Colonial Mimesis in Lusophone Asia and Africa

Colonial Mimesis in Lusophone Asia and Africa

This project looked at the role played by processes of imitation and mimesis in colonial situations from a reverse perspective, that is: as a process and as a practice of the colonizers themselves that could bear productively on colonial relations of power. The study is set in the context of Portuguese colonialism in Africa and Asia, in the nineteenth and twentieth century. By focusing on a variety of ways of ‘becoming Other’ and ‘going native’, the project investigated the incorporation of indigenous ideas, technologies, materials, symbols or customs by colonial agents, and the consequences it entails for colonial interchanges, forms of knowledge, power relations, and modes of identity. In addition, it was our purpose to reassess the concepts of mimesis and imitation in history, anthropology and postcolonial studies, in order to explore their potential beyond the conventional themes of ‘resistance’, ‘opposition’ and its indigenous performances.f indigenous knowledge by colonial medical doctors in Goa; or the use of local technologies by white settlers in Angola.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
Yes
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Rede: 
DAAD (Alemanha)/CRUP (Portugal). Referência Acção Integrada Luso-Alemã, A-07/2011. : “Colonial crisis and mimetic encounters in historical and anthropological perspectives” (PIs, Patrice Ladwig and Ricardo Roque)
Keywords: 

Colonial mimesis; Intercultural relationships; Portuguese colonialism (19th-20th centuries); Goa, East Timor, Angola

This project looked at the role played by processes of imitation and mimesis in colonial situations from a reverse perspective, that is: as a process and as a practice of the colonizers themselves that could bear productively on colonial relations of power. The study is set in the context of Portuguese colonialism in Africa and Asia, in the nineteenth and twentieth century. By focusing on a variety of ways of ‘becoming Other’ and ‘going native’, the project investigated the incorporation of indigenous ideas, technologies, materials, symbols or customs by colonial agents, and the consequences it entails for colonial interchanges, forms of knowledge, power relations, and modes of identity. In addition, it was our purpose to reassess the concepts of mimesis and imitation in history, anthropology and postcolonial studies, in order to explore their potential beyond the conventional themes of ‘resistance’, ‘opposition’ and its indigenous performances.f indigenous knowledge by colonial medical doctors in Goa; or the use of local technologies by white settlers in Angola.

 

Objectivos: 
<p>O tópico central do projecto é a adopção de traços culturais indígenas pelos colonizadores, e as consequências que tal acarreta para interacções coloniais, formas de conhecimento, relações de poder, e modos de identidade. Os resultados irão fornecer uma base histórica e antropológica sólida para abordar temas pós-coloniais correntes, como a mobilidade transcultural entre e através de países lusófonos, bem como para explorar comparações mais amplas entre o legado imperial português e outras experiências imperiais europeias.</p>
State of the art: 
The focus of the project will be the European ways of adopting and embodying local or indigenous cultural traits in colonial situation; its main topic of investigation the significance of these embodiments of otherness for colonialism's varied manifestations. As such, this project crucially reassesses or complements three dominant tendencies in the literature on colonialism and mimesis: (1) to consider mimesis in colonial contexts simply as the indigenous copying of European traits; (2) to treat mimicry as a colonial product that undermines the colonial project; (3) to restrict the study of colonial mimesis to issues of representation and &lsquo;discourse analysis' methodologies. <p>This represents a new approach to the study of colonial mimesis in anthropology, cultural theory and imperial and postcolonial studies. Colonial mimicry has been influentially approached in the context of postmodernist anthropology and postcolonial theory. Michael Taussig's work has called attention to how the mimicry by the colonizer of a projected image of the indigenous as &lsquo;primitive' and &lsquo;barbarian' could play a critical role in the economy of colonial terror (Taussig, 1993: 63-66; 1991). This is an important insight. However, Taussig's approach takes on a postmodernist focus on images and representations that does not consider the bodily and practical dimensions of mimetic events in colonial situation. Current approaches to mimesis in imperial and postcolonial studies conventionally follow literary analytical strategies, suggesting - in the wake of Homi Bhabha (1994) - that colonial mimicry should be seen as a discursive trope that disrupts colonial authority from within. As such, the notion of mimesis in colonial context tends to be applied to indigenous replications of European cultural traits; consequently, the significance of the colonizers' mimesis of indigenous cultures has not been considered as a topic on its own right. This project will redress the balance. By approaching colonial mimesis as a practice and as a productive phenomenon of colonial power and knowledge, it offers an alternative to postmodernist and postcolonial approaches. It enriches the study of mimesis with an approach sensitive to the bodily and practical dimensions of colonial interactions, thus building on a proposal to study &lsquo;colonialism in action' suggested in previous work (Roque, 2001; 2003).&nbsp; A new approach to mimesis in colonial context might also provide one way of circumventing the limitations of the current views of cultural hybridity in postcolonial scholarship (cf. Brah, and Coombes, 2000; Parry, 1994). Roque recently advanced the notion of parasitism as a conceptual alternative to hybridity, arguing that the interpenetration of European and indigenous forms of violence and justice in East Timor was mutually parasitic, rather than synchretic (Roque, 2009a; 2009b). However, the actual meaning of imitation in this type of colonial interactions has not been analysed. In effect, it is our conviction that a fresh view of colonialism, race and cultural hybridism, in Lusophone contexts particularly, requires more serious consideration of colonial mimesis. Goa has provided a fertile example of how Christianized indigenous groups were vital for the durability of colonialism (Xavier, 2008; 2005). Bastos's research on colonial medicine in Goa and Africa has also brought to light how European and local medical systems were intertwined, to the extent that medical doctors &lsquo;adopted elements of local knowledge as much as they imposed the European ways' (Bastos, 2007a: 768; see also 2007b; 2005; xx). However, scholarship on Portuguese Asia and Africa still has to analyse how in fact the colonizers' embodiment of indigenous ideas, customs and techniques impacted on the durability of colonialism. The study of mimesis in white settlers' communities might add evidence in this direction. Saraiva has suggested the close nexus between settlement policies, landscape ordering and laboratory science in the colonization of Angola, during the fascist period (Saraiva, in press). Yet, it is likely that the success of this nexus also implied the merging of local elements with the farming practices and animal and plant technologies brought in by the settlers. This issue, however, requires further investigation. </p>
Parceria: 
International networ
Antigos membros de equipa: 
jose.mouraferreira1988@gmail.com
Maria do Carmo Farias Daun e Lorena Santos
Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/04/2010
End Date: 
30/09/2013
Duração: 
42 meses
Closed