Skip to main content
School of History

HST6737 – The 'Heart of Darkness'? Identity, Power and Politics in the Congo c.1870-2010

Module code: HST6737

Credits: 60
Semester: YEAR

Module Convenor: Dr Reuben Loffman

This module challenges conceptions of Central Africa as the Heart of Darkness, a place disconnected from civilization and unintelligible to all save for the hardened anthropologist. It starts during the intensification of European encounters in the region from late nineteenth-century and ends by covering the most deadly conflicts since the Second World War. It engages with broad historical questions relating to ethnic formation, violence, international development, and the mission encounter. To reveal the complexities involved in power relations in the Congo, this module will make use of a vast array of different kinds of sources from a range of cultural perspectives, such as literary accounts, photographs, and film, and will investigate Central African history in a global context. This module MUST be taken in conjunction with HST6700 History Research Dissertation.

Dissertation Pathways

This module offers a number of dissertation pathways. Options include, but are not limited to, the following topics, namely: (1) the activities of Protestant and Catholic missionaries in the Congo and the ways in which they perceived African societies over time, interacted with colonial officials, and shaped colonial statehood; (2) the ways in which British government relations with the Congo Free State and the Belgian Congo shaped both states and their successors; (3) relations between the United States and successive Congolese states; (4) the activities of mercenaries in the Congo during decolonisation; (5) development projects in the Congo; (6) international responses to the Congo Wars.

Indicative Readings

David Van Reybrouck, Congo: The Epic History of a People (London: Ecco Press, 2014); Kevin Dunn, Imagining the Congo: The International Relations of Identity (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Jan Vansina, Being Colonized: The Kuba Experience in Rural Congo, 1880-1960 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2010); Tom Reefe, The Rainbow and the Kings: A History of the Luba Empire to 1891 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Nancy Rose-Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).

Assessment: Essay 1 12.5%, Essay 2 12.5%, Exam 25%, Dissertation 50%
Level: 6