"There was, however, a savage wildness that could only impress us with forebodings respecting Mr. Farewell and his party, of whom we were in search, which led us to apprehend that they had all fallen by the savage hands of the tribes who might occasionally visit the coast." - Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa: Descriptive of the Zoolus, Their Manners, and Customs, Vol. 1 (1836, p. 10)
As I critically examine key examples of thought and discourse from this period together with my students, we are additionally drawing crucial connections to the rise of the zombie in U.S. American popular culture. This week, we examined excerpts from each of Isaacs' and Darwin's popular pieces. This was for my ongoing Spring 2016 course, Languages of Fear, Racism, and Zombies. In class, I guided students in using critical discourse analysis to examine these important texts.
- "scary sh*t"
- "ludicrous distortions"
Students also took particular note of the ways in which Isaacs (1836) detailed people he encountered after being shipwrecked on the shores of the Zulu Nation, in areas that would later become colonial South Africa:
- "wild natives"
- "Hottentot - the civilized African"
"...The inference was that they had all been sacrificed by the ferocious natives...to suffer every species of inhuman treatment, or to be sold as slaves."
- Travels and Adventures in Eastern Africa, Vol. 1 (1836, p. 16)
It became increasingly fascinating to consider how Isaacs, a British national who sought his fortune by trading in goods and enslaved Africans, could describe the Africans who helped him survive his shipwreck in such fearful terms. Who knew the slaver's worst fear was to be himself enslaved!
We drew connections to our earlier discussions of the Wild Man of the European Renaissance court, to Bear Gryll's Man vs. Wild series, the tragic story of Saartje Baartman, and the continuing construction of the Other through narratives of survival horror.