The Kano Durbar: Political aesthetics in the bowel of the elephant

Wendy Griswold*, Muhammed Bhadmus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Political aesthetics deploy theatrical techniques to unite performers and audience into a cultural community, thereby distracting from conflicts. The Kano Durbar in northern Nigeria demonstrates how the aesthetics of power can promote a place-based political culture. Although power in Kano rests on a wobbly three-legged stool of traditional, constitutional and religious authority, the status quo celebrated by the Durbar holds back ideological challengers like Boko Haram even as it perpetuates distance from the unified nation-state. The Durbar works as a social drama that helps sustain a Kano-based collective solidarity against the threats of ethnic/religious tensions and Salafist extremism. A cultural-sociological and dramaturgical analysis of the Durbar demonstrates how weak sources of power can support one another when bound together in an aesthetically compelling ritual.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-151
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


  • Durbar
  • Kano
  • Nigeria
  • place
  • political aesthetics
  • social drama

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The Kano Durbar: Political aesthetics in the bowel of the elephant'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this