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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Dirty Whites: 'Ruffian-writing' in colonial West Africa
Author:Newell, StephanieISNI
Periodical:Research in African Literatures
Geographic term:West Africa
Subjects:popular literature
colonial period
External link:http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/research_in_african_literatures/v039/39.4.newell.pdf
Abstract:This article examines the ways in which 19th-century popular literary genres, such as the explorer's narrative and the colonial memoir, were utilized and adapted by an unexpected constituency of writers: white working-class traders, or 'white ruffians', at palm oil stations in the Niger Delta. It analyses a range of palm oil traders' literary works, published between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These works contribute in two ways to the cultural history of the imperial encounter in West Africa. First, the traders' commentaries on African societies are built on continuous comparisons with metropolitan culture. Second, the traders' efforts to understand local tastes and patterns of consumption furnish us with rare - if often confused and prejudiced - information about the social and material effects of the palm oil trade on West African communities. These instances of white working-class writing reveal the ways in which some European traders in Africa developed techniques of literary expression that extend conventional readings of imperial popular literature. The article focuses in detail on two texts by J.M. Stuart-Young, who attempted to reconcile opposing masculine types by introducing a new sensitivity and poetic creativity to the negative popular image of the palm oil trader. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract, edited]