RETHINKING AUDIENCES: Visual Representations of Africa and the Nigerian Diaspora

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores the relationship between development representations and diaspora audiences. It brings together literature on representations, with concepts of audience, diaspora and identity to provide an in-depth study of how and with what effects, visual representations of development in NGO fundraising campaigning that depict Africa, impact on Nigerian diaspora audiences. This study challenges the tendency in much of development literature in this field to homogenise British audiences of NGO communication. This has imagined audiences as some form of monocultural Western-situated community, coextensive with the 'general' British public. It further assumes audiences read, interpret and are impacted by NGO representations in very similar ways. This assumption precludes critical engagement with the complexities and particularities of audiences and is unable to reflect the multiple and differentiated ways in which audiences think, feel and behave in response to development representations. By using focus group discussions with UK Nigerian diaspora audiences, one-to-one interviews and online-ethnography as the methodological tool, and postcolonialism as an analytical framing, this thesis reveals the complex and contested ways that individual diaspora subjectivities, positionalities and life experiences are implicated in their construal of development representations and the perspicuity of their impact. One of the key findings of this study is that development representations impact African diaspora audiences in diverse and complicated ways, that both reproduce and contradict negative and, stereotypical 'ways of seeing' and knowing Africa. Furthermore, it highlights how diaspora ethno-racial/cultural identities affect, and are implicated in, the reading and interpretation of development representations of Africa. Indeed, diaspora audiences affirm and challenge their connections or, lack thereof, with their country of origin through these representations. Moreover, the study shows how NGO development representations provide symbolic spaces from which diaspora audiences can articulate their identities as well as, forge relationships among themselves and with their wider communities. This study builds on Stuart Hall's ([1973]1980) Encoding/Decoding theorisation on audiences, by demonstrating that Nigerian diaspora audiences of development representations are sophisticated, varied and paradoxical in how they interpret and decipher media representations. Indeed, their socio-cultural positioning, personal histories and lived-experiences inform and shape how they discursively construct perceptions and knowledge of their place of origin through representations. Furthermore, it contributes to postcolonial theorisations of hybridity in diaspora identities, by showing that Nigerians strategically adopt new and preferential ethnosymbolic identities, in response to representations. These re-configurations of the Diaspora 'Self' are neither stable or consistent but are nonetheless utilised by Nigerians to subvert development representations and harmful public perceptions and stereotypes about Africans that they shape. University of Manchester Edward Adedamola Adeleke Ademolu, 2018 Submitted for the degree PhD
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorUma Kothari (Supervisor) & Admos Chimhowu (Supervisor)


  • Development
  • Hybridity
  • Postcolonialism
  • NGOs
  • Audiences
  • Identities
  • Representations
  • Diaspora
  • Nigerian Diaspora
  • African Diaspora
  • Development Representations

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