Reading and Resisting Representations of Black Africans in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

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Victoria Cowan


This article adapts feminist critic Judith Fetterley’s articulation of resistant reading to the colonial context in order to perform a racially ethical reading of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Adapting a feminist practice of resistant reading to the colonial context is possible because of the ways in which the structures of patriarchal and colonialist discourses are homologous. This article approaches Conrad’s text as a piece of colonialist discourse by tracing the ways in the Congolese people are represented as wild, dark, animalistic, and incomplete. Employing this methodology is useful, indeed arguably essential, for reading Conrad’s representations of black Africans in his novella because doing so hinders the perpetuation of a debilitating, dehumanizing discourse “in which the very humanity of black people is called into question” (Achebe 346).