In the wake of Chinua Achebe's critique of Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist,” much has been said about race in Heart of Darkness; and yet, so far, the anthropological meaning of the rituals Conrad describes has tended to remain unexplored. “A Picture of Europe” reopens the race dossier by considering Conrad's images of frenzy as a representation of what religious anthropologists now call “possession trance.” This essay argues that Conrad's artistic insights into possession trance cannot simply be dismissed as a distorting image of Africa but emerge out of a carefully crafted picture of Europe—that is, a mimetic picture that struggles to make us see the horrors that ensue when massive forms of ritual frenzy break out, not so much at the heart of Africa but at the heart of Europe instead. It is this essay's contention that the terms of the race debate need to be reframed in light of this mimetic realization.
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Nidesh Lawtoo; A Picture of Europe: Possession Trance in Heart of Darkness. Novel 1 November 2012; 45 (3): 409–432. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1723025
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