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Uneuropean Desires Toward a Provincialism without Romanticism

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

European Identity Cartesian Meditation Alien World Pictorial Motif European Problem 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Cf. R. Rosenblum, ‘Caritas Romana after 1760: Some Romantic Lactations’, in T.B. Hess and L. Nochlin (eds.), Woman as Sex Object: Studies in Erotic Art, 1730’1970, London, Allen Lane, 1973, pp. 42-63. The term emerges for the first time in the Renaissance but refers to a legend which can be found in differing versions in Pliny the Elder, Hyginus and Valerius Maximus.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hegel is one among those who have called Africa a “Kinderland” (Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte (Werke 12, ed. by E. Moldenhauer and K. M. Michel), Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 1970, p. 120).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    What follows is a collage of almost literal citations from R. Corbey, Wildheid en beschaving. De Europese verbeelding van Africa [Wildness and Culture: The European Image of Africa], Baarn, Ambo, 1989. The postcard to which I refer here is depicted on page 29 of Corbey’s study; the one discussed below is on page 36.Google Scholar
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    For this idea of “discourse” see chapter 2 and 3 above and my commentary in Michel Foucault. Genealogy as Critique, o.c.Google Scholar
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    Parenthetical references are to the Schlechta edition (Frankfurt a.M./Berlin/Wien, Ullstein, 1979), volume I. For the English text, I have occasionally consulted the translation by A. Collins (Indianapolis/New York, Bobbs-Merrill, 1957).Google Scholar
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    “(eine) Art bewährbarer Zugänglichkeit der original Unzugänglichen”: E. Husserl, op. cit., p. 144. Cf. E. Husserl, Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität. Texte aus dem Nachlass. Dritter Teil: 1929–1935 (Husserliana XV), The Hague, Nijhoff, 1973, pp. 627ff. (among others p. 631: “Fremdheit besagt Zugänglichkeit in der eigentlichen Unzugänglichkeit”).Google Scholar
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    Cf. B. Waldenfels, ‘Erfahrung des Fremden in Husserls Phänomenologie’, Phänomenologische Forschungen Bd. 22: Profile der Phänomenologie, 1989, p. 41.Google Scholar
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    The term is Derrida’s (o.c., pp. 118ff.: “Of Transcendental Violence”).Google Scholar
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    Schizophrenic psychosis is precisely the absence of that first Gestalt be it in the form of a mirror image through which proximity and distance are simultaneously and for the first time instituted. Cf. A. De Waelhens, Schizophrenia: A Philosophical Reflection on Lacan’s Structuralist Interpretation (transl. W. Ver Eecke), Pittsburgh, Duquesne U.P., 1978.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cf. again T. Lemaire, De Indiaan…, o.c., p. 299: “In order to know the Indian outside me, I must have become an Indian for myself, but the latter is perhaps the distorted form of the former” — my italics to indicate the empiricization of a transcendental problematic.Google Scholar
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    M. Leiris, L’Afrique fantôme, Paris, Gallimard (TEL), 1981, p. 260 (note from 31-3-1932).Google Scholar
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    J. Baudrillard, La Transparence du Mal. Essai sur les phénomènes extrêmes, Paris, Galilée, 1990, pp. 129, 133.Google Scholar
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    Cf. the texts in Husserliana XV (cited in note 38) and the announcement of this problematic in CM 159-63 with regard to the so-called “Analytik der höheren intersubjektiven Gemeinschaften”. For this transposition see Kl. Held, ‘Heimwelt, Fremdwelt, die eine Welt’, Phänomenologische Forschungen Bd. 24/25: Perspektiven und Probleme der Husserlschen Phänomenologie. Beiträge zur neueren Husserl-Forschung, 1991, pp. 305-37, which has inspired me for what follows.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Kl. Held, l.c., pp.327ff.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    This example is from B. Waldenfels, Der Stachel des Fremden, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 1990, p. 63.Google Scholar
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    I. Hacking, Representing and Intervening, Cambridge U.P., 1990, pp. 69-72.Google Scholar
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    J. Baudrillard, La Transparence du Mal, o.c., p. 153.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    M. Theunissen coined this expression with reference to Husserl’s letter to Georg Misch (16-11-1930) where he speaks of a “transcendental relativierenden ‘Phän [omenologie]’” (Der Andere. Studien zur Sozialontologie der Gegenwart, Berlin, W. de Gruyter, 1965, p. 34). I would not have been so confident in pushing Husserl to this extent, had I, at the time of writing these lines, already been able to read Anthony Steinbock’s impressive Home and Beyond. Generative Phenomenology after Husserl, Evanston Ill., Northwestern U.P., 1995.Google Scholar
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    J. Kristeva, Strangers To Ourselves, New York/London/Toronto, Harvester Wheat-sheaf, 1991, p. 192 (transl. altered): “The foreign is within me, hence we are all foreigners. If I am a foreigner, there are no foreigners”; what I have italicized should be read as follows: there are foreigners already, and it appears that the foreign is within me also, so we are all foreigners and there are no foreigners. I challenge both the premise (“there are foreigners already”) and the conclusion (“there are no more foreigners”) for reasons which are given below (cf. infra on the logic of attachment and the illusion of content).Google Scholar
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    Cl. Lévi-Strauss, ‘Diogène Couché’, Les Temps Modernes, 1955 (10:110), p. 1217.Google Scholar
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    Anthropologie Structurale, s.l., Plon, 1958, pp. 409-10, quoted in M. Hénaff, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Paris, Pierre Belfond, 1991, (p. 32) from which the entire first chapter, ‘L’anthropologue, l’Occident et les autres’, is relevant here.Google Scholar
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    BT 104/74. On this problematic of the “Unauffälligkeit” and the relation to “Eigentlichkeit”, see chapter 1 above.Google Scholar
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    M. Heidegger, Was heiβt Denken?, Tübingen, M. Niemeyer, 1954, p. 4: “die Wissenschaft denkt nicht (…) und zwar zu ihrem Glück”.Google Scholar
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    La Transparence du Mal, o.c., p. 156.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Ibid., p. 180.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    One finds both reactions in the Husserl literature. For an example of the first type: E. Holenstein, ‘Europa und die Menschheit. Zu Husserls kulturphilosophischen Meditationen’, in Chr. Jamme-O. Pöggeler (eds.), Phänomenologie im Widerstreit. Zum 50. Todestag Edmund Husserls, Frankfurt a.M., Suhrkamp, 1989, pp. 40-64; for the second type: D. Lohmar, ‘Home-world and foreign ethos: a phenomenological attempt to solve ethical problems of intercultural exchange’, Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, 1992(9:3), pp. 73-87.Google Scholar

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