Mediated Sankarism: Reinventing a Historical Figure to Reimagine the Future

by Lassane Ouedraogo

Abstract

Thomas Sankara contributed significantly to the formation of the modern national identity of post-independent Burkina Faso before his assassination in 1987. This essay uses discourse analysis to examine the emergence of Sankara’s ideology also known as Sankarism and his praxis in the Burkinabe public discourse. It discussed different creative ways that Burkinabe media users are employing to reinvent Thomas Sankara and Sankarism in attempt to reimagine their future. In the current Burkinabe socio-political context of a nascent democracy characterized by the emergence of active civil society movements and multiple political factions contesting the right to govern and claiming the capacity to provide a new direction to a country caught up amid local and global issues, the reinvention and re-appropriation of Sankarism call for an appropriate close examination. This paper is not so much about who Sankara was or did, but how he is now referenced and remembered. The author contends that in Burkina Faso, new media provide multiple trajectories through which Sankarism is creatively re-invented to construct a national ethos and participate in the contested exercise of state-making.

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Lassane Ouedraogo is a PhD Candidate at Scripps College of Communication, School of Media Arts and Studies,
Ohio University.