Commit bd594bea authored by ana's avatar ana
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not repeating horrors but still being explicit

parent c7a54dc2
......@@ -7,7 +7,7 @@ This omissum is an attempt to address a blindspot in [this publication][^1], and
Otlet has produced racist statements throughout his career. Such statements are usually, if mentioned at all, treated as insignificant details which play no role in his vast positivist project. They are not allowed to cast a shadow on his rationalist quest for the emancipation of humanity. This same rationalism though, never brought Otlet to question the prejudices that he consistently proposed in his work.
This omissum wants to reorient the general impression to which also [this publication] has contributed, and finally take serious the complicated but coherent relation Otlet had with issues of race. At several occasions, Otlet dressed up racist statements as scientific facts, starting with his description of 'barbarism in Africa' (in 'L'Afrique Aux Noirs' that was written in 1888, at the beginning of his career) or when he explained the supposed inferior size of the 'negro skull' (in 'Monde', written in 1935, near the end of his life). His apparently benevolent interest in advancing 'The African Issue' was fuelled by a firm conviction of the superiority of European culture and intelligence. It neatly fitted the Enlightenment project that he was dedicated to and aligned with his self-identification as a liberal, a universalist and a pacifist.
This omissum wants to reorient the general impression to which also [this publication] has contributed, and finally take serious the complicated but coherent relation Otlet had with issues of race. At several occasions, Otlet published racist statements dressed up as scientific facts, starting at the beginning of his career with "L'Afrique Aux Noirs" (1888) where he argued that white people or 'westernized' blacks were to be tasked with 'civilising' Africa. Similarly, in "Monde" (1935), near the end of his life, he claimed the biological superiority of white people. His apparently benevolent interest in advancing 'The African Issue' was fuelled by a firm conviction of the superiority of European culture and intelligence. It neatly fitted the Enlightenment project that he was dedicated to and aligned with his self-identification as a liberal, a universalist and a pacifist.
Otlet's organisational support to the 1921 Pan-African Congress at the Palais Mondial (later: Mundaneum) needs to be considered in connection with the racist slur that he published both before and after the event.[^2] To say that these different conducts are the result of Otlet being a complicated figure would be an undeserved indulgence, seeing the violence of his statements and their continuity in his work. As Elodie Mugrefya argues in 'Omission and validation', we also need to stop using arguments that apologise for Otlet and his vicuous remarks, as if they would be "a reflection of an era and not of a man".[^3]
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