Laura Edmondson examines how politics, social values, and gender are expressed on stage. Now a disappearing tradition, Tanzanian popular ... theatre integrates comic sketches, acrobatics, melodrama, song, and dance to produce lively commentaries on what it means to be Tanzanian. These dynamic shows invite improvisation and spontaneous and raucous audience participation as they explore popular sentiments. Edmondson asserts that these performances overturn the boundary between official and popular art and offer a new way of thinking about African popular culture. She discusses how the blurring of state agendas and local desires presents a charged environment for the exploration of Tanzanian political and social realities: What is the meaning of democracy and who gets to define it? Who is in power, and how is power exposed or concealed? What is the role of tradition in a postsocialist state? How will the future of the nation be negotiated? This engaging book provides important insight into the complexity of popular forms of expression during a time of political and social change in East Africa. Read more Show Less

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Overview

In Performance and Politics in Tanzania, Laura Edmondson examines how politics, social values, and gender are expressed on stage. Now a disappearing tradition, Tanzanian popular theatre integrates comic sketches, acrobatics, melodrama, song, and dance to produce lively commentaries on what it means to be Tanzanian. These dynamic shows invite improvisation and spontaneous and raucous audience participation as they explore popular sentiments. Edmondson asserts that these performances overturn the boundary between official and popular art and offer a new way of thinking about African popular culture. She discusses how the blurring of state agendas and local desires presents a charged environment for the exploration of Tanzanian political and social realities: What is the meaning of democracy and who gets to define it? Who is in power, and how is power exposed or concealed? What is the role of tradition in a postsocialist state? How will the future of the nation be negotiated? This engaging book provides important insight into the complexity of popular forms of expression during a time of political and social change in East Africa.
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Editorial Reviews

Journal of Folklore Research

"... Edmondson’s book is a significant study for Africanists, anthropologists, and post-socialist scholars looking to identify the way the artists, the state, and audiences negotiate and interpret meaning in public performances. It is also an important contribution to the limited academic writing on the theatre arts in Tanzania." —Journal of Folklore Research

African Studies Review
"... the book is also highly stimulating, thought-provoking, and informative. It is a significant contribution to the study of contemporary musical and theatrical performances and society in Tanzania." —Imani Sanga, University Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, African Studies Review, 51, 3 Dec. 2008

— Imani Sanga, University Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Leeds African Studies Bulletin
"... What Edmondson accomplishes with a real sense of dramatic tension in her writing is to explore the particular appeal and philosophy of each group as they battle for artistic and financial supremacy. She does this within a framework which sees each group as expressive of a particular attitude towards the post-one-party and newly capitalist state that emerged in the 1990s." —Jane Plastow, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

— Jane Plastow, University of Leeds

Theatre Journal
"... this study of the multifaceted character of the three troupes’ [TOT (Tanzania Theatre One), the Muungano Cultural Troupe, and the Mandela Cultural Troupe] artistic practices is a valuable contribution to mapping the state of the performing arts in sub-Saharan Africa. It invites further investigation into one of the region’s most fascinating phenomena: the traveling, popular, commercial theatre movement." —Joachim Fiebach, Berlin, THEATRE JOURNAL, Vol. 61.1 March 2009

— Joachim Fiebach, Berlin

African Studies Review - Imani Sanga

"... the book is also highly stimulating, thought-provoking, and informative. It is a significant contribution to the study of contemporary musical and theatrical performances and society in Tanzania." —Imani Sanga, University Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, African Studies Review, 51, 3 Dec. 2008

Gregory Barz

"[A] masterful tale of the political and social formation of Tanzanian national identity." —Gregory Barz, Vanderbilt University

Leeds African Studies Bulletin - Jane Plastow

"... What Edmondson accomplishes with a real sense of dramatic tension in her writing is to explore the particular appeal and philosophy of each group as they battle for artistic and financial supremacy. She does this within a framework which sees each group as expressive of a particular attitude towards the post-one-party and newly capitalist state that emerged in the 1990s." —Jane Plastow, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

THEATRE JOURNAL - Joachim Fiebach

"... this study of the multifaceted character of the three troupes’ [TOT (Tanzania Theatre One), the Muungano Cultural Troupe, and the Mandela Cultural Troupe] artistic practices is a valuable contribution to mapping the state of the performing arts in sub-Saharan Africa. It invites further investigation into one of the region’s most fascinating phenomena: the traveling, popular, commercial theatre movement." —Joachim Fiebach, Berlin, THEATRE JOURNAL, Vol. 61.1 March 2009

From the Publisher
"... Edmondson’s book is a significant study for Africanists, anthropologists, and post-socialist scholars looking to identify the way the artists, the state, and audiences negotiate and interpret meaning in public performances. It is also an important contribution to the limited academic writing on the theatre arts in Tanzania." —Journal of Folklore Research

"[A] masterful tale of the political and social formation of Tanzanian national identity." —Gregory Barz, Vanderbilt University

"... this study of the multifaceted character of the three troupes’ [TOT (Tanzania Theatre One), the Muungano Cultural Troupe, and the Mandela Cultural Troupe] artistic practices is a valuable contribution to mapping the state of the performing arts in sub-Saharan Africa. It invites further investigation into one of the region’s most fascinating phenomena: the traveling, popular, commercial theatre movement." —Joachim Fiebach, Berlin, THEATRE JOURNAL, Vol. 61.1 March 2009

"... the book is also highly stimulating, thought-provoking, and informative. It is a significant contribution to the study of contemporary musical and theatrical performances and society in Tanzania." —Imani Sanga, University Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, African Studies Review, 51, 3 Dec. 2008

"... What Edmondson accomplishes with a real sense of dramatic tension in her writing is to explore the particular appeal and philosophy of each group as they battle for artistic and financial supremacy. She does this within a framework which sees each group as expressive of a particular attitude towards the post-one-party and newly capitalist state that emerged in the 1990s." —Jane Plastow, University of Leeds, Leeds African Studies Bulletin, #70 Dec. 2008

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253349057
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: African Expressive Cultures Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Edmondson is an assistant professor of theatre studies at Dartmouth College.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: Acts of Complicity: Meanings, Methods, and Maps     1
Imagining the Nation     15
Performing, Transforming, and Reforming Tanzania: A Historical Tale     17
Alternative Nations: Locating Tradition, Morality, and Power     40
Sexing the Nation     63
National Erotica: The Politics of Ngoma     65
Popular Drama and the Mapping of Home     85
Contesting the Nation     107
Culture Wars: TOT versus Muungano     109
A Victor Declared: Popular Performance in the New Millennium     129
Glossary of Swahili Terms     141
Notes     143
List of References     159
Index     169
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