Mon 4:00 PM

The Fiction of Dictatorship in Idi Amin's Uganda, Derek Peterson, History, Michigan

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When: Monday, April 15, 2013
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM  
Where: 620 Library Place, Conference Room  
Evanston, IL 60208 map it
Audience: - Faculty/Staff - Student - Public
Contact: Program of African Studies   847-491-7323  
Group: Program of African Studies
Category: Lectures & Meetings
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The Fiction of Dictatorship in Idi Amin's Uganda

Derek Peterson, History, University of Michigan

This talk focuses on a space within the Voice of Uganda, the official newspaper of the Amin government: the cartoon strip titled Ekanya. At a time the ordinary routines of government bureaucracy were crumbling, it was in the press that Amin’s officials found it possible to address themselves to the people they governed. On the pages of the newspaper and over the radio airwaves, Amin’s officials could issue orders to specific constituencies that would otherwise fall outside their reach: university students, hawkers, women. The apparently extensive character of the news media’s circulation made it possible for Amin’s officials to think themselves addressing the whole Ugandan people, all at once, to issue dictates, and to demand their immediate enforcement.

Ekanya makes a mockery of the media economy of dictatorship. The cartoon features the character Ekanya, a dissolute, self-serving, balding, and decidedly ignorant character. The whole subject of Ekanya is the human propensity for indiscipline. Ekanya finds humor in the disconnect between official dictates and human appetites, between the demands of the regiment and the lusts of the body. In Ekanya and in other fictional productions from 1970s Uganda, we can see a politics that transforms official rhetoric into an occasion for comedy. The Voice of Uganda, the cartoonist is telling us, has a limited circulation.

Derek Peterson is Professor of History and African Studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent and of Creative Writing: Translation, Bookkeeping, and the Work of Imagination in Colonial Kenya, and editor of several books, most recently Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa and the Atlantic World. His new research concerns the history of dissent in Idi Amin's Uganda.