Cover image for Out of our minds : reason and madness in the exploration of Central Africa : the Ad. E. Jensen lectures at the Frobenius Institut, University of Frankfurt
Out of our minds : reason and madness in the exploration of Central Africa : the Ad. E. Jensen lectures at the Frobenius Institut, University of Frankfurt
Fabian, Johannes.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xiv, 320 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Travel, exploration, and occupation -- Living and dying -- Drives, emotions, and moods -- Things, sounds, and spectacles -- Communicating and commanding -- Charisma, cannabis, and crossing Africa: explorers in the land of friendship -- Making knowledge: the senses and cognition -- Making sense: knowledge and understanding -- Presence and representation.
Reading Level:
1360 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN17.3.A352 F33 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Explorers and ethnographers in Africa during the period of colonial expansion are usually assumed to have been guided by rational aims such as the desire for scientific knowledge, fame, or financial gain. This book, the culmination of many years of research on nineteenth-century exploration in Central Africa, provides a new view of those early European explorers and their encounters with Africans. Out of Our Minds shows explorers were far from rational--often meeting their hosts in extraordinary states influenced by opiates, alcohol, sex, fever, fatigue, and violence. Johannes Fabian presents fascinating and little-known source material, and points to its implications for our understanding of the beginnings of modern colonization. At the same time, he makes an important contribution to current debates about the intellectual origins and nature of anthropological inquiry.

Drawing on travel accounts--most of them Belgian and German--published between 1878 and the start of World War I, Fabian describes encounters between European travelers and the Africans they met. He argues that the loss of control experienced by these early travelers actually served to enhance cross-cultural understanding, allowing the foreigners to make sense of strange facts and customs. Fabian's provocative findings contribute to a critique of narrowly scientific or rationalistic visions of ethnography, illuminating the relationship between travel and intercultural understanding, as well as between imperialism and ethnographic knowledge.

Author Notes

Johannes Fabian is Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire (California, 1996) and Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (1983), among other works.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Fabian, a Dutch anthropologist who did fieldwork in southeastern Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), critically examines the nature and long-term impact of early European exploration of Central Africa. Fabian's goal is to "use the exploration of Central Africa as a historical detour toward critical reflection on the processes of ethnographic knowledge." Through his insightful reading and careful analysis of the journals and reports of a selected number of mainly German and Belgian explorers describing their encounter with "the African Other," the author seeks to uncover the roots of the complex and unhappy relationship most commonly expressed in the encounter of an "Enlightened Europe" with a "Dark Africa." Fabian's critique of the "myth" of Western scientific rationality, which was used to justify the exploration and later colonization of Africa, and his reflections about the proper role of ethnography in a postcolonial age both reflect and contribute to an ongoing intellectual debate in anthropology and cultural studies about the politics of ethnographic representation. Graduate students and researchers. A. Rassam; CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Illustrationsp. ix
Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. xi
1 Introductionp. 1
2 Travel, Exploration, and Occupationp. 23
3 Living and Dyingp. 52
4 Drives, Emotions, and Moodsp. 78
5 Things, Sounds, and Spectaclesp. 102
6 Communicating and Commandingp. 128
7 Explorers in the Land of Friendshipp. 151
8 The Senses and Cognitionp. 180
9 Knowledge and Understandingp. 209
10 Presence and Representationp. 240
11 Epiloguep. 271
Appendix: Some Overviewsp. 283
Notesp. 287
Bibliographyp. 303
Indexp. 311