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.
An unnerving Busira uprising closely followed Simon Kimbangu’s 1921 arrest. By 1930, tensions were flying around economic depression and risks of revolt. The two-state heuristic shapes analysis. The biopolitical state entered with a vengeance about 1930, with doctors touring regarding the birth rate and venereal disease. The nervous state was tracking dissent in a context where many lost jobs and labor conditions worsened. How the slump affected lives and moods is demonstrated, from Europeans to hcb workers. The nervous state interrogates urbane lumberjacks about a Wangata chief, rumored likely to raise the American rather than the Belgian flag at holiday time. Also under investigation was a Kimbangu-like man under hospital (psychiatric) observation and a métisse woman with a pleasure-seeking, dance and fashion association, Amicale. The security shakedown in Coquilhatville went with fears about physical and intellectual mobilities; Garveyite, Kimbanguist, and Communist ideas; and shipworkers exposed to political concepts in Antwerp.