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.
Shock Talk and Flywhisks
This chapter continues the heuristic of two states. Here, they clash. The biopolitical dimension has Dr. Schwers sent by Governor General Pierre Ryckmans on a special research mission in 1937 to understand the causes of the low birth rate in Equateur. Schwers’s discourse mixes dread with shock-based degenerationism, with a reluctance before venereal and endocrinological theorizing. About the same time, people and groups from Basankusu to Ingende organize a new mobile medicinal charm, Likili, especially devoted to helping men and women with infertility problems. They dance with flywhisks. During Schwers’s tour, when a district doctor also does clinical research in villages, Likili persons threaten him with dancing gestures, wielding flywhisks, and suggest he and colonial medicine should be swept away. Schwers’s report is poorly received in Brussels; the quality of his research is questioned, as is the lack of gonorrhea findings.