Discussant: Dr. Noelle Richardson, Utrecht University
This paper intends to offer a new comprehension of colonial history from below by analysing remnants of individual agencies from a whiteness studies perspective. It highlights the experiences and perceptions of colonisers and how they portrayed and re-interpreted their identities in Africa. The transcolonial approach is based on egodocuments from Belgian, German and Swedish men and women who migrated to Central Africa for reasons like a love for adventure, social betterment, new gender roles, or the conviction that colonising was their patriotic duty. The author will argue how colonisers constructed their whiteness in relation to the subalterns in everyday situations connected to friendship, animals, gender and food. White culture was often practiced to maintain the idea(l) of European supremacy, for example by upholding white dining cultures. The welcoming notion of ‘breaking bread’ was replaced by a dining culture that reinforced white identity and segregated white from non-white people. By combining colonial history with whiteness studies in an African setting the author provides a different understanding of imperial realities as they were experienced by colonisers in situ.
Dr. Diana M. Natermann is Assistant Professor at Leiden University. After doing her Phd at the European University Institute in Florence she worked as a Post-doc Research Assistant at Hamburg University on an interdisciplinary colonial photography project. Her book Pursuing Whiteness in the Colonies. Private Memories from the Congo Free State and German East Africa (1884-1914) has been shortlisted for the WCGS 2018 Book Prize on German History.