A History of Encounter, an Encounter with History, The Emil Torday Expedition 1907-1909

Sheppard, Rebekah (2017) A History of Encounter, an Encounter with History, The Emil Torday Expedition 1907-1909. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the historical context of the 1907-1909 Emil Torday Expedition. This expedition spanned two years, and culminated in formative publications and museum collections in the anthropology, art history, geography and history of Central Africa, lynchpins of the historiography and narratives of Central Africa that followed.

With newly uncovered archival material, the conditioning and methodological development of an anthropologist and collector (Emil Torday) is re-evaluated. The first chapter is a re-examination of the historical and theoretical context that characterised Torday�s work. Chapter Two includes an historical overview of the Congo and the areas relevant to this thesis, as well as the biographies of the expedition members. A close reading of the historical context in which Torday operated in early colonial Congo Free State and the Belgian Congo (1900-1905) has led to the discoveries outlined in Chapter Three about the nature of generating information through trading in the Kasai, and the role of the amateur ethnographer (Torday in his earlier years). Through archival research, Chapter Three extends the historical context of Chapter Two about the nature of annexation, trade, exploration and colonisation before the expedition reached the Kasai region in 1907.

The remaining chapters outline the encounters during the expedition among various peoples in the Kasai region in what was formerly known as the Belgian Congo. Given the transition in methods of the expedition members, and the varied reception among each of these Congolese hosts, these chapters work chronologically in order to examine the way in which specific encounters generate historical sources. Chapter Five unpicks the intricacies in the collection of the much-famed ndop (royal sculptures), and the involvement of local elites and their oral histories in the making of Central African history. Following this chapter, a microscopic look at three months spent among the Lele people, neighbours and claimed relations of the Kuba-Bushong, revises this history, and extends our observations about the nature of collecting, trade and exchange (of artefacts and information) in the absence of visible authority (both local and colonial). By examining in detail Torday�s methods in this part of the expedition, evidence of his continuing development of narratives which follow a Kuba vision of Kasai history and cosmology becomes apparent. Torday worked with these elites in order to mute the influence of a European, or European-related presence, to present the Lele people and their lands as a pristine culture, untainted by foreign influence. The final chapter looks to revise this Kuba vision of a �glorious� past that reflected dominance over their neighbours (the Lele). This final chapter looks at the encounter with the Chokwe traders, who had been present and dominant in the Kasai trade networks in the years before European presence.

The thesis in its entirety examines the nature of historical and anthropological evidence/knowledge; how and why this is generated in a given context. The aims of this thesis are to engage with the way in which sources are produced in conjunction with local people and the way in which archives, museums and collections are made through the process of fieldwork, trade, photography and exchange before they reach these destinations. As Torday and his sources have been (and continue to be) formative in the historical and anthropological discourse of the area since their inception, this thesis will enrich the studies of scholars wishing to engage with Torday�s data, as well as uncover the wider methodological concerns of the genesis of historical sources in conjunction with African agents.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2018 09:18
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2018 09:18
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/67861
DOI:

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