Research colloquium: Victoria Osei-Bonsu (Basel)

02.05.2017 13:00 to 14:00

Representations of the Other in Selected Works of Joseph Conrad

Venue: Englisches Seminar, room 13

My research focuses primarily on Joseph Conrad and my interest is to show how in his writing the colonial past and early European conceptions of imperial power and control have contributed to the construction of a certain image of Africa/ns as Othered. I argue that Conrad bought into the stereotypes of imperial descriptions and representations of the Empire’s Others, like other writers of his time must have done. I further examine how he critically denounces the manifestations of imperial bio-politics over “inferior” subjects while yet deploying of the very modes of representation that other these subjects of Empire. Thus, I attempt to show that, as a product of his time, Conrad’s language and mode of representation is highly influenced by the representations of power that characterise that historical moment of imperial conquest. From this stance, I argue that accentuated notions of binarism to distinguish between the dominant and the subjected, for instance, found their way into his writing. So when he others the African, he is only doing it based on learned or acquired ways of othering adopted, perhaps subconsciously, from the discourse of his time. In an effort to demonstrate this, I show that he others other characters from and located in different geographical spaces in the same way that he others his African characters. My overall conclusion is that although his othering of Africa/ns may be more pronounced than his othering of other racial/geographical characters, this tendency can in no way be claimed to depict a thorough or blatant racist agenda in his writing.