Postdevelopment Television? Cultural Citizenship and the Mediation of Africa in Contemporary TV Drama

Julie Cupples*, Kevin Glynn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Despite well-established critiques from African and Africanist scholars, problematic images and narratives of Africa as a site of disease, famine, and conflict continue to circulate formulaically in mainstream first-world media. Meanwhile, many recent complex humanitarian emergencies in African countries have failed to garner significant attention from mainstream Western media and their audiences. This article examines how these power-bearing patterns of representation and omission can be complicated, contested, and disrupted in contemporary TV drama that takes recent African crises as its subject matter. We focus on six episodes of the hospital drama ER set in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur region of Sudan. Our analysis of the textual strategies deployed in these episodes and of online audience engagements with them enables us to explore what happens when Africa is brought into the regimes of narrative complexity increasingly associated with television drama in the new media ecology. ER's engagements with African conflict innovatively articulate key aspects of the cultural politics of postdevelopment and postcolonialism in ways that challenge familiar Western media tropes of the "troubled continent" and destabilize the wider knowledges that sustain them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1003-1021
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number4
Early online date23 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes


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