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Sandhu, Hana Lisa (2021) Anticolonial imaginaries in the ‘failed state’: epistemic violence and the representation of the Congo in cultural discourse. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This research critiques the contemporary representation of the Congo as a ‘failed’ or ‘invisible’ state and argues that this discourse continues in the tradition of epistemic violence fundamental to European colonial history in the Congo and Africa more generally. The idea of the ‘failed state’ crucially silences histories of anticolonial struggle as well as neo-colonial sabotage of Congolese independence through the creation of a (post)colonial state steadfastly inhered within the systems of economic and political control established through Belgian colonization. By erasing this history of neo-coloniality and foreign interference, we have witnessed the re-inscription of imperialist discourses of primordialism, chaos and violence as the permanent condition of the Congo across different forms of cultural discourse such as the media, travel literature and cinema in the post-independence period. In this reading, the ‘failure’ of the Congo is not seen as something constructed through the politics of neocoloniality and the extractive logic of global capitalism but rather as the inevitable fate of the African body politic in the contemporary world order. At this point of epistemic erasure therefore, my thesis draws on a range of texts (literary, visual, archival) that constitute resistant and alternative forms of knowledge production to the dominant mode of discourse. In this way, I construct an alternative archive of the so-called ‘failed state’ demonstrating the continuous history of resistance and struggle against the material extractions and epistemic erasures of colonialism and global capital in the Congo. Approaching the discourse of the ‘failed state’ as an ideological site of power and knowledge production, I critically examine contemporary Congolese fiction, Patrice Lumumba’s speeches, performance art and visual artefacts that rewrite the ‘failed state’ and produce alternative imaginaries and anticolonial visions of the Congo in the political present.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2022 16:06

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