Popobawa : Tanzanian Talk, Global Misreadings

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Since the 1960s, people on the islands off the coast of Tanzania have talked about being attacked by a mysterious creature called Popobawa, a shapeshifter often described as having an enormous penis. Popobawa's recurring attacks have become a popular subject for stories, conversation, gossip, and humor that has spread far beyond East Africa. Katrina Daly Thompson shows that talk about Popobawa becomes a tool that Swahili speakers use for various creative purposes such as subverting gender segregation, advertising homosexuality, or discussing female sexuality. By situating Popobawa discourse within the social and cultural world of the Swahili Coast as well as the wider world of global popular culture, Thompson demonstrates that uses of this legend are more diverse and complex than previously thought and provides insight into how women and men communicate in a place where taboo, prohibition, and restraint remain powerful cultural forces.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 17.53mm | 22g
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • 0253024498
  • 9780253024497

Table of contents

1. Contextualizing Popobawa
2. Voicing Expertise and Authority
3. Talk and Believe: How to Prevent a Popobawa Attack in Two Easy Steps
4. The Butt of a Joke
5. Queering Popobawa
6. Women as Sexual and Discursive Agents
7. Batman in Africa
8. Global Metanarratives
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Review quote

Thompson's movement between local and global discourses demonstrates the importance of a phenomenon that could otherwise be viewed as exotic ethnographic trivia, while her theoretical orientation makes the text as relevant to linguistic anthropologists as to African studies scholars. Especially important is her understanding that marginalized individuals in Zanzibar do offer social critique. * African Studies Review * A well-researched and well-documented addition to the body of knowledge on local legends and their global manifestations. * Journal of Folklore Research *
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About Katrina Daly Thompson

Katrina Daly Thompson is Professor and Director of the Program in African Languages in the Department of African Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is author of Zimbabwe's Cinematic Arts.
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