RECIPROCITY IN THE FABRICATION OF THE EXOTIC OF
IN THE LANDER BROTHERS'
- 1. The virtual space of colonial encounters has been
defined by Mary Louise Pratt "the contact zone" in Imperial
Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, London,
- 2. On colonial encounters and postcolonial theory see,
among others: T. Todorov, La conquête de
l'Amérique. La question de l'autre, Paris,
Éditions du Seuil, 1982; F. Barker et al., eds., Europe
and Its Others, Colchester, University of Essex, 1985; H. L.
Gates, Jr., ed., "Race", Writing, and Difference, Chicago,
The University of Chicago Press, 1985; B. Parry, "Resistance
theory / theorising resistance or two cheers for nativism" in F.
Barker, P. Hulme, and M. Iversen, eds., Colonial Discourse and
Postcolonial Theory, Manchester, Manchester U. P., 1994, pp.
- 3. In Orientalism, the Palestinian scholar now
living in the States, Edward Said, elaborates a theory according
to which Orientalism is a narrative practice in colonial discourse
which helps to fabricate the Other by universalising all the
negative stereotypes which apply to non-European lands and
peoples. This process participates in marginalising the Other to
the periphery of Europe which, by opposition, represents the
centre of civilisation, culture, and power. In The Invention of
Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy, and the Order of Knowledge
(Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1989) and The Idea
of Africa (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1994) V. Y.
Mudimbe uses "invention" to define European modes of
representation of Africa in nineteenth-century colonial discourse.
These modes also include "the myth of the Dark Continent" which
has been used to represent the history of Africa as primitive,
immobile, and negative. For an analysis of this myth, see: P.
Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness, Ihaca, Cornell U. P., 1988.
The dicotomy between Europe and the Other has been explored by
postcolonial writers and scholars in different ways. On the one
side, they underline the impossibility of finding a common ground
and the necessity for once-colonised countries to reject colonial
experience tout court. See, for example: A. JanMohamed,
Manichean Aesthetics: The Politics of Literature in Colonial
Africa, Amherst, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1983;
O. Chinweizu, The West and the Rest of Us, Lagos, Pero
Press, 1975; Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Decolonising the Mind: The
Politics of Language in African Literature,
London, James Currey, 1986. On the other side, they argue for
the inevitability (however bitter it may be) of considering the
colonial experience as a part of the history of ex-colonies. See,
for example, the fiction of postcolonial writers as different as
Chinua Achebe, Wilson Harris, and V. S. Naipaul.
- 4. As theorised by Hannah Arendt in The Origin of
Totalitarism the power of race-thinking articulated in Western
imperial discourse in the time of the empire appealed to immediate
political needs, and was improved as an ideological weapon. It
also helped to fabricate what Mary Louise Pratt in Imperial
Eyes terms a "planetary European consciousness."
- 5. For an analysis of cartography as a colonial practice
based on mimesis - "on the possibility of producing a plausible
reconstruction of a specific geographical environment" - and on a
desire to control space politically and epistemologically, which
is made evident by "the discrepancy between its [of colonial
cartography] authoritative status and its approximative
function", see G. Huggan, "Decolonising the Map: Post-Colonialism,
Post-Structuralism and the Cartographic Connection", Ariel,
20, 4, 1989, pp. 114-131.
- 6. As David Lodge claims discussing the exotic in Graham
Greene's fiction, the exotic is "the mediation of an 'abroad' to
an audience assumed to be located at 'home'". D. Lodge, "The
Exotic", The Independent on Sunday, 2 February, 1992, p.
- 7. D. Macdonell, Theories of Discourse: An
Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell, 1986. Resistance to colonial
representations of the Other has been expressed by
counter-discourses which give voice to different perspectives and
world-views. In The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in
Post-colonial Literatures (London, Routledge, 1989), Bill
Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin illustrate how
postcolonial counter-discourse appropriates the language of the
colonisers and, following Caliban's example in the Shakespearian
tragedy The Tempest, turns it against them. On "new
englishes" and on ways in which "new englishes" and the new
literatures in English are forms of resistance to upset and
dismantle the power of colonial (and new-imperialist) discourse,
see: Claudia Gualtieri, "Le nuove lingue inglesi: le storie, le
culture e il problema della rappresentatività," Il
Tolomeo, 2, 1996, pp. 27-31.
- 8. B. Parry, op. cit., p. 177.
- 9. Ibidem, p. 178.
- 10. R. and J. Lander, Journal of an Expedition to
Explore the Course and the Termination of the Niger; with a
Narrative of a Voyage down that River to its Termination,
London, John Murray, 1833, first ed. 1832, 3 vols. Further
references will be included in the texts and abbreviated to
- 11. The exploration of the River Niger had fascinated and
interested historians and scientists since the times of Herodotus
in 450 BC, of Pliny in 80 AD, of the Nubian El Edrisi in 1150 AD,
and of Leo Africanus in 1520 AD. It was mainly in the nineteenth
century that Britain, and other European nations, started a
systematic exploration (Christianisation and colonisation) of West
Africa. At the end of the eighteenth century, the hypothesis that
the Niger rose near Bambuk and flowed eastwards was formulated and
lately confirmed by Mungo Park in 1795, when he succeeded in
"discovering" the source of the Niger in 1796. On his first
expedition Mungo Park had solved one of the mysteries of the Niger
to Europeans, but the problem of the location of its mouth was
still open. In 1830 the brothers Richard and John Lander sailed to
the West African coast with the aim of tracing the river down to
its mouth. The expedition was a success and finally solved the
Niger problem which for centuries had puzzled explorers and
travellers in West Africa.
- 12. P. Fussell, Abroad: British Literary Traveling
Between the Wars, Oxford, O.U.P., 1980. In my text, the terms
"explorer" and "traveller" will be used with the meaning of
"traveller" in Fussell's usage.
- 13. According to E. W. Bovill's historical overview (E. W.
Bovill, ed., Missions to the Niger, Cambridge, C. U. P.,
1964 and 1966, 4 vols.), in 1822, following the north-route, an
expedition led by Dr Oudney, Major Denham and Captain Clapperton
succeeded in crossing the Sahara, exploring Lake Chad and Bornu.
The expedition was called Bornu Mission and it was reported in
Narration of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central
Africa in the Years 1823-1824 (1825). In 1825 Clapperton went
on a second journey with his servant Richard Lander from Badagri,
in the Bight of Benin, northwards to Bussa, on the River Niger,
then to Kano and Sokoto where Clapperton died in 1827. Richard
Lander collected his master's papers and published them in
Clapperton's Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior
of Africa (1829), followed a year later by Richard Lander's
Records of Captain Clapperton's Last Expedition
- 14. C. H. Robinson, Hausaland or Fifteen Hundred Miles
Through the Central Soudan, London, Sampson Low, Marston &
Co., 1900, first ed. 1896, pp. 55-56.
- 15. H. White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in
Nineteenth-Century Europe, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins U. P.,
1973, p. 2.
- 16. As Richard Lander narrates in Records of Captain
Clapperton's Last Expedition (London, 1893, 3 vols.): "The
little poem, 'My native Highland home', I have sung scores of
times to [Captain Clapperton]. Such entertainments could
not fail of awakening melancholy but pleasing associations within
us; and to picture to our imaginations when in the bosom of
Africa, and surrounded by wretches who sought our destruction, our
own free and happy country, its healthy hills and flowery fields,
and contrast them with the withering aspect of existing scenes,
afforded us many an hour of delight and sorrow, gladness and gloom
- although filling us with hopes that proved delusive, and
expectations that we found, by fatal experience, to be in the
highest degree visionary; - for, like the beautiful apple said to
grow on the borders of the Red Sea, our hopes wore a fair and
promising outside, but produced only bitter ashes" (vol. 2, pp.
- 17. A. C. G. Hastings, The Voyage of the 'Dayspring'.
Being the Journal of the late Sir John Hawley Glover, R.N.,
G.C.M.G., together with some accounts of the Expedition up the
Niger River in 1857, London, The Bodley Head, 1926, p.
- 18. Ibidem, p. 51.
- 19. Ibidem.
- 20. B. Chatwin, Songlines, London, Jonathan Cape,
- 21. W. Benjamin, Illuminations, Introduction by H.
Arendt, trans. H. Zohn, London, Jonathan Cape, 1970, first ed.
- 22. G. Celati, Finzioni occidentali: fabulazione,
comicità e scrittura, Turin, Einaudi, 1975, p.
Home page culture