Stealing Empire – read, listen and join the subversion

This weekend, from 14-17 June the
Cape Town Book Fair
takes over the Cape Town International
Convention Centre, so this blog is about a new book, Stealing Empire, by Adam Haupt, published by the HSRC Press. Last year  close on 50,000 visitors attended,
giving the lie to the idea that South Africans don't read and are not
attracted to books. As Dave Chislett said today in his new blog – the
Chiz
– on The Times
newspaper's blog site
, the problem is not that people don't read
– witness the high circulation of popular newspapers –  but rather that
publishers do not publish for them, nor bookshops target readers
beyond the safe urban middle class. 

In celebration of the Book Fair, today I am therefore pointing to
a book by a UCT colleague and partner in the PALM
project
, Adam Haupt, that does not target the popular readership
Dave is talking about, but explores some of the issues of global
media dominance that is part of the proplem. Published by the
HSRC Press
, this is a scholarly title, but provides an incisive
and lively account of the ways in which global coroporate media
interests dominate and appropriate 'aspects of youth, race, gender,
cultural expression and technology for their own enrichment – much to
the detriment of all society.' However the real appeal of the book is
not only the study of how this appropriation works, but also of how,
in a country like South Africa countercultures like that of the
hip-hop activists in the Cape Flats of Cape Town in turn use new
media and IP subversion to appropriate their own space. The book
explores the MP3 revolution and Napster and digital sampling in
hip-hop and explores alternatives to proprietary approaches to the
production of culture and knowledge. This is a theorised account of
dominant culture and subversion, drawing largely on Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri's concept of Empire. This use of theory, said UCT
deputy-Vice-Chancellor at the launch a few weeks ago, is in itself an
act of appropriation and subversion. We in the developing world,
Martin argued, are not supposed to theorise; rather, we are required
to provide the raw materials for the theorists of the North. 

The extra treat is that you can listen to a
podcast
on the book that includes discussion of the book and
material from what was a very lively launch. The book is published by
the HSRC Press, which launched the book at the Book Lounge in Cape
Town, with perfromances from Burni,of the Cape Town feminist hip-hop
group, Godessa and Caco the Noble Savage, a hip-hop activist with a
wonderfully ironic take on the impact of globalisation that is the
subject of the book. Being able to listen to the artists that Adam is
talking about provides an added dimenstion to the reading of the book
-a must-read accompanied by a must-listen. 

Given that this is an HSRC Press book, it is available full text
online for free download. Print copies are available for sale in
South Africa and in many other countries through print-on-demand
distribution arrangements. So enjoy the Book Fair, but read Adam's
book, too to get a critical perspectiveof the forces at play

Adam will be speaking in a panel at the Book Fair on Saturday afternoon – “Holding us
together or pulling us apart?” The role of the South African Media
in the creation and mutation of identities."