Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper analyzes the visual politics of ‘‘Afropolitan’’ style (Mbembé 2002) and its critical and emancipatory aims within the postcolonial symbolic economy, through an analysis of bodily performances of so-called ‘‘Afrodescendant’’ militants of Cameroonian origin who live in Paris. Such militants were met during two years of fieldwork in a pan-African association of young executives and business leaders. Relying on the semiotic analysis of Youtube videos of the Gala Exception, the association's major event, I show how through the entextualization (Bauman and Briggs 1990) of a set of bodily, spatial, and musical signs, these black people ‘‘speak like the Whites’’ (or whitisent in French): indeed, they visually perform a collective ethos of cosmopolitan Africans well integrated into the globalized and neoliberal ‘‘new world society’’ (Ferguson 2002) and in conformity with norms of hegemonic whiteness. Thus, they enregister (Agha 2007) a positive image of an empowered Africa, which contrasts with racializing images about Afrodescendant people, while attempting to erase the social stigma (Goffman 1963) of black skin. By demonstrating the centrality of images in the process of social semiosis and their performativity as a counter-discourse and as a political practice for negotiating agency and power relations, I show how the notions of entextualization, enregisterment and ideology can be used in order to analyze the visual dimensions of style (Eckert 2000) and language, conceived as a ‘‘total semiotic fact’’ (Nakassis 2016).