Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to or

No later than 1st November 2017

Agenda has been at the forefront of feminist publishing in South Africa for the past 30 years and raises debate around women’s rights and gender issues. The journal is designed to promote critical thinking and debate and aims to strengthen the capacity of both men and women to challenge gender discrimination and injustice. The Agenda journal is an IBSS/SAPSE accredited and peer-reviewed journal.

GUEST EDITORS: Lynda Gichanda Spencer, Dina Ligaga and Grace A Musila

Conceptual Rationale:
Popular textual productions have historically been influential in shaping social perceptions of gendered subjectivities. This influence has been indexed in a range of scholarship that interrogates popular genres and their (often problematic) mobilisations of gendered identities (hooks 1990;1992; Barber 1987; White 2008; Newell 2002; Newell&Okome 2012; Macharia 2015; Dosekun 2015). An ongoing challenge, tackled by this scholarship in part is to expand the base for critically engaging the popular imaginary through a complex reading of the text-audience-producer triad. This special issue invites essays and other reflections on the gendered regimes made possible or impossible by popular imaginaries in Africa. By popular imaginaries we mean both tangible and intangible cultural productions that have the ability to capture the material and the affect, the ephemeral and the stable/constant, the everyday as inflected and refracted in existing texts and contexts. Cognisant of the ways in which, unlike mainstream canonical texts and their audiences, popular imaginaries often feature transgressive, unruly, ‘undisciplined’ gendered figures, we invite papers that reflect on the range of gendered engagements made possible by popular imaginaries. We are interested in the ways popular imaginaries allow us to think about gender in connection with the every day, which is often untidy, risk-taking, transgressive, but also sometimes life-affirming, pleasurable and healing. Popular imaginaries form an important archive of ideas that provide a rich space from which to think about gender. It allows us to interrogate the everyday as an archive, and the archive of the everyday as a resource, with which to imagine different gender practices. It also allows for the location and rereading of agency, which manifests in ways that are not overt or easily legible through conventional tropes.

This special issue invites papers that grapple with questions of the ambiguities and possibilities of popular imaginaries as articulated through the production and consumption of genres such as tabloids, television shows, rumour, social media, genre fiction and visual genres. Among the questions it invites reflection on are:

What is the potential of gender as an analytic category to re-invigorate our definition of the popular and popular genres in Africa?
What possibilities do audiences that refuse dominant readings of texts offer, in reimagining gendered freedoms and liberating forms of self-making?
What is the relationship between popular texts, contexts, and audiences, in engaging with gendered imaginaries?
How do popular imaginaries stage conversations, contestations, revisions and reconfiguring of gender?
What alternative truths are articulated by these textualities? What are their implications for the reconfiguration or constraining of gender common-senses and versions of gendered truths?
How do we reflect on the ambiguity of genres such as social media which simultaneously interweave progressive and conservative gender values?
What insights lie in the double-speak and moral promiscuity of popular imaginaries?
How do we make sense of comic genres such as memes and comedy, which often embrace transgressive gender identities while simultaneously relying on patriarchal shorthand for comic power?
How do we write about popular genres in ways that honour the messines, the contradictions, the ambivalences, the tensions, the joys and pleasures of popular texts and their audiences?

We particularly encourage contributors to engage with pivotal and contemporary scholars from Africa and beyond who have written on archives of the everyday in Africa, Social Media in Africa, Black Subjectivities, the erotic, African Intimacies and post-feminism in Africa.

Barber, K 1987, ‘Popular Arts in Africa’, African Studies Review, vol.30, no.3, pp.1-78.

Barber, K 1997, ‘Introduction’, in K Barber (ed.), Readings in African popular culture, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indiana, pp.1-11.

Dosekun, S 2015, “For Western girls only? Postfeminism as transnational culture”, Feminist Media Studies, vol.15, no.6, pp. 960-975.

hooks b 1990; Yearning: Race, gender and cultural politics, South End Press, Boston pp.15-22.

hooks, b 1992, Black looks, race and representation, South End Press, Boston. pp. 9-20.

MachariaK 2015, “Archive and Method in Queer African”, Studies, Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity vol.29. no.1, pp140-146.

Newell, S 2002, ‘Introduction’, in S Newell (ed.), Readings in African popular fiction, James Currey, Oxford, pp.1-10.

Okome O & Newell S & 2012, “Measuring Time: Karin Barber and the Study of Popular Arts in Contemporary Africa”, Research in African Literatures vol. 43, no.4, pp vii-xviii.

White L, 2008: “Between gluckman and foucault: Historicizing rumour and gossip”, Social Dynamics: A Journal of African Studies vol.20, no.1, pp 75-92

Bio notes
Lynda Gichanda Spencer, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Literary Studies in English at Rhodes University.

Dina Ligaga is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand

Grace A. Musila is an Associate Professor in the English Department at Stellenbosch University

Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and practical), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts.

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