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Discourse of Power and Knowledge of Otherness

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London Clark

on 5 September 2014

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Transcript of Discourse of Power and Knowledge of Otherness

V.Y. Mudimbe
Discourse of Power and Knowledge of Otherness
Turning Non-European Areas into European Constructs
The Colonialist / Explorer Discourse
Mudimbe's Argument
- “Scramble for Africa" colonialists transformed non-European areas into European constructs
- methods of representation (language, art, etc. ) alter the African image
- Explorers do not reveal otherness but rather follows by tradition, simply duplicating and fulfilling the "power of Western discourses on human varieties"
- Time Period
" Am I not projecting a twentieth0century perspective onto the pictorial techniques of the early sixteenth century?"
- Anti-Colonial, calls for Self-Invention
- Critique of others theoretical and artistic work
- historical analysis of the colonizing structure
- analysis of Hans Burgkmair's painting "Exotic Tribes"
- superimpose described African characteristics onto the "normal" Italian painting style
- painter only represents "blackened whites"
- "asthetization" of African objects, different meaning was given to people outside the "power-knowledge" field of the culture
Author's Perspective
V.Y. Mudimbe
- philosopher, professor, and author
- born on December 8, 1941, in the then Belgian Congo
- 1970 he received his doctorate from Leuven University in Belgium.
- The Invention of Africa, published in 1988
- focus: Africa develop own identity
Theoretical Influences
- Claude Levi-Strauss
- Michel Foucault
- Jean Baudrillard
Theoretical Traditions
- French structuralism
- post-structuralism
- structures made through language and human perception
Discussion Question 1.
1. What other context can you think of that would affect this article?
Discussion Question 2.
2. Did you find the argument convincing? Was the critique of the paintings a useful tool?
Theory of Otherness
- “otherness” is caused by the point of view and the discourse of the observer rather than caused by actual differences
- the result: two categories
1) the normal
2) the others
Discussion Question 3.
3. In what ways have you seen the "theory of otherness" portrayed in previous anthropology classes or in your daily lives? Do you think this sociological theory still applies to the way we view Africa?
Mudimbe's View on Colonialism
"Colonialism and colonization basically mean organization, arrangement. The two words derive from the latin word, colere, meaning to cultivate or to design... The colonists (those settling a region) as well as the colonialists (those exploiting a territory by dominating a local majority) have all tended to organize and transform non-European areas into fundamentally European constructs."
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