Tydskrif vir Letterkunde
On-line version ISSN 2309-9070
FRAITURE, Pierre-Philippe. Modernity and the Belgian Congo. Tydskr. letterkd. [online]. 2009, vol.46, n.1, pp. 43-57. ISSN 2309-9070.
This article will explore the intellectual context in which French-Belgian colonial writing developed from the turn of the twentieth century to the late 1930s. This period is marked by a gradual shift from evolutionism to cultural relativism. The analysis will first focus on the Tervuren colonial exhibition of 1897 and the progressive emergence of Belgian africanism in the early twentieth century. Secondly, it will account for the ways in which this overall context bore witness to new and somewhat less Eurocentric conditions of possibility. Subsequently, the article will attempt to draw parallels between these more inclusive and seemingly less orientalising anthropological paradigms and the advent, first in France and then in Belgium, of a rejuvenated brand of colonial literature (or indigenous realism) which, for all its openness and eagerness to embrace modernity, did not result in radical rejections of colonialism on the part of its promoters. Finally, two Belgian novels in French - M. L. Delhaise-Arnould's Amedra (1926) and H. Drum's Luéji (1932) - will be analysed to appraise whether or not their authors' objective to reconstitute Congolese indigeneity is a strategy to oppose Belgian modernity against Congolese supposed pre-modernity.
Keywords : Africanism; French-Belgian colonial writing; Congo literature; modernity; M. L. Delhaise-Arnould; H. Drum; Museum of Tervuren.