Marissa Moorman

Indiana University
Faculty / Academic Staff
Intellectual Biography: 

I am interested in what the concept of “global south” both affords and occludes. In my first book I studied the relationship between music and nation in late colonial Angola. Musicians, cultural producers, and club goers danced to and reproduced Cuban and Brazilian music. Angolans understood it not as imitation but as a pedagogical moment in the teleology of national cultural production or as simply the cultural exchange that inspires local production of a new order. They consciously looked beyond the colonial horizon for cultural icons, criticizing their colonial rulers as unfashionable and unwilling to dance. Sometimes they looked to countries in the “global south” but just as effectively to countries in the “global north,” though with different effects.

The work I am doing at the moment – on my manuscript Powerful Frequencies: Radio, State Power, and the Cold War in Angola - looks at the relationship between the technology of radio and the shifting politics of southern Africa as anti-colonial movements established independent states in a regional context newly charged by Cold War politics. Within that big story, I am thinking about smaller threads, like the exchanges between Angolan nationalists and Algerians (who trained them in military techniques and propaganda), Cubans, and Soviets. And I am thinking about how the newly independent Angolan state used radio to persuade the Angolan population to support the Namibian independence struggle, to see it as part of its own struggle, against imperialist South African forces. I am interested in thinking about how the technology of the radio functioned in the state’s project. Did it create, foster, or force a kind of intimacy? What work did the voice of the newly independent station do in homes and work places? What was the ‘face’ of the radio (in Adorno’s) sense expressing for the state and what did listeners discern in it? Algerians and Cubans fit firmly within the Global South rubric, Soviets do not. Tito’s Non-Aligned Movement mattered even more to the new MPLA government than did Soviet style socialism, though arms and military advice were welcome. How to conceptualize these relations around technology, intimacy, space, and sovereignty? Where does Thomas Turino’s socialist cosmopolitanism get us? Is Clapperton Mahvunga’s concept “usage engineers” useful here?

This spills over into an article project on the remediation of radio in Abderrahmane Sissako’s La vie sur terre and Ousmane Sembène’s Moolaadé, both of whom were trained in the Soviet Union (and Sissako met an Angolan filmmaker in Rostov at film school and went on to make Rostov-Luanda). It might make the most sense to focus my efforts on this draft and tease out some of the questions in this more narrowly focused piece.

I think we should watch and 'read' some of Abderrahmane Sissako's films: Rostov-Luanda; La vie sur terre; and Heremakono, for example. La vie sur terre uses bits of Cesaire's Discourse on Colonialism and it might be interesting to read alongside it.