• Making sense of silenced #archives: #Hume, Scotland and the ‘debate’ about the humanity of Black people

    Last September, the University of Edinburgh found itself at the centre of international scrutiny after temporarily renaming the #David_Hume Tower (now referred to by its street designation 40 George Square). The decision to rename the building, and hold a review on the way forward, prompted much commentary – a great deal of which encouraged a reckoning on what David Hume means to the University, its staff and students. These ideas include the full extent of Hume’s views on humanity, to establish whether he maintained any possible links (ideological or participatory) in the slave trade, and the role of Scotland in the African slave trade.

    Hume’s belief that Black people were a sub-human species of lower intellectual and biological rank to Europeans have rightfully taken stage in reflecting whether his values deserve commemoration on a campus. “I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. […] No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences.” The full link to the footnote can be found here.

    Deliberations are split on whether statues and buildings are being unfairly ‘targeted’ or whether the totality of ideas held by individuals whose names are commemorated by these structures stand in opposition to a modern university’s values. Depending on who you ask, the debate over the tower fluctuates between moral and procedural. On the latter, it must be noted the University has in the past renamed buildings at the behest of calls for review across specific points in history. The Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda building on Hill Place was quietly renamed in 1995, with no clarity on whether there was a formal review process at the time. On the moral end, it is about either the legacy or demythologization of David Hume.

    Some opposing the name change argue against applying present moral standards to judge what was not recognised in the past. Furthermore, they point to the archives to argue that prior to the 1760s there is scant evidence that Scots were not anything more than complicit to the slave trade given the vast wealth it brought.

    I argue against this and insist that the African experience and the engaged intellectual abolition movement deserves prominence in this contemporary debate about Hume.

    For to defend ‘passive complicity’ is to undermine both the Africans who rose in opposition against their oppression for hundreds of years and the explicit goals of white supremacy. For access to mass acquisition of resources on inhabited land requires violent dispossession of profitable lands and forced relocation of populations living on them. The ‘moral justification’ of denying the humanity of the enslaved African people has historically been defended through the strategic and deliberate creation of ‘myths’ – specifically Afrophobia – to validate these atrocities and to defend settler colonialism and exploitation. Any intellectual inquiry of the renaming of the tower must take the genuine concern into account: What was David Hume’s role in the strategic myth-making about African people in the Scottish imagination?

    If we are starting with the archives as evidence of Scottish complicity in the slave trade, why ignore African voices on this matter? Does the Scottish archive adequately represent the African experience within the slave trade? How do we interpret their silence in the archives?

    Decolonisation, the process Franz Fanon described as when “the ‘thing’ colonised becomes a human through the very process of liberation”, offers a radical praxis through which we can interrogate the role of the archive in affirming or disregarding the human experience. If we establish that the 18th century Scottish archive was not invested in preserving ‘both sides’ of the debate’, then the next route is to establish knowledge outside of a colonial framework where the ideology, resistance and liberation of Africans is centred. That knowledge is under the custodianship of African communities, who have relied on intricate and deeply entrenched oral traditions and practices which are still used to communicate culture, history, science and methods.

    To reinforce a point raised by Professor Tommy Curry, the fact that Africans were aware of their humanity to attempt mutiny in slave ships (Meermin & Amistad) and to overthrow colonial governance (the Haitian revolution) amidst the day-to-day attempts to evade slave traders is enough to refute the insistence that the debates must centre around what Scots understood about the slave trade in the 18th century.

    To make sense of these gaps in my own research, I have broadly excavated the archival records in Scotland if only to establish that a thorough documentation of the African-led resistance to Scottish participation in the slave trade and colonialism cannot be located in the archives.

    Dr David Livingstone (1813–1873), whose writing documenting the slave trade across the African Great Lakes galvanized the Scottish public to take control of the region to be named the Nyasaland Protectorate, would prove to be a redemptive figure in Scotland’s reconsideration of its role in the slave trade. However, in 1891, 153 years after Hume wrote his footnote, Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston (1858–1927), the first British colonial administrator of Nyasaland, would re-inforce similar myths about the ‘British Central African’: “to these [negroes] almost without arts and sciences and the refined pleasures of the senses, the only acute enjoyment offered them by nature is sexual intercourse”. Even at that time, the documented resistance is represented by Scottish missionaries who aimed to maintain Nyasaland under their sphere of control.

    Filling in the gaps that the archives cannot answer involves more complex and radical modalities of investigation.

    I rely on locally-recognised historians or documenters within communities, who preserve their histories, including the slave trade, through methodically structured oral traditions. The legacy of both the Arab and Portuguese slave trade and British colonialism in Nyasaland remains a raw memory, even though there are no precise indigenous terms to describe these phenomena.

    I have visited and listened to oral histories about the importance of ‘ancestor caves’ where families would conduct ceremonies and celebrations out of view to evade the slave catchers. These are the stories still being told about how children were hidden and raised indoors often only taken outside at night, keeping silent to escape the eyes and ears of the catchers. Embedded in these historical narratives are didactic tales, organised for ease of remembrance for the survival of future generations.
    Despite what was believed by Hume and his contemporaries, the arts and sciences have always been intrinsic in African cultural traditions. Decolonising is a framework contingent upon recognising knowledge productions within systems that often will never make their way into archival records. It centres the recognition and legitimization of the ways in which African people have collected and shared their histories.

    The knowledge we learn from these systems allows us to reckon with both the silence of archives and the fallacies of myth-making about African people.

    At very least, these debates should lead to investigations to understand the full extent of Hume’s participation in the dehumanization of enslaved Africans, and the role he played to support the justification for their enslavement.

    https://www.race.ed.ac.uk/making-sense-of-silenced-archives-hume-scotland-and-the-debate-about-the-
    #Édimbourg #toponymie #toponymie_poltique #Ecosse #UK #Edinburgh #David_Hume_Tower #esclavage #histoire #mémoire #Kamuzu_Banda #colonialisme #imaginaire #décolonisation #Nyasaland #Nyasaland_Protectorate #histoire_orale #archives #mythes #mythologie #déshumanisation

    ping @cede @karine4 @isskein

    • Hastings Banda

      The #University_of_Edinburgh renamed the Hastings ‘Kamuzu’ Banda building on #Hill_Place in the 1990s. Whilst fellow independence leader and Edinburgh alumni #Julius_Nyerere is still regarded as a saint across the world, #Banda died with an appalling record of human rights abuses and extortion – personally owning as much as 45% of #Malawi’s GDP. There are no plaques in Edinburgh commemorating #Kamuzu, and rightly so.

      Banda’s time in Edinburgh does, however, give us a lens through which to think about the University and colonial knowledge production in the 1940s and ‘50s; how numerous ‘fathers of the nation’ who led African independence movements were heavily involved in the linguistic, historical and anthropological codification of their own people during the late colonial period; why a cultural nationalist (who would later lead an anti-colonial independence movement) would write ‘tracts of empire’ whose intended audience were missionaries and colonial officials; and how such tracts reconciled imagined modernities and traditions.

      Fellow-Edinburgh student Julius Nyerere showed considerable interest in the ‘new science’ of anthropology during his time in Scotland, and #Jomo_Kenyatta – the first president of independent Kenya – penned a cutting-edge ethnography of the #Kikuyu whilst studying under #Malinowski at the LSE, published as Facing Mount Kenya in 1938. Banda himself sat down and co-edited Our African Way of Life, writing an introduction outlining Chewa and broader ‘Maravi’ traditions, with the Edinburgh-based missionary anthropologist T. Cullen Young in 1944.

      Before arriving in Edinburgh in 1938, Banda had already furthered his education in the US through his expertise on Chewa language and culture: Banda was offered a place at the University of Chicago in the 1930s on the strength of his knowledge of chiChewa, with Mark Hana Watkins’s 1937 A Grammar of Chichewa: A Bantu Language of British Central Africa acknowledging that “All the information was obtained from Kamuzu Banda, a native Chewa, while he was in attendance at the University of Chicago from 1930 to 1932”, and Banda also recorded ‘together with others’ four Chewa songs for Nancy Cunard’s Negro Anthology. In Britain in 1939 he was appointed as adviser to the Malawian chief, Mwase Kasungu, who spent six months at the London University of Oriental and African Languages to help in an analysis of chiNyanja; an experience that “must have reinforced” Banda’s “growing obsession with his Chewa identity” (Shepperson, 1998).

      Banda in Edinburgh

      In Edinburgh, Banda shifted from being a source of knowledge to a knowledge producer – a shift that demands we think harder about why African students were encouraged to Edinburgh in the first place and what they did here. Having already gained a medical degree from Chicago, Banda was primarily at Edinburgh to convert this into a British medical degree. This undoubtedly was Banda’s main focus, and the “techniques of men like Sir John Fraser electrified him, and he grew fascinated with his subject in a way which only a truly dedicated man can” (Short, 1974, p.38).

      Yet Banda also engaged with linguistic and ethnographic codification, notably with the missionary anthropologist, T Cullen Young. And whilst black Edinburgh doctors were seen as key to maintaining the health of colonial officials across British Africa in the 19th century, black anthropologists became key to a “more and fuller understanding of African thought and longings” (and controlling an increasingly agitative and articulate British Africa) in the 20th century (Banda & Young, 1946, p.27-28). Indeed, having acquired ‘expertise’ and status, it is also these select few black anthropologists – Banda, Kenyatta and Nyerere – who led the march for independence across East and Central Africa in the 1950s and 60s.

      Banda was born in c.1896-1989 in Kasungu, central Malawi. He attended a Scottish missionary school from the age 8, but having been expelled from an examination in 1915, by the same T Cullen Young he would later co-author with, Banda left Malawi and walked thousands of miles to South Africa. Banda came to live in Johannesburg at a time when his ‘Nyasa’ cousin, Clements Musa Kadalie was the ‘most talked about native in South Africa’ and the ‘uncrowned king of the black masses’, leading Southern Africa’s first black mass movement and major trade union, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU).

      Banda was friends with Kadalie, and may have been involved with the Nyasaland Native National Congress which was formed around 1918-1919 with around 100 members in Johannesburg, though no record of this remains. Together, Banda and Kadalie were the two leading Malawian intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century and, in exploring the type of ‘colonial knowledge’ produced by Africans in Edinburgh, it is productive to compare their contrasting accounts of ‘African history’.

      In 1927 Kadalie wrote an article for the British socialist journal Labour Monthly entitled ‘The Old and the New Africa’. Charting a pre-capitalist Africa, Kadalie set out that the

      “white men came to Africa of their own free will, and told my forefathers that they had brought with them civilisation and Christianity. They heralded good news for Africa. Africa must be born again, and her people must discard their savagery and become civilised people and Christians. Cities were built in which white and black men might live together as brothers. An earthly paradise awaited creation…They cut down great forests; cities were built, and while the Christian churches the gospel of universal brotherhood, the industrialisation of Africa began. Gold mining was started, and by the close of the nineteenth century European capitalism had made its footing firm in Africa….The churches still preached universal brotherhood, but capitalism has very little to do with the ethics of the Nazerene, and very soon came a new system of government in Africa with ‘Law and Order’ as its slogan.” (Kadalie, 1927).

      Banda’s own anthropological history, written 17 years later with Cullen Young, is a remarkably different tale. Banda and Young valorise the three authors within the edited volume as fossils of an ideal, isolated age, “the last Nyasalanders to have personal touch with their past; the last for whom the word ‘grandmother’ will mean some actually remembered person who could speak of a time when the land of the Lake knew no white man” (Banda & Young, 1946, p7). Already in 1938, Banda was beginning to develop an idea for a Central African nation.

      Writing from the Edinburgh Students Union to Ernest Matako, he reflected: “the British, the French and the Germans were once tribes just as we are now in Africa. Many tribes united or combined to make one, strong British, French or German nation. In other words, we have to begin to think in terms of Nyasaland, and even Central Africa as a whole, rather than of Kasungu. We have to look upon all the tribes in Central Africa, whether in Nyasaland or in Rhodesia, as our brothers. Until we learn to do this, we shall never be anything else but weak, tiny tribes, that can easily be subdued.” (Banda, 1938).
      Banda after Edinburgh

      But by 1944, with his hopes of returning to Nyasaland as a medical officer thwarted and the amalgamation of Nyasaland and the Rhodesias into a single administrative unit increasingly on the cards, Banda appears to have been grounding this regional identity in a linguistic-cultural history of the Chewa, writing in Our African Way of Life: “It is practically certain that aMaravi ought to be the shared name of all these peoples; this carrying with it recognition of the Chewa motherland group as representing the parent stock of the Nyanja speaking peoples.” (Banda & Young, 1946, p10). Noting the centrality of “Banda’s part in the renaming of Nyasaland as Malawi”, Shepperson asked in 1998, “Was this pan-Chewa sentiment all Banda’s or had he derived it largely from the influence of Cullen Young? My old friend and collaborator, the great Central African linguist Thomas Price, thought the latter. But looking to Banda’s Chewa consciousness as it developed in Chicago, I am by no means sure of this.” Arguably it is Shepperson’s view that is vindicated by two 1938 letters unearthed by Morrow and McCracken in the University of Cape Town archives in 2012.

      In 1938, Banda concluded another letter, this time to Chief Mwase Kasungu: “I want you tell me all that happens there [Malawi]. Can you send me a picture of yourself and your council? Also I want to know the men who are the judges in your court now, and how the system works.” (Banda, 1938). Having acquired and reworked colonial knowledge from Edinburgh, Our African Way of Life captures an attempt to convert British colonialism to Banda’s own end, writing against ‘disruptive’ changes that he was monitoring from Scotland: the anglicisation of Chewa, the abandoning of initiation, and the shift from matriarchal relations. Charting and padding out ideas about a pan-Chewa cultural unit – critical of British colonialism, but only for corrupting Chewa culture – Banda was concerned with how to properly run the Nyasaland state, an example that productively smudges the ‘rupture’ of independence and explains, in part, neo-colonial continuity in independent Malawi.

      For whilst the authors of the edited works wrote their original essays in chiNyanja, with the hope that it would be reproduced for Nyasaland schools, the audience that Cullen Young and Banda addressed was that of the English missionary or colonial official, poised to start their ‘African adventure’, noting:

      “A number of important points arise for English readers, particularly for any who may be preparing to work in African areas where the ancient mother-right still operates.” (Banda & Cullen, 1946, p.11).

      After a cursory summary readers are directed by a footnote “for a fuller treatment of mother-right, extended kinship and the enjoined marriage in a Nyasaland setting, see Chaps. 5-8 in Contemporary Ancestors, Lutterworth Press, 1942.” (Banda & Young, 1946, p.11). In contrast to the authors who penned their essays so “that our children should learn what is good among our ancient ways: those things which were understood long ago and belong to their own people” the introduction to Our African Way of Life is arguably published in English, under ‘war economy standards’ in 1946 (post-Colonial Development Act), for the expanding number of British ‘experts’ heading out into the empire; and an attempt to influence their ‘civilising mission’. (Banda & Young, 1946, p.7).

      By the 1950s, Banda was fully-assured of his status as a cultural-nationalist expert – writing to a Nyasaland Provincial Commissioner, “I am in a position to know and remember more of my own customs and institutions than the younger men that you meet now at home, who were born in the later twenties and even the thirties…I was already old enough to know most of these customs before I went to school…the University of Chicago, which cured me of my tendency to be ashamed of my past. The result is that, in many cases, really, I know more of our customs than most of our people, now at home. When it comes to language I think this is even more true. for the average youngster [In Malawi] now simply uses what the European uses, without realising that the European is using the word incorrectly. Instead of correcting the european, he uses the word wrongly, himself, in order to affect civilisation, modernity or even urbanity.” (Shepperdson, 1998).

      This however also obscures the considerable investigatory correspondence that he engaged in whilst in Scotland. Banda was highly critical of indirect rule in Our African Way of Life, but from emerging archival evidence, he was ill-informed of the changing colonial situation in 1938.

      Kadalie and Banda’s contrasting histories were written at different times, in different historical contexts by two people from different parts of Nyasaland. Whilst Banda grew up in an area on the periphery of Scottish missionaries’ sphere of influence, Kadalie came from an area of Malawi, Tongaland, heavily affected by Scottish missionaries and his parents were heavily involved with missionary work. The disparity between the histories that they invoke, however, is still remarkable – Banda invokes a precolonial rural Malawi devoid of white influence, Kadalie on the other hand writes of a pre-capitalist rural Malawi where Christians, white and black, laboured to create a kingdom of heaven on earth – and this, perhaps, reflects the ends they are writing for and against.

      Kadalie in the 1920s looked to integrate the emerging African working class within the international labour movement, noting “capitalism recognises no frontiers, no nationality, and no race”, with the long-term view to creating a socialist commonwealth across the whole of Southern Africa. Britain-based Banda, writing with Cullen Young in the 1940s, by comparison, mapped out a pan-Chewa culture with the immediate aim of reforming colonial ‘protectorate’ government – the goal of an independent Malawian nation state still yet to fully form.

      http://uncover-ed.org/hastings-banda
      #Kenyatta

  • Décolonisations (1/3) - L’apprentissage | ARTE
    https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/086124-001-A/decolonisations-1-3

    1. L’apprentissage
    De la #révolte des #cipayes de 1857 à l’étonnante République du #Rif, mise sur pied de 1921 à 1926 par #Abdelkrim_el-Khattabi avant d’être écrasée par la #France, ce premier épisode montre que la #résistance, autrement dit la #décolonisation, a débuté avec la #conquête. Il rappelle comment, en 1885, les puissances européennes se partagent l’#Afrique à #Berlin, comment les Allemands commettent le premier #génocide du XXe siècle en #Namibie, rivalisant avec les horreurs accomplies sous la houlette du roi belge #Léopold_II au #Congo. Il retrace aussi les parcours de l’anthropologue haïtien #Anténor_Firmin, de la Kényane #Mary_Nyanjiru, de la missionnaire anglaise #Alice_Seeley_Harris ou de #Lamine_Senghor, jeune tirailleur sénégalais devenu #militant #communiste et #anticolonialiste.