Hochschild's Ghost Analysis

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Topic: How did the Belgians imagine the Congolese as a species other than themselves, and how did this cultural construction of “race” allow them to do things that seem (to us) radically inconsistent with the tenets of nineteenth-century Liberalism? Additionally, What other factors attribute to the late reaction to King Leopold’s atrocities?

A modern reading of Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost creates an outrage because of the atrocities that freely occurred during colonialism. However, those who lived through this dark time 19th century were not quick to object to much of the “civilizing” that was occurring, infact many were for it. The Belgians, had imagined a culture of “foreign animals” that was so deeply ingrained in their colonial
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According to the law, companies like the Dutch East India Trading Company, could act as sovereign nations when making treaties with other nations. This would apply as well to Africans tribes. Contracts by the Association and other shell companies were signed in the benefit for Leopold, Then those contracts allowed for Leopold to have the rights to the land and people of the newly created Congo. The contract rights in this context are used incorrectly, but the logic behind them is sound at that time. The contract at this time is not void if the tribesmen don’t understand the language it is written in and its significance. This creates another mental justification for violating Africans rights while somehow not the principles of Liberalism.

King Leopold and many Europeans rationalized the violation of Liberalism for civilizing or practical reasons and sometimes both. When reading King Leopold’s Ghost, the reader is informed of the hoops that Leopold went through in order create a nation that rivaled its neighbors. It took the perseverance of many to not only bring down Leopold but to even open a dialogue with the people of “enlightened” nations to condemn a blatant
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