Naming Colonialism: History And Collective Memory In The Congo, 1870?1960

Paperback | December 8, 2009

byOsumaka Likaka

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What’s in a name? As Osumaka Likaka argues in this illuminating study, the names that Congolese villagers gave to European colonizers reveal much about how Africans experienced and reacted to colonialism. The arrival of explorers, missionaries, administrators, and company agents allowed Africans to observe Westerners’ physical appearances, behavior, and cultural practices at close range—often resulting in subtle yet trenchant critiques. By naming Europeans, Africans turned a universal practice into a local mnemonic system, recording and preserving the village’s understanding of colonialism in the form of pithy verbal expressions that were easy to remember and transmit across localities, regions, and generations.
    Methodologically innovative, Naming Colonialism advances a new approach that shows how a cultural process—the naming of Europeans—can provide a point of entry into economic and social histories. Drawing on archival documents and oral interviews, Likaka encounters and analyzes a welter of coded fragments. The vivid epithets Congolese gave to rubber company agents—“the home burner,” “Leopard,” “Beat, beat,” “The hippopotamus-hide whip”—clearly conveyed the violence that underpinned colonial extractive economies. Other names were subtler, hinting at derogatory meaning by way of riddles, metaphors, or symbols to which the Europeans were oblivious. Africans thus emerge from this study as autonomous actors whose capacity to observe, categorize, and evaluate reverses our usual optic, providing a critical window on Central African colonialism in its local and regional dimensions.

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What’s in a name? As Osumaka Likaka argues in this illuminating study, the names that Congolese villagers gave to European colonizers reveal much about how Africans experienced and reacted to colonialism. The arrival of explorers, missionaries, administrators, and company agents allowed Africans to observe Westerners’ physical appearan...

Osumaka Likaka is associate professor of history at Wayne State University. He is author of Rural Society and Cotton in Colonial Zaire, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.

other books by Osumaka Likaka

Rural Society and Cotton in Colonial Zaire
Rural Society and Cotton in Colonial Zaire

Kobo ebook|Jul 1 1997

$16.19 online$20.93list price(save 22%)
Naming Colonialism: History and Collective Memory in the Congo, 1870-1960
Naming Colonialism: History and Collective Memory in th...

Kobo ebook|Dec 1 2009

$17.19 online$22.24list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:216 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.6 inPublished:December 8, 2009Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299233642

ISBN - 13:9780299233648

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations   
Acknowledgments       

Introduction: Naming and African Voices           
1 The Dynamics of Naming in Precolonial Congo: An Overview       
2 Colonialism and the Village World: Contexts to Naming           
3 Naming, Colonialism, Making History, and Social Memories       
4 Early Naming, Explorations, Trade, and Rubber Collection           
5 Naming and Belgian Colonial Rule           
6 Talking under One's Breath: Praise Names as Strategic Ambiguities       
7 Confronting African Voices: Negotiations and Instrumentalization of Names   
Conclusions           

Sample of Names Used in This Work       
Notes       
Works Cited       
Index   

Editorial Reviews

“With this last opus, Osumaka Likaka has written a seductive piece that should interest scholars working on Congolese history, colonial and imperial studies, and oral memories.”—Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi, The Historian