Friday, April 03, 2009

On the nakedness of Africans

Thought-provoking piece written by an academic mzungu (ex Tanz, now Cali) here. I can't help thinking however that Africa is over-generalised in his text. Roosevelt was, after all, writing mainly about Kenya. Has anyone come across a book/PhD which looks at the topic of the Kenyan safari as African archetype? Even the most considered academic (white or black) can quickly fall into that one..


zunguzungu 2:42 pm  

Thanks for the shout out. And absolutely it's over-generalized, but that's also the point, or the problem; with Roosevelt, I'm interested specifically in how Kenya came to be the archetype through which Africa would get perceived in the states (giving us Africa as the Lion King, for example, instead of as heart of darkness). More of that will work its way into the blog presently; that last post was just what came out when I did a google search for "naked" in Roosevelt's book, essentially.

Lost at The End 7:13 pm  

I think I see what zunguzungu is saying. In a sense the congo/heart of darkness and the safari/nakedness tropes are different, but they function similarly in constructing a certain kind of dream of Africa in the Western imagination.

I may be wrong, but I get the sense that zunguzungu is thinking about how the safari/nakedness is yet another discursive metaphor through which certain kinds of knowledge about Africa are produced.

zunguzungu 8:48 pm  

One of the ways I'm making that distinction in my chapter is that Carl Akeley, the guy who originally sold Roosevelt on the idea of an African safari, pretty much made it his life’s work to combat what he referred to as "that horrible darkest Africa the public has accepted"). His book was even called "In Brightest Africa" and he tried to "tell that story" of "jungle peace ... so convincingly that the traditions of jungle horrors and impenetrable forests may be obliterated.”

As you say, both of them are clearly dreams of Africa having little or nothing empirically to do with any realities on the ground, however defined, but they are also very different dreams, and I think that difference is important. For Roosevelt, Africa is like the American Frontier, and a kind of new eden, whereas the darkest Africa thing is the other side of the christian mythology, a satanic hell.

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