Blogging the Bookshelf

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African Paternalism – “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters”, Jason Stearns

August 17th, 2011 · No Comments · Africa, Colonialism, Congo, History, Journalism, Newspapers, The Media

There is a long history of taking pictures and stories from Central Africa out of context. In 1904, an American missionary brought Ota Benga, a pygmy from the central Congo, to the United States. He was placed in the monkey house at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, where his filed teeth, disproportionate limbs and tricks helped attract 40,000 visitors a day. He was exhibited alongside an orangutan, with whom he performed tricks, in order to emphasize Africans’ similarities with apes. An editorial in the New York Times, rejecting calls for his release, remarked that “pygmies are very low in the human scale…. The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.

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