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

Paperback | June 13, 2000

byJohannes Fabian

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Explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the period of colonial expansion are usually assumed to have been guided by rational aims such as the desire for scientific knowledge, fame, or financial gain. This book, the culmination of many years of research on nineteenth-century exploration in Central Africa, provides a new view of those early European explorers and their encounters with Africans. Out of Our Minds shows explorers were far from rational--often meeting their hosts in extraordinary states influenced by opiates, alcohol, sex, fever, fatigue, and violence. Johannes Fabian presents fascinating and little-known source material, and points to its implications for our understanding of the beginnings of modern colonization. At the same time, he makes an important contribution to current debates about the intellectual origins and nature of anthropological inquiry.



Drawing on travel accounts--most of them Belgian and German--published between 1878 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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From Our Editors

People believed that explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the colonial expansion period pursued rational objectives like scientific knowledge, fame and fortune. Based on thorough research on 19th century Central African exploration, Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa provides a startli...

From the Publisher

Explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the period of colonial expansion are usually assumed to have been guided by rational aims such as the desire for scientific knowledge, fame, or financial gain. This book, the culmination of many years of research on nineteenth-century exploration in Central Africa, provides a new view of tho...

From the Jacket

"This subtle and original book is an anthropology of anthropologists, an exploration of explorers. We have for much too long looked at the records of the late 19th-century European travelers to Central Africa mainly as source material--sometimes reliable, sometimes not--about Africa. Fabian holds these visitors' accounts up to a mirror...

Johannes Fabian is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire (California, 1996) and Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983), among other works.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:335 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.88 inPublished:June 13, 2000Publisher:University of California PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0520221230

ISBN - 13:9780520221239

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From Our Editors

People believed that explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the colonial expansion period pursued rational objectives like scientific knowledge, fame and fortune. Based on thorough research on 19th century Central African exploration, Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa provides a startling new perspective on those early European explorers and their encounters with Africans. Explorers often met their hosts in bizarre states induced by opiates, alcohol, sex, fever, fatigue and violence. Johannes Fabian describes European-African encounters based on travel accounts from between 1878 and the First World War.

Editorial Reviews

"[A] fact and theory-rich book that rolls in a very leisurely fashion through a selection of early expeditions to central Africa."--"Times Higher Education Supplement