Bettina Brockmeyer: Colonizing Bodies: German Structures, African Experiences?

As postcolonial studies have emphasised, colonialism was an ongoing, never completed process, a “political project” (Ann Laura Stoler). In order to enrich the approach of ‘making’ or ‘doing’ colonialism it seems to be promising to look at the project of colonialism from a praxeological perspective focussing on bodies. In placing emphasis on the colonizer’s bodies, on body perceptions, narrated practices, and the emergence of bodies in sources from the period of the German colonies in Africa the “colonial situation” (Georges Balandier) will be analyzed looking at its fragile, shifting, violent and asymmetrical character.

This paper focuses on the perceptions of two German colonizers in the early 20th century, a colonial clerk and a military officer’s wife and planter. It analyses several everyday practices these man and women were in. Unlike most research concerning the colonial everyday life and intimacy the paper does not concentrate on sexuality or/and violence but on work and lifestyle. The paper tries a resistant reading of the colonizers’ self-descriptions, which construct a narrative about the domestication of African experiences through German structures. It thus wants to present, apart from the overall pervasion of violence, a highly physical setting of power relations – a setting that subsequently has been deleted from the colonial archives.