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White Saviorism and Popular Culture Imagined Africa as a Space for American Salvation

By Kathryn Mathers Copyright 2023
    124 Pages
    by Routledge

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    This book interrogates the white savior industrial complex by exploring how America continues to present an imagined Africa as a space for its salvation in the 21st century.

    Through close readings of multiple mediated sites where Americans imagine Africa, White Saviorism and Popular Culture examines how an era of new media technologies is reshaping encounters between Africans and westerners in the 21st century, especially as Africans living and experiencing the consequences of western imaginings are also mobilizing the same mediated spaces. Kathryn Mathers emphasizes that the articulation of different forms of humanitarian engagement between America and Africa marks the necessity to interrogate the white savior industrial complex and the ways Africa is being asked to fulfill American needs as life in the United States becomes increasingly intolerable for Black Americans. Drawing on case studies from Savior Barbie (@barbiesavior) to Black Panther and Black is King, Mathers posits that global imperialism not only still reigns, but that it also disguises white supremacy by outsourcing Black American emancipation onto an imagined Africa.

    This is crucial reading for courses on the cultural politics of representation, particularly in relation to race, social media and popular culture, as well as anyone interested in issues of representation in the global humanitarianism industry.

    1. Traveling Images and How Americans Learned to Care for Africa  2. The Barbie Paradox – How Parody is Trying to Save Africa  3. Becoming American in Wakanda or Black is Queen


    Kathryn Mathers is an Associate Professor of the Practice in International Comparative Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. Her book, Travel, Humanitarianism, and Becoming American in Africa (2010) uses ethnographic observations of American travelers to southern Africa to ask why is Africa so important to Americans? She is co-producer of the documentary film When I Say Africa that challenges the image of Africa as a continent in need of saving.