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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Body of the Savage: Humanitarian Narratives, 1800-1827
Author:Magubane, ZineISNI
Periodical:Social Dynamics
Geographic term:South Africa
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02533959708458617
Abstract:During the first thirty years of the British possession of South Africa a systematic range of publications designed to carry the missionary message had been developed. A steady stream of travellers also published their observations to make the British at home aware of conditions in the new colony. The period 1800-1830 corresponded with a critical period in the development of the antislavery movement in Britain. The fight against slavery and the urge to spread the Gospel to 'heathen nations', although by no means identical, should be understood as being rooted in a general humanitarian movement that had steadily been gaining momentum since the 1760s. The 'humanitarian narratives' in the first decades of the 19th century validated themselves through detail and focused on the body. It was through discussion of the human form that writers communicated ideologies about gender, work, and human nature. Assessments of the body were also assessments of the moral and intellectual achievements, capabilities, and ranking of persons and nations. This paper shows that a good deal of tension and ambiguity existed in European representations of African people as English writers struggled to reconcile their conflicting views of the African as both a noble and a lazy savage. It also shows that negative stereotypes about African intelligence, sexual promiscuity, etc., so characteristic of the period following the 1830s, were virtually nonexistent in the missionary and travel narratives of the immediately preceding period. Bibliogr., notes, ref.