Accepted paper:

The colors of the Congo and the Thames


Vassil Anastassov (Independent scholar)

Paper short abstract:

The panel sheds new light on the controversial problems of colonization/decolonization as presented in both African and Non-African literatures. It triggers a new perspective on the debate, ignited by Chinua Achebe regarding the "racism" of Joseph Conrad.

Paper long abstract:

The paper gets back to the old, heated debate, ignited by Chinua Achebe, on the "racist" character of Joseph Conrad's representation of colonial Africa in "Heart of Darkness". The research refers to the binarism of "black" and "white" or "dark" and "bright" in the novel, as used by Achebe in support of his criticism of Conrad. It further deconstructs the triviality of the antagonism by pointing at these moments in the work of the British-Polish writer that reveal his intention to offer a relatively objective analysis of 19 century "white" colonialism in Africa. The claim is that Joseph Conrad did not draw a polarized "black": "non-black" image of the world, but, instead, assumed a historically equal beginning for humanity, eagerly asking himself about the reasons for the existing drastic imbalance. All of the above sheds new light on both the message of "Heart of Darkness” and the criticism of Chinua Achebe, relocating the whole dispute on a different plain, with parallels to the Nigerian writer's "Things Fall Apart" and Le Clézio's "Onitsha".

panel P19
African colonization and decolonization in li̇terature