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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Sut Jhally

Second Advisor

Emily West

Third Advisor

Lisa Henderson

Fourth Advisor

Olabode Omojola

Subject Categories

Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication


This research project examines the operation of development discourse in popular culture, how it is reproduced, contested and how alternatives are imagined. It is a post-development study of the production and consumption of Ghanaian hiplife music videos and culture. It explores how hiplife makers challenge development discourse and advance alternative ideas of social transformation. Considering the enduring (and damaging) legacies of colonialism, hiplife as a site of relative freedom of expression is fertile for the potential production of a decolonial vocabulary to heal colonial wounds— undoing colonial sensibilities imposed on the colonized.

The project reveals that mainstream male hiplife stars serve as referents for how to successfully inhabit a postcolonial space. Constructing an entrepreneurial branded self through their performance of success, they circulate ideas about what it means to live a “modern” life. However, other artists turn to what I call hiphop praxes, as tools to cultivate new identities. These artists consciously claim their Ghanaianess—and hence blackness— by adopting new performance names; using their own language and accents; and reconfiguring their presentation of self. Channeling these elements through their performance personae they essentially become new beings, reflecting a shift in their consciousness about themselves and their society.

The study also explores what the movement towards development has meant for constructions of modern Ghanaian femininity. I argue that the image of the jezebel – women who use their sexuality to exploit men – has become one of the mainstays of hiplife music and its representation of modern womanhood. In hiplife the jezebel image positions women as threats to male success. The study further explores how the articulation of race and gender shapes labor dynamics within the music video industry. I examine how, in the context of racialized beauty ideals, lighter skin increases women’s chances of securing employment as performers in the music video industry.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.