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In Colonial Impotence, Benoît Henriet studies the violent contradictions of colonial rule from the standpoint of the Leverville concession, Belgian Congo’s largest palm oil exploitation. Leverville was imagined as a benevolent tropical utopia, whose Congolese workers would be "civilized" through a paternalist machinery. However, the concession was marred by inefficiency, endemic corruption and intrinsic brutality. Colonial agents in the field could be seen as impotent, for they were both unable and unwilling to perform as expected. This book offers a new take on the joint experience of colonialism and capitalism in Southwest Congo, and sheds light on their impact on local environments, bodies, societies and cosmogonies.
Benoît Henriet, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.
"This is a major contribution to the historiography of colonial central Africa and the growing literature on the concessionary model used in many different colonial contexts." – Jeremy Rich, Professor of History, Marywood University
"This compelling book unveils the importance of hubris and self-deception in the deployment of colonial capitalism. Henriet recreates Leverville as a capitalistic site and a matrix of emotions and affects, of virtuous excesses and moral failures. His concept of 'impotence,' broadly conceptualized as a sexual, social, political, and economic formation, is an important addition to our knowledge of relations of power in the colony." – Florence Bernault, Centre d'histoire, Sciences Po (Paris)
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