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Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies - BIGSAS

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Gerfelmeyer, ​Leah

Research Interests :

Media Studies

Geographical Area :

West Africa

Current Project:

The colonial commodities cocoa/chocolate. An examination of the entanglements between the media dispositives of the materials cocoa/chocolate and the German colonial past in West Africa.

The doctoral project outlined here deals with the materials cocoa and chocolate in order to analyse the media dispositives of these colonial commodities and to reflect on the German colonial past in West and Central Africa. The media studies focus on an exemplary colonial material makes it possible to trace entanglements of German industrialisation, colonisation, West and Central African plantation economy, transport infrastructures,
enslavement and forced labour. The materials cocoa and chocolate will be approached from a media studies perspective. Various media dispositives that make colonial entanglements possible in the first place will be examined.
Colonial images are to be examined: What kind of image did people in the German Empire have of the German colonies? Through which media did these images emerge? In relation to the materials cocoa/chocolate, the main focus will be on the different visual material that make the German colonies imaginable. The material in focus here will initially be so-called Lichtbild vorträge organised and held by the German Colonial Society. However, other materials will be determined for the doctoral project outlined here, such as chocolate advertisements (including packaging, chocolate vending machines, collectible pictures), but also advertisements made by the chocolate companies for themselves or advertisements for machines for cocoa and chocolate production. What images of the German colonies did exist? What was their relationship to the German cocoa plantations in Cameroon? At the same time, the steam chocolate factory in Germany as a counterpart to the colonial plantation in Cameroon will be examined. The aim is to look at processes of industrialisation, mechanisation and automatisation and how these interact with the media dispositives of the materials cocoa/chocolate. How did the production of chocolate change with industrialisation and the accompanying inventions of machines such as the steam engine? How did these inventions become visible in the media? How did the processes of industrialisation influence both the amount of chocolate that could be produced and the working conditions in chocolate factories? Which effects did the development of chocolate into a product of the masses have both for cocoa cultivation in the colonies and for the perception of the product in Germany? How did inventions such as the Stollwerck chocolate vending machine influence the popularisation of the product of chocolate? Who benefited from the rise of chocolate as a product of the masses, at whose expense? Entangled with the study of the colonial cocoa plantation and the steam chocolate factory is a reflection on why it is necessary to analyse them through media dispositives. Why is it relevant to understand cocoa as a material from a media studies perspective? Which media dispositives accompany the materials that are important for this work? In the process, research branches within media studies such as infrastructure studies and the linking of postcolonial and media studies theories will be included. The doctoral project outlined here is structured according to the different analysed media: The dissertation will entail three chapters in addition to an introduction and a conclusion. Each chapter will focus on a different medium, the first chapter starting with the medium Lichtbildvorträge. Within each chapter it will be looked at the (re-)presentation of the German colonial plantations in Cameroon and/or (depending on the contents of each media) at the (re-)presentation of steam chocolate factories in Germany. The second and third chapter are more tentatively planned so far since the archival research for different media to be analysed is still ongoing.

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