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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Body, Power and Sacrifice in Equatorial Africa
Author:Bernault, Florence
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic terms:French Equatorial Africa
Congo (Republic of)
Equatorial Guinea
human trafficking
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
Politics and Government
External link:http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4AE983F94D9BCF10F3A6
Abstract:Covering the period 1880s-1940s, this paper examines the question of why the traffic in human body parts has become in today's Equatorial Africa a pervasive trope in popular, grassroots understandings of people's lives and the world beyond. It argues that a narrow focus on commodification is not enough to understand the significance of the traffic in body parts. In contemporary Equatorial Africa, this narrative reflects an equally powerful event: the emergence of new representations of power and the sacred. The use of body fragments can be traced at least to the end of the nineteenth century, where it resonated with ancestral notions connecting the human body and power. The first part of the article looks at how local notions of body and power in Equatorial Africa were altered by the intrusive presence of whites after the 1880s. The second part suggests how in turn white perceptions of the body shaped European representations of rule, vulnerability and moral transgression in the colony. The third section explores the traffic in white and black corpses at the grassroots and the consequent reshaping of representations of power and social reproduction across the racial divide. The conclusion questions anthropologists' and historians' tendency to draw epistemic boundaries between Western and African imaginaries. Notes, ref., sum. [ASC Leiden abstract]