Africa Observed

Excerpted from Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume 1, Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in Colonial South Africa (1991), this analysis of early to mid-nineteenth century European images of Africa explores the ways in which the “dark” continent was represented in scientific, religious, and secular public discourse as a foil to emerging concepts of modernity and enlightenment, as their negative underside. It traces the rise of racist evolutionary models of the human condition and their moralizing corollaries, contemporary arguments about slavery and abolition, emerging religious and secular sensibilities concerning savagery, civilization, and salvation, personhood and reason; in short, discourses of the imperial imagination that constructed Africa as fertile ground for colonization.