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Name: Ceri Whatley

PhD: African Studies and Anthropology 

Thesis Title: Musical traffic: transnationalism and reconstruction in Rwanda and Uganda (working title)


Thesis Description:

My project explores new forms of transnationalism within Africa through the lens of contemporary, popular music genres. Most notably: Afro-beats (or Afro-pop), Afro-R&B, hip-hop, dancehall, and raga (a sub-genre of dancehall reggae). Also, 'traditional' Rwandan music and dance, and gospel. Focusing on "musical traffic” – both physical and digital – between Kigali-Rwanda and Kampala-Uganda, I am exploring the role of culture in post-conflict reconstruction. My focus is on the Rwandan side and I am particularly interested in the construction of new Rwandan identities, post-genocide (post-1994).

My research is based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork which I conducted in Rwanda and Uganda. My fieldwork was based on participant observation and also included 30 in-depth interviews with male and female musicians, audio/video producers, studio managers, and radio/TV presenters and journalists. I was based in Kigali-Rwanda, but traveled with Rwandan musicians as they moved between Rwanda and Uganda in order to trace networks, links and exchanges. While in Rwanda, I undertook 180 hours of Kinyarwanda language training. My multi-methodological approach includes an analysis of lyrics and performance styles. Rwandan musicians sing (or rap) in Kinyarwanda, English, Luganda, Swahili and French. With the help of my teacher, I was able to translate the lyrics of 80 carefully selected songs.

Between September and December 2015, I taught Introduction to African Culture (INTAC), a first year undergraduate course at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology (University of Birmingham). Under the guidance of Dr Stewart Brown, I took full responsibility for delivering (and updating) all of the lectures and seminars, as well as marking assessments. I have since delivered numerous additional guest lectures and have organised several student trips, including a visit to the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition at the British Library, in London.

I have presented my work at KU Leuven University, where I undertook a one-month placement in April 2016. I successfully convened a panel in the African Studies Association of the UK biennial conference (ASAUK '16), which took place at the University of Cambridge (7-9 September 2016). My panel was entitled: "Music that moved you: popular music and mobilities in Africa." My panel attracted much interest from leading scholars in my field, and included presentations by Professor Kelly Askew and Professor Liz Gunner. 

I am currently writing my thesis. 


Supervisors and Institution(s): Professor Karin Barber, University of Birmingham; Dr Katrien Pype, University of Birmingham / KU Leuven University. 


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

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