More than entertainment: popular culture and entrepreneurship among urban youth in Uganda


Start date: 30 September, 2009 End date: 30 December, 2013 Project type: Smaller projects: PhD Project code: 09-036AU Countries: Uganda Thematic areas: State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Policy Brief: Policy Brief Project coordinator: Nanna Schneidermann Total grant: 2,334,976 DKK Project files:

Project summary

The project is an investigation of the role of popular culture in young people’s lives in two Ugandan cities. Although the majority of Ugandan youths are faced with uncertain futures and social marginalisation, many are occupied with popular culture, and invest time and resources into fashion, music, film and dances; yet popular culture is often overlooked in development work and research aiming at unleashing the positive potentials of the youth towards development. This project will address this void to enhance policy making in the areas of youth and culture. The objective is to achieve a better understanding of the dynamics between popular culture and young people’s cultural entrepreneurship. How do youths use popular culture to shape their actions, values and future life-courses? How does popular culture work as a space for entrepreneurship and social mobility? And how is popular culture used by other actors to mobilise the youth? The data collection method will be ethnographic fieldwork; participant observation, interviews, and participatory processes of visual productions. The study’s argument will be developed through participation in seminars, conferences, and other forums. The outputs will be one Ph.D. dissertation, comprising of 3-4 articles published in academic journals; one report and two dissemination workshops for local stakeholders in Uganda; 6 short films to be broadcasted on Danish TV and one book or website with photo diaries published for educational use.


Project Completion Report:

This project set out to describe the seif-fashioning of young artists between popular music and entrepreneurship. Based on 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork among young music artists in urban Uganda (2009-2011), the PhD thesis examines the difficult and tension-fraught practice of becoming farnous through "connectionwork." It describes ' the emergence of "the not-yet music industry" in Uganda, following the strivings of young men and a few young women, who try to create themselves as stars and "big names," Describing "karaoke" as a generative practice which characterizes the "not-yet music industry," 1 analyze how broader politicai and economic shifts in the Ugandan society - and in global popular culture - shaped new relations between popular music and those producing, performing and enjoying it, Karaoke sets the context for young artists' attempts to fashion themselves as artists, as they attemptto extend their names through "connections" emerging in the tensions between interdependent but conflicting social logics in networked relationships. 1 develop the concept of "connectionwork," highllghting the striving of young artists to create themselves as singuiar stars and' brands, in what they see as both a local and global market, as a fundamentally social project At the center of these transformations are young people, experimenting with global forms of popular culture as resources for creating themselves as people with economic and social value in their society.

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