JESSE WEAVER SHIPLEY is a writer, artist, filmmaker, ethnographer, and teacher. His work in multiple media examines the links between aesthetics and power. His art practice takes a conceptualist approach to the intimate details of lived worlds. He experiments with forms of portraiture, theory, and storytelling, focusing on mundane details that reveal grander tales of desire and trauma. He has spent many years moving between New York, Accra and London to understand the performance of culture, power, and meaning and the changing and multiple links between personal and collective identities. His first book Living the Hiplife: Celebrity and Entrepreneurship in Ghanaian Popular Music explores the links between hip-hop, Africa, and global capitalism. His second book Trickster Theatre: Poetics of Freedom in Urban Africa examines African modern theatre and its role in anti-colonial independence movements. He has exhibited his films and art in North America, Europe, and Africa and is the editor of several collections, and numerous articles and films that explore culture and politics. He is also working on a film and book on world champion female boxing. Shipley received his PhD in Anthropology from University of Chicago. He has held positions at Bard College where he was the founding Director of the Chinua Achebe Institute for Global Africana Arts and Haverford College and is currently the John D. Willard Professor of African and African American Studies and Oratory and the Chair of the Program in African and African American Studies at Dartmouth College.
He is a recipient of Hutchins Center, Harvard University 2020-21 Fellowships including the McMillan-Stewart Fellowship.
He is currently writing Ghana's Lost Revolution: How the 1979 Coup d'Etat in Accra Explains Global Political Aesthetics, the first book-length examination of Ghana and its enigmatic leader Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings during a turbulent, extended revolution. This story begins when Rawlings came to power in an uprising on June 4th 1979 and ends with a failed coup d'etat on June 19th 1983 in which a coalition of radical leftists and right-wing soldiers attempted unsuccessfully to remove Rawlings. These rebellions were expressions of the dreams and frustrations of a rising generation of soldiers, workers, artists, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs. This book takes 1979 to 1983 as one dramatic historical event that lays bare the complex cultural-political landscape of Ghana as it struggled to break free of colonial and Cold War entanglements and forge a unique identity. In examining the series of successful and failed revolts in Ghana over this four-year span, the book focuses on three main themes:
- How charismatic leaders channel desires that burst forth in moments of political rupture
- How social orders both endure and are remade amidst competing claims on sovereignty
- How the stories and memories of revolution evolve over time and become the terrain upon which the future of a nation is contested.
The narrative draws on years of archival research and live interviews with Ghanaian revolutionaries who have never talked about their experience until now, including former President Jerry Rawlings who the author spoke to many times before Rawlings’ sudden death in 2020. If we think historically and geographically through a coup d’état in 1979 Accra – rather than 1968 Paris for example – it reorients our understanding of sovereignty and revolution by showing how young revolutionaries sought an African-grounded future now forgotten. Excavating Ghana’s lost revolution changes how we calibrate historical change, geographic continuities and gaps, and the flow of power. The book will include powerful photographs taken between 1979-1985 by Ghanaian photographer Gerald Annan-Forson.