A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo
Nancy Rose Hunt is Professor of History at the University of Michigan, and the author of the prizewinning A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo, also published by Duke University Press.
Maria N’koi is identified with a healing template for nervousness, with trembling trees. This healer provoked insurgency when conscription for Great War battles disturbed. Two territories conflicted when soldiers marched through embattled cannabis fields to storm her shrine. An administrator with wife avoided confrontation with this woman of leopards and hens. The rebellion involved hundreds on the move who heard: stop collecting copal, wait before massacring whites, and know Germani as ancestral allies. They sought her charms; the uprising halted taxation and copal economies. Maria N’koi underwent arrest, becoming a rélegué who underwent security removal. Variants from archives and memory work include a spurned wife who underwent leopard attack (spirit possession) before producing crowds. A Belgian magistrate of letters aligned her with history, violence, porterage, and rape, psychiatric and venereal stigmata. While the nervous state loomed, the biopolitical appeared as absence: She condemned sleeping sickness as a European import threatening extinction.