Uneuropean Desires Toward a Provincialism without Romanticism

  • Rudi Visker
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 155)


On the tabletop before me, a woman, half naked, her skin not the same colour as mine, the gaze slightly turned. What strikes me are the hands which support the breasts and, between thumb and index finger, prominently point a nipple in my direction. Does this body refer to a tradition with which it is unfamiliar? The Caritas Romana for instance, a pictorial motif that returns here in the form of a stereotyped, intercontinental allegory: just as, at that time, Pero kept her old father alive in prison with mother’s milk, so would “childlike” Africa offer to Europe what it had lost in the jail-cell of cultivated reason: a wild, unspoiled, yet pure and natural life. Caritas Africana. But the anthropologist peering over my shoulder calls my imagination to order and with his finger on the caption — “Femme de Tambo” — lectures me on the Eurocentrism of colonial postcards from the beginning of this century: we view “Timbo women”, “Soussou women”, “Fulani women”, etc. as if, from the standpoint of cultural interest, we were seeing one more ethnic group, and not always another bosom, always another body. Detached from the context of her daily activities, relations, home, poverty, hunger and illness, the anonymous African is here rendered as the object of the masculine colonizer’s erotic interest, an interest concealed by captions, no more visible in the photograph than the photographer himself.


European Identity Cartesian Meditation Alien World Pictorial Motif European Problem 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

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  • Rudi Visker

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