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Name: Dr Ceri Whatley

PhD: African Studies and Anthropology 

Thesis Title: "Musical traffic": Transnationalism and Reconstruction in Rwanda and Uganda 


Thesis Abstract:

This thesis focuses on popular music in the "New Rwanda" (Urwanda Rushya). It starts from life on the ground; to examine how young cultural producers in Kigali adopt and adapt genres, styles and languages, activate and block support networks, form "collabos" with Ugandans and other international artists and producers, create songs and music videos, promote and circulate their work, and nurture aspirations while overcoming obstacles in their quest for stardom in the Rwandan context of post-genocide reconstruction. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic research conducted in Rwanda and Uganda, this thesis addresses how and why musicians travel physically, with a specific focus on music connections between Kigali and Kampala, and additionally how they and their work travel digitally. I address how cultural producers often circumvent state regulation while simultaneously drawing on official government rhetoric and occasionally support, and through all  these activities, reflect upon, shape and articulate the experience of living in 21st century Rwanda. Taking a wider view, this thesis focuses on transnationalism and border-crossing within Africa through a popular culture perspective. The narratives of the young, urban people in my research illuminate histories of exile and return, split identities and memories of living in both countries. 


I qualified for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in March 2019. 

I have presented my research and convened panels at national and international conferences. These include a Researching Africa Day at the University of Oxford (2014); the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) biennial conference at the University of Sussex (2014), the University of Cambridge (2016), and the University of Birmingham (2018); the 3rd Eastern African Literary and Cultural Studies (EALCS) conference at the University of Dar es Salaam (2017); and a conference titled 'Rwanda After 1994: Stories of Change' at the University of St Andrews (2018). It was a privilege to co-organise the conference stream 'Celebrating the work of Karin Barber' (ASAUK 2018). The stream attracted much interest from leading experts and early career scholars interested in creative art forms. 

I undertook two successful international placements at KU Leuven University, where I delivered guest talks with leading scholars working on Rwanda.

Between September and December 2015, I updated and delivered all the lectures for Introduction to African Culture, a first-year undergraduate course at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology (University of Birmingham). The course interrogates (mis-)representations of 'Africa' by Western media outlets and African and non-African visual artists, fictional writers, musicians, theatre directors, museum curators, and so on. I successfully completed the training course Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education for Postgraduates (ILTHE), Part One. I participated in workshops on Cultural Differences in the Classroom, Getting Discussion Started, and Small Group Teaching in HE. I received training in copyright compliance, equal opportunities and student inclusivity. I facilitated lively debate in a safe and supportive learning environment and market student assessments for two consecutive years. I received positive student feedback in the module evaluation report and from the course convener, Stewart Brown. I subsequently delivered numerous guest lectures and organised student trips, including a visit to the 'West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song' exhibition at the British Library in London. 

Recognising the importance of language skills - not only in facilitating everyday social interaction and meaningful participant observation, but also in enabling accurate translations of lyrics - I made strenuous efforts to learn Kinyarwanda and use it in my research. My thesis includes a substantial appendix of the lyrics of 68 songs, transcribed in their original languages (primarily Kinyarwanda, but in many cases blending English, French, Jamaican Patois, Kirundi, Lingala, Luganda, Nigerian slang, and/or Swahili), and translated into English. I also created a hand-written mind map in order to map out connections between people and places, which gives the reader an insight into the necessarily complicated, messy and fast-evolving nature of ethnographic research with mobile people from diverse backgrounds. When analysing my research data, the map was useful in stimulating reflexivity about how I was perceived, and thus how I could access individuals and their networks. 

I am currently revising my thesis for publication. 


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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