British Colonial Realism in Africa: Inalienable Objects, by Deborah Shapple Spillman

By Deborah Shapple Spillman

What position do items play in realist narratives as they circulation among societies and their various platforms of worth as commodities, as charms, as presents, as trophies, or as curses? This publication explores how the fight to symbolize gadgets in British colonial realism corresponded with historic struggles over the cloth global and its importance.

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Hereafter cited in text as Heart of Darkness. Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981), 77. Focusing on these guides in particular enables us to explore how individual ethnographers both adopted and challenged the formal directives issued to them without attempting to make general claims about all Victorian ethnographic work generally. As Peter Logan has persuasively suggested, however, “the critic becomes the fetishist in the act of evaluating the fetish as such, and in this manner, the critique of fetishism produces a secondary fetishization of the critic’s values”; needless to say, I do not wholly manage to escape such fetishism.

As Johannes Fabian has argued through the comparison of selected ethnographers’ field notes and official reports detailing research in Central Africa, these guides usually influenced the format of the final write up more than initial observations and notes34; guides to observation thus proved central to the production of the ethnographer’s authorship. While attempting to control the authority of knowledge produced in the field, practitioners of anthropology, in turn, discursively produced their own disciplinary authority.

39 Although European questionnaires soliciting information about unfamiliar peoples and their cultural practices had been available to travelers and explorers since at least the sixteenth century, the nineteenth century, with the professionalization of anthropology and the spread of colonialism, witnessed the publication of an unprecedented number of more informative guides. ”41 Divided into two main sections, which roughly correspond to the present-day division between biological and cultural anthropology, the guide structurally affirms Robert J.

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