Pursuing whiteness in the colonies private memories from the Congo Free State and German East Africa (1884-1914)
Title: Pursuing whiteness in the colonies private memories from the Congo Free State and German East Africa (1884-1914)
Author: NATERMANN, Diana M.
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2015
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
Pursuing Whiteness in the Colonies offers a new comprehension of colonial history from below by taking a profound look at remnants of individual agencies from a whiteness studies perspective. It highlights the experiences and perceptions of colonisers and how they portrayed their identities and re-interpreted their lives in Africa. My transcolonial approach is based on egodocuments – texts and photographs – produced by Belgian, German, and Swedish men and women who migrated to Central Africa for reasons varying from a love for adventure, social betterment, new gender roles, or the conviction that colonising was their patriotic duty. My analysis shows how the colonials continuously constructed their whiteness in relation to the subaltern in everyday situations connected to friendship, gender issues, and food. Colonisers were more likely to befriend the higher educated Muslim Afro-Arab traders than indigenous Africans. Alternatively, some colonisers preferred dogs as friends to colonial subalterns. Pedigree dogs were status symbols and tools for racial segregation. Furthermore, ever-changing gender roles influenced Europeans to leave their homelands. Especially the single men wished to re-enforce more traditional ideas of masculinity in the new territories and most of the European women went there in search for feminist liberties. Frequently, however, a bourgeois understanding of Western civilisation was practiced to maintain and to enhance the picture of the superior white colonial, for instance, by upholding a European dining culture. The notion of ‘breaking bread’ together was substituted with a white dining culture that reinforced white identity thereby creating yet another line of separation between white and non-white. Overall, these individuals developed new roles, reacted to foreign challenges, and shaped their lives as imperial agents in sub-Saharan Africa. By combining colonial history with whiteness studies in an African setting I provide a different understanding of imperial realities as they were experienced by European colonisers in situ.
Defence date: 30 October 2015; Examining Board: Prof Dirk Moses, EUI (Supervisor); Prof Jorge Flores, EUI; Prof Elizabeth Buettner, University of Amsterdam; Prof Corinna Unger, Jacobs University Bremen.
Type of Access: embargoedAccess