Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa

Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa
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209 Seconds That Will Make You Question Your Entire Existence

A public debate between Richard Burton and John H. Speke over the source of the Nile led to the suspected suicide of Speke, who was later proven correct. They were deeply dependent on the African men they hired and the assistance of African kings and rulers, who were often interested in acquiring new allies and new markets.

Forgotten Failures of African Exploration – The Public Domain Review

Explorers' accounts of their travels downplayed the assistance they received from African guides, leaders, and even slave traders. They also presented themselves as calm, cool, and collected leaders masterfully directing their porters across unknown lands. The reality was that they were often following existing routes and, as Johann Fabian showed, were disoriented by fevers, drugs, and cultural encounters that went against everything they expected to find in so-called savage Africa.

Readers and historians believed explorers' accounts, though, and it was not until recent years that people began to recognize the critical role that Africans and African knowledge played in the exploration of Africa. Kennedy, Dane. Share Flipboard Email. Angela Thompsell, Ph. Updated September 30, Nature Speaks. Wildlife of Madeira and the Canary Islands. Mammals of Botswana and Surrounding Areas. Makgadikgadi Pans. Other titles from California UP.

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Explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the period of colonial expansion are Out of Our Minds Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa. Out of Our Minds: Reason & Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa [ Johanne Fabian] on turquiqunemoun.cf *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Explorers and.

Parrots of the Wild. A Sea of Glass. The Gnu's World. An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles. Drawing on travel accounts--most of them Belgian and German--published between and the start of World War I, Fabian describes encounters between European travelers and the Africans they met.

He argues that the loss of control experienced by these early travelers actually served to enhance cross-cultural understanding, allowing the foreigners to make sense of strange facts and customs. Fabian's provocative findings contribute to a critique of narrowly scientific or rationalistic visions of ethnography, illuminating the relationship between travel and intercultural understanding, as well as between imperialism and ethnographic knowledge.

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In modern anthropological and related theorizing, culture was established as a concept of identity stressing systemic integration, purity, adherence to shared values and beliefs, and conformity in conduct and outlook. Suivez-nous Flux RSS. However, the book gives wonderfully detailed, This experience of the ecstatic a key word in precise accounts of scientific developments re- this book proved fertile ground for scientific re- lated to brain and behavior. Moderne Kunst und ethnischer Artefakt. Other Editions 3. Eric added it May 08, How did they deal with this failure?

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Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa / Edition 1

Apr 05, Sara-Maria Sorentino rated it it was amazing Shelves: my-predecessors , anthro-reflex , non-fiction-important. Certainly different in form and style only, for the themes are consistent from his highly abstruse work Time and the Other. Hygiene and method allowed them to create distance, to deny or avoid immediacy when they wrote about their experiences.

That Europeans considered denial a condition of producing knowledge is clear when we consider the many reported instances where their travelogues instrumentalize conviviality and, indeed, friendship. Denial, however, was not the only condition of producing knowledges employed by Europeans in their encounters.

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Such a protectorate, more like a thin film really, is as ineffective as a dose of cologne over such a raucous stink, and the barrier did not hold as it should: Inevitably, explorers who subscribed to ideals of ethnographic knowledge of other peoples based on meeting them as human subjects and tried to follow positivist rules of observing Africans as objects of natural history faced contradictions and, indeed, existential tensions and anxieties.

The very choice of an episteme that must have appeared to explorers as natural, hence rational, contained the seeds of madness. And Fabian is especially keen to accentuating the potential productive element of ecstasy. For at times, the imperialists heard more than wild incoherent drumming pounding into their ears at night.

They could not sleep with hands covering ears forever.

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At times too, explorers felt something for the other, something that could broach friendship, an engagement between subjects, coevalness against all odds. Much of daily life exceeded and subverted the expectations and restrictions attendant with strident mechanisms to control and relegate the boundaries of self and other. More often than not, those instances involved them in quandaries and contradictions, in moral puzzles and conflicting demands. What I find striking, and worthy of much more attention than it is usually given, is that explorers frequently overcame these intellectual and existential problems by stepping outside, and sometimes existing for long periods outside, the rationalized frames of exploration, be they faith, knowledge, profit, or domination.

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As reported in our sources, they ranged from intense pleasure caused by discovery to mad projections pronounced to cover confusion and the discomfort, indeed the pain, of incomprehension. Travelers differed in the ways they put these experiences to productive use or let them bring out insurmountable prejudices, more often than not the latter. The point is not that these explorers seldom if ever sang, danced, or played along but that their ideas of science and their rules of hygiene made them reject singing, dancing, and playing as sources of ethnographic knowledge.

Some also rang, exploded, or were machines that made noises. But musical instruments, in the hands of more or less competent players, lend themselves neither to selective exhibition nor to detached contemplation. Sound reaches and envelops everyone in hearing distance. Music, modulated and rhythmic sound, reveals what the exhibition of objects may hide: its production is a performance demanding a sharing of time, based on the co-presence of participants in an event.

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As such, music effectively subverts the controlled distance and hierarchical relations that constitute the politics of scientific observation and exhibition. Even in its most reduced forms, music induces passion and the kind of ecstasis whose role we try to document and understand in this study of European encounters with Africa. It is as if it took all the faith in scientific truth they could muster and a few other faiths: in their superiority, in their sponsors, in their nations to maintain their sanity and overlook the contradictions in the very premises of European exploration.

Fundamental among them were the contradictory demands made by power and truth, not just in the abstract sense in which they constitute an ageless philosophical quandary, but in the concrete form of serving imperialist and colonialist designs and scientific projects. We see the distancing mechanisms at work quite literally, who belongs with who and why are reasserted just in time to save the explorer from the pains of difference and doubt.

Unsettling indeed is the exposition of the strengths of the explorers, not that they were bold heroic and individual that unveiling sat happily enough with me , but that some possessed extraordinary poetic gifts, and could be seen as perceptive, articulate and sensitive in their day to day affairs. It is alluring to assume that anyone with a dint of intelligence, moral character and integrity would not continue to support and sanctify imperial rule. That they did and do, brings us closer to the explorers than might be comfortable.

But Fabian links us further yet. For the travelogue, he argues, serves as the precedent to the ethnographic monograph. And the positivism of then continues to be a model for fieldwork today. View all 3 comments. Mar 19, Sam Beer rated it it was amazing. Fabian challenges two particular conceptions of exploration and ethnography in central Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century: the explorer as a rational agent of science, and the explorer as a complicit agent of the empire, who may therefore be dismissed out of hand.

In spite of because of? The conclusions are messy and ill-defined--intentionally so, it seems. Fabian advocates no formula for perfect ethnography--rather, he seems to indicate that simple methodological adjustments will never produce ideal ethnography. The madness that often facilitates insight cannot be made a method, and even if it could, it would not be desirable.