Cartoons in conflict: Amin Arts and transnational geopolitical imagination in the Somali-language public sphere

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Amin Amir is the most popular and prolific political cartoonist in modern Somalia. His work is disseminated digitally and in print across the Somali territories on a daily basis. His appeal to such broad audiences is remarkable given the extreme political fragmentation of the media environment and that his renderings of broad themes of Somali political discourse (as well as highly localised developments) are all transmitted digitally into the region from the diaspora. This article explores certain recurring discourses in these ‘texts’, including corruption, political violence, ‘clanism’, and endemic external interference in Somalia. Building on theories of popular geopolitics and diasporic civic agency, it argues that analyses of such material must be attentive to the particular political, linguistic and socio-cultural features of the cartoon form within distinctive media settings. Considering the technological context of these texts’ dissemination into dynamic public spheres of Somali political debate, it argues that the artist collapses conventional distinctions between diasporic production and local consumption. The cartoons – being both ubiquitous in and spatially detached from on-the-ground realities of political change – epitomise the wider transnational character of the global Somali public sphere. This facilitates the reproduction of particular tropes of shared cultural, ethno-nationalist or religious identity of the ‘Ummadda Soomaaliyeed’ (the Somali Ummah) across multiple political boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-376
JournalCritical African Studies
Issue number3
Early online date3 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2016


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