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Imaging Terra Incognita: The Disciplinary Gaze of Empire

THEGENEALOGY OF CINEMA The beginnings of the cinema, as is well known, coincided with the height of imperialism. From the ethnographic tours of the Edison and Lumi5res cameramen through the adventure tales of the Tarzan series to the scientific missions of Indiana Jones, dominant cinema not only inherited and disseminated colonial discourse, but also created a system of dominai l m distribution and exhibition in tion through monopolistic control of f much of Asia, Afiica and the Americas. Major figures in the articulation of anticolonial and postcolonial discourse, not surprisingly, return time and again to the scene of cinema, locating its reverberations in the imaginary of their respective communities. Frantz Fanon, Haile Gerirna and Edward Said, for example, have all spoken of the impact of Tarzan, Gerima in particular recalling the crisis of identity experienced by an Ethiopian child watching Johnny Weissmuller cleanse the dark continent of its inhabitants. Any attempt to articulate questions of cultural identity and to discuss oppositional political discourse in the twentieth century therefore cannot ignore the major role of cinema and television in projecting imagined communities, subtly inflecting the everyday negotiation of identities across the globe. Western popular culture, I argue here, forms part of the same Eurocentric discursive continuum that includes such disciplines as geography, historiography, anthropology,archeology and philosophy, all of which have at times been instrumental in dispossessing the subaltern of authority over knowIedge and identity. From the ethnographic projections of f i l m ssuch as
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The Sheik (1921) and Bird o f Paradise (1932) to the spectacular historiogf Arabia (1962), from the fantastic archeological tale of raphy of Lawrence o The Mummy (1932) and The MummysHand (1940) to the Egyptological mission of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), hegemonic Western representation has been fundamentally locked into a series of Eurocentric articulations of power, despite some differences having to do with time period and specific situations. Cinemasmimetic qualities-its construction of a kinetic and auditory three-dimensional space as well as its projection of different temporalities (the past of the Western, the future of science fictionj have foregrounded and popularized its representational authority (particularly prior to the advent of television). Given the availability and accessibility of Western cinema and television, the notions of self and other in the post/colonial world have been both internalized and resisted in relation to these familiar representations. Forthright oppositional critiques (Ariel DorfmansHow to Read Donald Duck), the critiques of existing institutions (Amaldo Jabors Jack Valentis Brazilian Agenda) and expressions of ambivalence, combining mimicry and resistance (Manuel Puigs book Betrayed By Rita Hayworth, Youssef Shahins Egyptian film Alexandria Why? [19791and Wayne Wangs f i l m Life is Cheap [19901)have often been articulated in relation to mass-mediated symbols of domination and desire, power and pleasure. Cinema, itself the product of Western scientific discoveries, paid considerable attention to the master narrative of the progress of Western civilization (for example, through colonial narratives and biographical films about scientists), thus implicitly celebrating its own existence. However, cinema has not simply articulated itself as the product of-science,but has also positioned itself as the practitioner of a new interdisciplinary science that could make other worlds accessible. It could chart a map of the world, like the cartographer; it could tell stones and chronicle events, like the historiographer, it could dig into the past of distant civilizations, like the archeologist; and it could narrate the customs and habits of exotic peoples, like the ethnographer. Speaking in the voice of a pedagogue, dominant Westem cinema could claim to initiate the Western spectator into unknown cultures, projected as lived (in line with nineteenth-century assessments such as Hegels) outside of history. Cinema has thus operated as an epistemological mediator between two spaces-that of the Western spectator and that of the culture represented on the screen-linking two distinct loci

Imaging Terra Incognita


and figurally separate temporalities in one moment of exposure. The initially allochronic (Johannes Fabian) disjunctures between the other and the Western speaking subject are transcended on the immediate narrative level through rescue phantasies of otherized civilizations. In implicit contrast to the inaccessible elite arts and sciences, the cinema itself transfonns the initially unknown nuzppu rnundi, through its popularizing mimetic apparatus, into a comprehensible and palpable world.1 The invention of cinema is deeply rooted in seemingly schizophrenic social origins: in the high culture of science, on the one hand, and in the low culture of traveling popular shows, on the other. The flying balloon of
The binarist and essentialist subject positioning in dominant cinema, when analyzed through the conceptual grid of gender, race and nation, has immense implications for any attempt to capture the politics undergirding the utterance of subaltern identities. Since the sixties, resistant cinema and video have raised crucial questions around the cultural politics of gender, race and nation, largely through the deconstruction and displacement of dominant cinematic, narrative, generic and cultural codes, as well as through attempts at establishing alternative channels of distribution and exhibition. Third World and o re-write their own histories, taking control over minority filmmakers have attempted t their images, speaking in their own voices vis-8-vis the dominant media, and formulating an alternative film language. Counternarratives have tried to create a different sense of closure through the reconstruction of a lost identity and the retrieval of a collective identity prior to its contaminationby the West, or the White world (Haile Gerimas Ethiopia: Harvest Three Thousand Years, Ousmane Sembenes Ceddo, Ayoka Chenziras Hairpiece: A Filmfor Nappy-Headed People), and more recently through an emphasis on syncretism and hybridity (Tracey Moffats Nice Coloured Girls, Hanif Kureishis Sammy and Rosie Get Lad) as the condition of the postmodern metropolis in which communities are subjected t o permeable boundaries of identity. Despite the fact that cinema studies as a discipline was formed in the late 1960s and early 197Os, operating within a critical discursive realm, it has not challenged its methods from a multicultural perspective. The Marxist analyses of class and the feminist analyses of gender issues within cinema studies have generally failed to theorize deeply the contradictions among the various subaltern identities. Although recent feminist film theory has acknowledged the issue of differences among women, there has been little attempt to explore and problematize the implications of these differences for the representation of gender relations within racially and culturally nonhomogenous textual environments. While implicitly universalizing womanhood, and without questioning the undergirding racial and national boundaries of its discourse, feminist film theory, for the most part, has not articulated its generally insightful analyses v i s - h i s the contradictions and asymmetries provoked by (post)colonial arrangements of power. The critique of colonialism within cinema studies, meanwhile, has tended to downplay the significance of gender issues, thus eliding the fact that @ost)colonial discourse has impinged differently on men and on women. It is between these two major theoretical frameworks that my essay is situated, attempting to synthesize feminist and postcolonial cultural critiques and addressing them within the specificitiesof the filmic medium.


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Around the WorZd in 80 Days (1956),used for circling the world, is, not coincidentally, also the site of spectacle for enthusiastic Parisians, positing Europe as the locus of beginnings and closures for the narrative of science. The desire of science to expand its areas of knowledge and regions of research (paradoxically,through the increasing hgmentation of knowledge) coincided w i t h and was linked to imperial expansion. Science, at the same time, constituted an important theme of worlds fairs, which since the midnineteenth century have become the international (i.e., First World) tradepromoting enterprise of displaying industrial and artistic production, linked to the notion of reflecting cultural progress. The expositions that celebrated the discoveries of science also transformed scientific achievements, ranging from the Hottentot Venus to Edisons kinetoscope, into spectacle.

We may trace the genealogy of the discourse on scientific exploration to early colonial history, which inflected its contemporary companion, philosophy, in that epistemology partially modeled itself on geography. The traditional positing of science as masculine and nature as feminine-for examn s o f a ras we learn the laws of nature w u g h ple, Francis Bacons idea that i science, we become her master, as we are now, in ignorance, her t h r a l I s Q g a i n s , within the colonial context, clear geopolitical implications. Bacons desire for the expansion of scientific knowledge is inseparable from the contemporaneous European geographical expansion, a connection clearly suggested by his language of analogies and metaphors: [AJs the immense regions of the West Indies had never been discovered, if the use of the compass had not fust been known, it is no wonder that the discovery and advancement of arts hath made no greater progress, when the a r t of inventing and discovering of the sciences remains hitherto unknown.3 And Bacon finds it disgraceful that while the regions of the material globe ... have been in our times laid widely open and revealed, the intellectual globe should remain shut up within the narrow limits of old disc~veries.~
See Francis Bacon, Advancement of teaming and Novum Organum (New Y ork: The Colonial Press, 1899). Bacon, Advancemenr of Learning and Novum Novum Organwn, 135. Francis Bacon, Novum Organum. In The Works o f Francis Bacon, eds. James Spedding, Robert Ellis and Douglas Heath (London: Longmans, 1 8 7 0 ) , 82.

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beyond the Pillars of Hercules aims at the possibility of a terra incognita on the other side of the ocean. Systematizing the paths, as H a n s Blumenberg points out, guarantees that the accidents of things coming to light ultimately lead to a universal acquaintance with the world. So much had remained r o m the human spirit throughout many centuries and was disconcealed f covered neither by philosophy nor by the faculty of reason but rather by accident and favorable opportunity, because it was all too different and distant from what was familiar, so that no preconception (praenotio aliquu) could lead one to it? The logic of explorers from Robinson Crusoe to Indiana Jones is, in this sense, based on the hope that nature conceals in its womb still more, outside the familiar paths of the imagination (exrra v i a p h m tasiae). It is within this broader historical and intellectual context that we may understand the symptomatic image of an explorers penetration into a cave placed somewhere in a non-European land and the eventual discovery of that unknown, seen, for example, in the Rudyard Kipling-based The Jungle Book (19421, Raiders o f the Lost Ark (198 I), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and the E. M. Forster-based A Passage to India

Colonial namatives legitimized the search for treasure islands by lending a scientific aura to those quests, an aura encapsulated especially by images of maps and globes. Numerous narratives of penetrating new regions, involving detailed descriptions of maps, were inspired by the growing science of geography. The image-making of the land determined the significance of places through its power of inscription on the map with the compass on top as the signifier of scientific authority. The full tale of transforming the unknown into the known is provided through titles, captions, achorage, (cf. Roland Barthes), as well as through drawn images of the characters involved and the content of places. In a 1586map of America labeled Terra S eptemtrionalis Incognita, the cartographical representation of America is embedded in the writing of the history of the discovery. On the left top side of the map, a drawing of Columbus is juxtaposed with one of Queen Isabella. Underneath, the artist-cartographers conceptualization of the discovery points to its beginning w i t h a sailing ship, while the bottom shows Columbus and his missions encounter with the nude natives (largely female). Below it we read a caption in Latin: America annos Dm 1492 a
Hans Blumenberg, TheLegitimacy o f the Modern Age, trans. Robert Wallace (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983), 389.


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Christophoro Colombo nomine Regis Castello primum detecta (Columbus, who in the year 1492 was the first to have found America in the name of the King of Spain). The ordering of images on the left side suggests the story of the discovery that led to the possibility of the map on the right side. The representational achievements of cartography, in other words, are contextualized historically as the product of scientific discoveries (the sailing ship, the compass) and of heroic discoverers. The terra incognita of the description is made palpable to the observer through the image of the map, the consequence of these explorations. Images of savage animals and primitive people point to the content of the continent (in the land, sea and air). The imagery and the nominal inscriptions of places suggest the gradual mastery of the continent and underline the h i t s of the discovery and of the scientific advancement that opened the way for the new-found land. The narrative of mastery is finally metaphorized through the denuded native body, which occupies the space behind Columbus. Geography was microcosmically reflected in map-based adventures such as travel narratives and fiction of exploration, which involved the drawing or deciphering of a m a v f t e n used as an instrument for the telos of rescue-and its authentication through physical contact with the new r o m the earliest anthropological films through the land. Western cinema, f Indiana Jones series, has also relied on map imagery for plotting the Empire, while simultaneously celebrating its own technological power-implicitly, vis-5-vis the novels reliance upon words or static drawings, and later through Gill photographs-to illustrate vividly the topography with which the hero comes into touch. For example, venture-narrative f i l m s mark maps with moving arrows to signify the progress of the Westerner in his world-navigation, a practice characterizing even the recent Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple o f Doom. By associating itself w i t h the visual medium of maps, cinema represents itself as a twentiethcentuy continuation of the cartographic science. Films often superimpose illustrative maps over shots of landscapes, subliminally asserting a kind of claim over the land, functioning rather like a legal deed to property. Around the World in 80 Days explicitly feminizes national maps by placing images of native women on the backs of maps of specific countries. Referred to as she, the balloon used by the protagonist is called La Coquette. Similarly, King Solomons Mines (1937, 1950, 1985), as Anne McClintock points out in her discussion of Henry

Imaging Terra Incognita


Rider Haggards work, genderizes the relation between the explorer and his topography.6 Menahem Golans version, in particular, reveals in the second shot a small nude female sculpture engraved w i t h Canaanite signs, described by the archeologist to be a map leading to the twin mountains, the Breasts of Sheba, whose caves hide King Solomons diamond mines. The camera voyeuristically tilts down on the female body/map, scrutinizing it from the excited perspective of the archeologist and the antique dealer. The road to the utopia of capital involves the deciphering of the map, the comprehending of the female body; the legendary twin mountains and the cave metaphorize the desired goal of the heros mission of plunder. The geology and topography of the land are also explicitly sexualized to resemble the anatomy of a woman. The spectator is initiated into the enigmatic sites via the eroticized perspective of the hero and his female companion, the archeology professors daughter. The closure of reading the maps coded language and o f uncovering the lands hidden resources reproduce as well the parallel narrative telos of the constitution of the (white) couple.

The recurrent image of the spinning globe similarly entitles the scientist to possess the world, since the globe, as the worlds representation, allegorizes the relationship between creator and creation. Cinemas penchant for the spinning globe serves to celebrate the mediums kinetic possibilities as well as its global ubiquity, allowing spectators a cheap voyage while remaining in the metropolitan centers. This imperial mobility was already inaugurated in the Lumi5re brothers location shootings of diverse Third World sites such as India, Mexico, Egypt and Palestine, and catered to a symptomatic national-geographic mania. The globe logo virtually became f the British Korda associated with several studios (Universal, NO);and o brothers productions, many of which, such as Sanders of the River (1933, The Drum (1938), The Four Feathers (1939) and The Jungle Book, concerned colonial themes. More recently, as Robert Stam points out, television news has inherited and technically updated these tropes, using its

For a critique of Haggards King Solomns Mines and the sexualization of maps, see Anne McClintock, Maidens, Maps, and Mines: The Reinvention of Patriarchy in Colonial South Africa The South Atlantic Quarterly 87, no. 1 (1988).


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heterogenous resources-film, videotape, direct transmission-to the world:


John Cameron Swayze anticipated this globe-trotting motif ... by the exotically picaresque title of his Camel News Caravan, and contemporary news programs caIl attention to it by their spherical-line globes and i l l u m i n a t e d maps. We become, by Virtue of our subject-position, the audio-visual masters of the worldtelevision transforms us into armchair imperialists, flattering and reaffirming our sense of power?

Political crises can lead to further elaborationsof the covering trope. A recent special, ABCs A Line in the Surd, had Peter Jennings on top of and enveloped by a colorful political map of the Middle E a s t ,as a backdrop for historical and strategic analysis. The map provides the pretext for a pedagogical tour of the recent history of the Mddle E a s t ,buttressed by archival and contemporary direct transmissions f r o m around the Middle East, in a ~overing~ which is both temporal and spatial. The North American narrator literally steps on, sits on and looks down on the map, thus striding the narrow world like a colossus.7* Such overarching, global points of view, in both cinema and television, n t o a godlike cosmic perspective. Incorporatingimages suture the spectator i of maps and globes, the Jules Verne-based film Around the World in 80 Duys, for example, begins with its omniscient narrator hailing the shrinking of the world as Verne w a s writing the book. (The prelude to the film includes the mandatory prop of a globus made to spin for the camera.) The idea of shrinking relates the perspective of upper-class British men, whose scientific vision a b u t circling the world in eighty days is materialized. Nothing is impossible. When science finally conquers the air it may be feasible to circle the globe in eighty hours, says the David Niven character, thus impkitly linking the development of -scienceto imperialist control over much of the globe, which thereby becomes unproblematically available for the scientific conquest. Science, knowledge and technology can also be read allegoIically as linked to imperial expansionism in the films citation of Georges MtWss
Robert Stam, Television News and its Spectator, in Ann Kaplan, e d . , Regarding Television (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1983), 25. ABCs A fine in the Sand was broadcast on January 14,1991, a day before, U . S . deadline for the lraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

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1902 film Le Voyage dam la lune (based on Vernes 1865 book From the Earth to the Moon), in which the last frontier to be explored is first seen in the rockets phallic penetration of the rounded moon. (The feminine designation of moon in French, la lune, is reproduced by the feminine iconography of the moon.) This imagination of the last frontier, in a period when most of the world was dominated by Europe, recapitulates on another level the historical discourse of the first frontier. The frlmsnarrative is structured similarly to the colonial captivity narrative: the spear-carrying skeleton creatures burst from the moons simulacrum of a jungle and capture the explorers, only to be defeated by the d e explorersgunlike umbrellas, which magically eliminate the savage creatures. Such a film, not in any obvious sense about colonialism but produced in a period when most of the world w a s dominated by Europe, can thus be read as an analogue of imperial expansion? Similarly, in recent films such as Return of the Jedi (1983) the conquest of outer space exists on a continuum with a n imperial narrative in which the visualization of the planet provides the paradigm for representing the underdevelopment of the Third World (deserts, jungles and mountains). The Manichean relationship between the United Statianlo hero and the new land and its natives involves in Return o f the Jedi exotic creatures, teddybear-liie Ewoks whose language, typically of colonial films,remains unintelligible throughout the film. They worship the technologically wellequipped hero and defend him against evil, ugly creatures characterized by irrational, aggressive motives. The American heros physical and moral triumph legitimizes the destruction of the enemy, as does the paternal transformation of the fkiendly elements into servile objects, along with the heros assumed right to establish new outposts (and implicitly to hold on to old outposts, whether in Afiica, Asia or South America).
9 Georges Mti13ss filmography includes a relatively great number of films related to colonial explorations and Mentalist fantasies such as Le Fakir--Myst&e Indien (1896), Vente desclaves au harem (18971,Cleopatre (1899), La Vengeance & Bowidah (1901), Les Aventures de Robinson Cwoe (lWn), and Le Pulais des milles et une nuits (1905). Interestingly, M6liWs early fascination with spectacles dates back to his visits t o the Egyptian Hall shows, directed by Maskelyne and Cooke and devoted to fantastic spectacles. lo Although the adjective United Sturian i s not current in English, it seems t o me that there is a need for such an addition. As we know,the adjectiveAmerican excludes Central and South American nationalities. The adjective North American, common in Latin America, is somewhat problematic as well from a Canadian perspective. For this reason, I use quotation marks when referring to American as a signifier of nationality.


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In dominant cinema, the spectator is subliminally invited on an archeological and ethnographic tour of celluloid-preserved cultures. The voyage provided by the cinematic apparatus implicitly celebrates the chronotopic, magical aptitude of cinema for panoramic spectacle and temporal voyeurism, evoking Andre Bazins formulation of cinema as possessing a mummy cornplex.11 The filmic mummified zone of ancient civilizations,then, is dialectically linked to the representation of the historical role of the West in the imperial age. Reproducing Western historiography, the cinema narrates European and Em-American penetration into the Third World through the figure of the discoverer.* In most Western films about the colonies (such as Bird of Paradise, Wee Willie Winkie [1937], Black Narcissus [19471, The King and I [ 19S6],Lawrence of Arabia and even Bufiuels Robinson Crusoe [19541)we accompany, quite literally, the explorers perspective. A simple shift in focalization to that of the natives, as occurs in the Australian aboriginal Nice Coloured Girls (1987),13 or the Egyptian AZ Mumia (The Mummy, or The Night o f Counting the Years [1 9 6 9 ] ) , or the Brazilian Como Era Gostoso Meu FranCes (HowTasty Was My Frenchman [1970]), where the camera is placed on land with the natives rather than on ship with the Europeans, reveals the illusory and intrusive nature of the discovery. More usually, however, heroic status is attributed to the voyager (often a scientist)come to master a new land and its treasures, the value of which the primitive residents had been unaware. It is this construction of consciousness of value as a pretext for (capitalist) ownership that legitimizes the colonizers act of appropriation. The discovery, furthermore,
Bazins Malraux-inspired statement in the opening of The Ontology of the Photographic Image anempts to offer a partial psychoanalysis of cinema, suggesting that at the origin of painting and sculpture there is a mummy complex (What Is Cinema, trans. Hugh Gray [Berkeley: University of California Press, 196719). The ritual of cinema, in a sense, is not unlike the Egyptian religious rituals that provided a defence against the passage of time, thus satisfying a basic psychological need in man,for death is but the victory of time. In this interesting analogy Bazin, it seems t o me, offers an existentialist interpretation of the mummy,which a t the same t i m e undermines Egyptian religion itself since the ancient E g y p t i a n saxiomatically assumed the reality of life after death-toward which life the mummy was no more than a means. 12 This is true even for those rims produced after the gat wave of national liberation movements in the Third World. l3 Tracey Moffaas Nice Coloured Girls explores the relocations established between white sealers and aboriginal women over the last two hundred years, juxtaposing the fust encounters with presentday urban encounters.

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has gender overtones.14 In this exploratory adventure, seen in such films as Lawrence of Arabia, King SolomonsMines, Sahara (1983), Mountains on the Moon (1989) and the Indiana Jones series, the camera relays the heros dynamic movement across a passive, static space, gradually stripping the land of its enigma, as the spectator wins visual access to Oriental and African treasures through the eyes of the explorer-protagonist.15 The unveiling of the mysteries of an unknown space becomes a rite of passage allegorizing the Westem achievement of virile heroic stature.

The unveiling and the rites of passage clearly suggest the crucial role of gendered metaphors and sexual difference in colonial discourse.16 The construction of a number of superimposed oppositions-West/Eas t, North/South-takes place not only on a narratological level but also on the level of the implicit structuring metaphors that undergird colonial discourse. These metaphors point to the structural analogies in the colonialist positioning of different geographical regions-structural analogies operating, at times, at different historical moments. Europescivilizing mission is projected as interweaving opposing yet linked narratives of Western penetration of inviting virginal landscape17and Western taming of resisting libidinous nature. Samuel Eliot Morison, in his Pulitzer prize-winning book Admiral o f the Ocean Sea, recounts the European conquest of America in sexualized language:

l4 The passive/activedivision is, of course, based on stereotypicallysexist imagery. l5 For a discussion of the homoerotic subtext of films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Mountains on the Moon, as well as for the question of the female colonial gaze, see Ella

Shohat, Gender and the Culture of Empire: Towards a Feminist Ethnography of the Cinf Film and Video (1991). ema, forthcoming in Quarterly Review o l6 Some of my discussion here on gendered metaphors appears i n Shohat, Gender and the Culture of Empire. Here some of my discussion is indebted to Edward Saids notion of the feminization of the Orient, in Orientalism (New York Vintage, 1978). See also Francis Barker et al., eds., Europe and Its Orhers (Colchester: University of Essex, 1985), especially Peter Hulrne, Tolytropic M a n :Tropks of Sexuality and Mobility in Early Colonial Discourse and Jod Rabasa, Allegories of the Atlas.


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o recapture the amazement, the wonder, the Never again may m o d men hope t delight of those October days i n 1492 when the New World 5 ~ e f ~ lyielded ly her virginity to the conquering Castilians.18

The early exaltation of the New World paradise, suggested for example by S i r Walter Raleighs report describing a country that hath yet her mayden head, never sakt, turned, nor wrought19 and by one of Crkvecoeurs letH e r enature opens her broad lap to receive the perpetters, which reported: ual accession of new comers, and to supply them with food,qo gradually became reoriented around the idealized human figure of the pioneer. An emphasis on the garden-the Zocus urneonus-gave way to an emphasis on the cultivator. Linked to nineteenth century westward expansionism in the United States, the garden symbol embraced metaphors related to growth, increase, cultivation and blissful agricultural labor.21 Within this Promethean master narrative, subliminally gendered tropes such as conquering the desolation and fecundatingthe wilderness acquire heroic resonances of Western fertilization of barren lands. The metaphoric portrayal of the (non-European) land as a virgin coyly awaiting the touch of the colonizer, as Edward Said suggests in his discussion of Orientalism, implied that whole continents-Africa, the Americas, Asia and Australiar o m the emanation of colonial praxis, a discourse often could only benefit f Western genre or reproduced in the cinema, for example in the in the Israeli pioneer films. The revivification of a wasted soil evokes a quasi-divine process of endowing life and meaning ex nihilo, of bringing order f r o m chaos, plenitude from lack. Indeed, the Wests Prosper0 cornpZex is premised on an East/South portrayed as a Prosperos isle, seen as the site of superimposed lacks calling for Western transformation of

l8 Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of rhe Ocean Sea (New York Little, Brown, 1942), 1:308. l9 S i r Walter Weigh, Discovery of G u i a n a , cited in Suan G r i f f i n ,Woman and Nuhue: TheRoaring Inside Her (New York Harper & Row,1 9 7 8 ) ,47. 2o S t . John de Cr&vecoeur,Letters from an American Farmer,1782, cited in Henry Nash Smith, Virgin W : The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, M a s s . : Harvard University Press,1950), 121. 21 See Smith, Virgin Land.For nineteenth-century N o r t h American expansionist ideology, see Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment (Middletown, COM.:Wesleyan Univer-

sity Press, 1985).

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primeval matter. The engendering of civilization, then, is clearly phallof woman f r o m Adams rib.= centric, not unlike the mythwd birth o The American hero, as R.W.B. Lewis points out, has been celebrated r o m history (i.e., Euas a prelapsarian Adam, as a New Man emancipated f ropean history) before whom all the world and time lay available? The American Adam archetype, however, implied not only his status as a kind o f creator, blessed with the divine prerogative of naming the elements of the scene about him, but also his fundamental innocence. Here colonial and patriarchal discourses are clearly interwoven. The Biblical namtion of Genesis recounts the meation of the world and the creation of Adam from earth (&ma in Hebrew) in order for man to rule over nature. The power of creation is inextricably linked to the power of naming-God lends his naming authority to Adam as a m a r k of Adams rule, and the woman is called Woman because she was taken out of m a n . The question of naming played an important role not only in gender mythology but also in colonial narratives in which the discoverer gave names as a mark of possession (America as celebrating Amerigo Vespucci) or as bearers of a European global perspective (Middle East, Far East). Peripheralplaces and their inhabitants were often stripped of their unpronounceable indigenous i t h names marking them as the property of the colonames and outfitted w nizer. The colonial explorer as depicted in Robinson C m o e creates, demiurgelike, a whole civilization and has the power of naming his islander Friday, for Crusoe saves his life on that day; and Friday, we recall, is the day God created Adam, thus further strengthening the analogy between the self-sufficient Crusoe and God. The notion of an American Adam, cinematically exemplified by the heroes of the Western genre, elided a number of crucial facts, notably that there were other civilizations in the New World (ie., the settlers were not creating being from nothingness); and that the settlers had scarcely jettisoned all their Old World cultural baggage, their deeply ingrained attitudes and discourses. Here the notion of virginity, present for example in the et22 For a feminist examination of the representation of the American frontier see Annette Kolodny, The Lay of the Land: Metaphors as Experience and History in Amencan o r t h Carolina Press, 1975) and The Land Life and Letters (Chapel Hill: University of N Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (ChapelHill: University of N o r t h CarolinaPress, 1984). 23 R. W. B. Lewis, The A&rican Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Traditwa in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959).


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ymology of Virginia, must be seen in relation to the metaphor of the (European)motherland. A virgin land is implicitly available for defloration and fecundation. Implied to lack owners, it therefore becomes the property f the teminology masks the of its discoverers and cultivators. The purity o dispossession of the land and its resources. A land already fecund, already producing for the indigenous peoples, and thus a mother, is metaphorically projected as virgin, untouched nature, and therefore as available and awaiting a master. Colonial gendered metaphors are rendered visible in Jan van der Straets pictorial representation of the discovery of America, focusing on the m y t h i c a l figure of Amerigo Vespucci, who is shown bearing Europes emblem of meaning ( c r o s s ,armor, compass).24Behind him we see the vessels that will bring back to the Occident the treasures o f the New World paradise. In front of him we see a welcoming naked woman, the Indian America. If she is a harmonious extension of nature, he represents its scientific mastery? Here the conqueror, as Michel de Certeau puts it, will write the body of the other and inscribe upon it his own histoqC26
24 Jan van der Straets representation of America has been cited by several scholars: Michel de Certeau in LEcriture de thistoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1975); Olivier Richon, Representation, the Despot and the Harem: Some Questions around an Academic Wentalist Painting by Lecomte-du-Nouy (1889, in Barker et d . ,eds., Europe d Its Others. The gendering of colonial encounters between feminine nature and the masculine scientist draws on a preexisting discourse that has genderized the encounter between Man and Nature in the West itself. For a full discussion s e e ,for example, Griffin, Woman and Nutwe. and Carol MacCormack and M a r i l y n Strathem,eds., Nature, Culrzue and Gender (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980). 26 Michel de Certeau, Avant-propos in LEcriture de PHistoire. Nelson Pereira dos Santoss How T a s t y Was My Frenchman subverts this patriarchal discourse on the encounter between Europeans and Native Americans. P a r t l y based on a diary written by the German adventurer Hans Staden, the film concerns a Frenchman who is captured by the o death in response to previous m a s s a c r e sinflicted by EuTupinamba tribe and sentenced t ropeans,upon them. Before his ritualized execution and cannibalization, however, he is given a wife, Sebiopepe (a widow of one of the Tupinamba massacred by the Europeans), and he is allowed to participate in the tribes daily activities. In the last shot, the camera zooms into her face as she is emotionlessly devouring her Frenchman despite the fact that she has developed a close relationship with him. This final image is followed by a citation from a report on Native American genocide by Europeans,which undermines the possibly disturbing nature of the Iast shot. If pictoxial representations of the discovery, o center on a nude Native American woman as metaphorizing the welcoming newtend t a s t yW a s M y Frenchman the Native American woman is far from foundland, in How T being an object of European di~ourse. Presented as linked to her communal culture and history, she herself becomes part of history. Her nudity is not contrasted with the discoverers heavy clothing; rather, she is part of an environmentwhere nudity is not a category.

Imaging T e r r aIncognita


Interlinked w i t h the metaphor of the coy virgin is the opposite pole, that of libidinous, wild femininity. The wilderness, no mans land, is characterized as resistant, harsh and violent. Within this paradigm, savage landscapes (deserts, jungles) are tamed; shrew peoples (Native Americans, Africans, Arabs) are domesticated; and the desert is made to bloom,thanks to the infusion of Western dynamism and enlightenment The split discourse of the virginal/libidinal, symptomatic of the representation of women, operates even in the same text. It ultimately serves the dominant trope of rescue, which still forms the crucial site of the battle over representation in postcolonial geopolitics. Whereas virginity underlines the status of availability, thus logically calling for a fecundating penetration, the libidinousness subliminally requires the use of force. Colonial discourse oscillates between these two master tropes, alternately positing the colonized other as blissfully ignorant, pure and welcoming as well as an uncontrollable savage, wild native whose chaotic, hysteric presence requires the imposition of the law, i-e., the suppression of resistance. Bird of Paradise, which revolves around the relationship between a Euro-American navy sailor and a South Seas native, exemplifies this politically charged paradox.,The South Seas woman (Dolores del KO) extends, on one level, the tradition of the virginal native as a metaphor for her land. She is associated w i t h the natural paradise untouched by civilization. The Euro-American man who has gone native but recuperates from this momentary traveling disorder exemplifies the virtues of science; technology and modernity. The very same landscape of ecological harmony that produces a mannalike abundance of food, however, abruptly metamorphoses
The fact that the film employs largely longshots in which characters appear nude during the performance of their banal daily activities undermines voyeurism and stands in contrast to the fetishistic Hollywood mode that tends t o fragment the (female) body in close shots. In her interaction with the Frenchman, Sebiopepe represents, above all, the voice of the Native American counternamtive. In one scene, for example, a myth of origins prefigures the symbolic revolt of the Tupinamba. Sebiopepe begins to narrate in Tupi a Tupinamba Promethean myth concerning the god Mair, who brought them knowledge. The Frenchman, at one point, rakes over the narration and, in French, further recounrs the deeds of the god while we see him performing the divine deeds. The whitening of the Tupinamba god on the image track evokes the Promethean colonial discourse concerning the redemption of the natives, but here that discourse is relativized, especially since the Native American woman ends the myth in Tupi, recounting the rebellion of the people against the god, while the image track shows the destruction of the Frenchmans work. Her voice, then, recounts the tale of the people who revolted, undercutting the mascuhist myth of availability, submissivenessand redemption.


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into a threatening universe. Like a disordered, hysteric body, pastoral nature is overcome by a cannibalistic land of lava that swallows and sucks into her o . In the traditional equation between interiors the very beauty it gave birth t nature and woman, the South Seas native mirrors these opposites of Edenic pacificity and infernal danger. She is initially shown as rescuing the trapped Euro-American hero f r o m a shark-a crucial image shows her swimming underwater with a knife in her mouth. Later she even initiates their erotic performances under water and on land, leading to her inevitable punishment by the narrative. She sacrifices her life in order to save her Euro-American lover by being literally sacrificed by her spirit-possessed people. Her tribe,which worships the volcano, believes that only human sacrifice will calm their angry god of lava. If the earlier imagery associates i t h peaceful water, the final images superimpose her the native woman w on fire-a subliminal infernal punishment for the sexually hungry subaltern as well as for the prescientific natives. Anticolonialist intellectuals, although not particularly preoccupied with gender issues, have also used gender tropes to discuss colonialism. Referring to the rape and ravage brought on by colonialism, Aim6 Cesaire and Frantz Fanon, for example, implicitly subverted the narratives of rape and the fantasies of rescue, in which virginal white women, and at times dark women, must be rescued fkom violent dark men and cultures. (Numerous f a Nation [1915],The Last of rhe Mohicans films, such as The Birth o [1920],Drums AZung the Mohawk 119391, The Searchers [I9561 and Around the World in 80 Days, perpetuated these rescue relations.) While explicitly addressing the dispossession of land and people, Fanon condensed the horrors of colonialism by devoting a signifkantnumberof pages to the brutality of the colonizers toward colonized women, leaving women f representing the corpus of the nation, a discourse sugwith the burden o gested as well in the Fanonian film The Batrle of Algiers (1966).Fanon writes:
The Algerian woman is at the heart of the combat. Arrested, tortured, raped, shot down, she testifies to the violence of the occupier and to his inh~rnanity?~

27 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York Grove, 1967),66.

Imaging Terra Incognita


Given the obsessive tendency of colonial narrative to recount stones of sexual violence and rescue, it is necessary to understand the need of the Third World intellectual to refute these SexuaVracial paradigms with the actual history of sexual violence and dispossession performed against Third World women. Since colonial discourse has relied on gendered language to articulate its mission of progress-on the one hand through narratives of sexual violence committed against white women, while simultaneouslyusing latently sexualized language to articulate its history-it is perhaps not surprising that anticolonial critique has made explicit the elided history of the rape of Third World women. Yet is it a coincidence that stones of the sexual violence committed against Third World women are relatively privileged over those of violence toward Third World men, including sexual violence? f the national, in other words, The Third Worldist construction o shifted and subverted the perspective of the colonizer, while at the same time using gendered discourse to articulate oppositional struggle.Aim6 C6saire, for example, writes about that collection of adventurers who slashed and violated and spat on Africa to make the stripping of her easier.28 Fanon uses the metaphor of Algeria unveiled in a chapter devoted to the Algerian woman revolutionarys struggle for independence, analyzing the different meanings produced by the symbolic and practical usages of the veil. Thus the dialectics of veiling/unveiling become the metaphorical locus of resistance. The sexual and epistemological connotations of the veil suggest that knowledge of the women is limited to Algerians, through which they reclaim symbolic possession over their nation. Algeria unveiled on one level refers to the militant Algerian women unveiling themselves, masquerading as Westerners, and camouflaging the true nature of their unveiling. Frances obsessive desire to unveil Algeria,-i.e., to literally unveil its women under the guise of modernization as a part of the divide-and-conquer strategy, was also a symbolic attempt at penetration into the native society.= Fanon describes the battle over the veil in sexualized language:
Every rejected veil disclosed to the eyes of the colonialists horizons until then forbidden, and revealed to them, piece by piece, the flesh of Algeria laid bare ...

(Paris: Presses Universitaires-de France, 1948). 7. 29 Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 42.

** Aim6 C W e , Introduction, in Victor Schoelcher, Esclavage et donisation


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Every veil that fell, every body that became liberated from the traditional emf brace of the haik, every facethat offered itself to the bold and impatient glance o the occupier, was a negative expression of the fact that Algeria was beginning t o deny herself and w a s accepting the rape of the c~lonizer?~

In other words, the unveiling of Algerian women by the French is symbolically the unveiling of the nation. Fanon praises the militant unveiled woman who used European masquerade to fight against Europe. Here Algeria unveiled, is at once the sign of domination and resistance, since Algerian women chose to unveil themselves. However, the description of the anticolonial struggle is still inscribed on the body of the woman, revealing the erotic dimension of the revolutionary female figure in the eyes of the revolutionary intellectual:
The shoulders of the unveiled AlgerianLwoman are thrust back w i t h easy freedom. She walks with a graceful, measured stride, neither too fast not too slow. Her legs are bare, not confined by the veil, given back to themselves, and her lips are free31


Although functioning within opposedpolitical spheres, the implicit and explicit sexualization of the colonial relation is not confined to the narratives of colonial encounters and to the counternarrative of struggle. Gendered metaphors such as unveiling had become recurrent in archeology and psychoanalysis (for example, unveiling the past). In fact, the representation of ancient civilizations,particularly emphasized as archeoloscal discoveries accumulated, also deployed gendered colonialist tropes,projecting the preon confessions with Algerian women, Fanon also describes the Algerian womans corporeal conflicts-her estrangement from her unveiled body-as she sacrifices herself for the nation. The Algerian woman who w a l k s stark naked into the European city relearns her body, re-establishes it in a totally revolutionary fashion (59). Later she will again return to the veil to solve the practical problem of hiding a bomb, for the safety of anonymity, and to make the declaration that Algeria is not French. For a discussion of the usages of the veil see Barbara Harlows l a d introduction to Malek Alloulas The Colonial Harem, trans. Myrna Godzich and W Godzich (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press, 1986), and Marnia Lazreg, n Algeria, Feminism and Difference: The Perils of Writing as a Woman on Women i Feminist Studies 14, no. 3 (1988).
30 bid. 31 Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 58. Based

Imaging Terra Incognita


sent of imperialism onto past encounters between West and East. The inclination to project the non-Occident as feminine, is seen, for example, in the nineteenth-centuryRomantic depiction of the ancient Orient of Babylonia and Egypt, reproduced in films such as D. W. Griffiths Intolerance (2916) and Cecil 3. De Milles CleopaRa (1934). In Intolerance Babylon signifies sexual excess, building on the Book of Revelations description of Babylon, the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the E a r t h . De Milles Cleupatra explicitly expresses this view by having the sexually manipulative Cleopatra addressed as Egypt32 and by presenting the Orient exclusively as the scene of carnal delights. The ultimate subordination of the woman, Cleopatra, and her country, Egypt, is not without contemporary colonial overtones, suggested for example in the Anglo-aristocfatic Roman COUR, where sarcastic jokes are made at the expense of a presumably black Cleupatra, asserting that Rome could never be turned into the Orient or ruled by an E g y p t i a n .(The historically dark Cleopatra is turned by Hollywood conventions of beauty into a European-looking white woman, just as Western iconography of Christ has gradually denuded him of his Semitic featuresJ33 The visual infatuation with Babylonias and Egypts material abundance, emphasized through a mise en sc2ne of monumental architecture, domestic detail and quasi-pornographic feasts, cannot the reports of be divorced from the intertext of colonial travel literat~re?~ which also obsessively recounted the details of Oriental sensual excesses.
32 Although Cleopatra is addressed as Egypt in Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare here and in The Tempest offers a complex dialectic between the West and its Others. 33 Colonialist representationshave their roots in what M a r t i n Bernal calls the Aryan model, a model that projects a presumably clear and monolithic historical trajectory leading from classical Greece (constructed as puw, western, and democratic) to imperial Rome and then t o the metropolitan capitals of Europe and the United States. See Bernal,Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Volume I : The Fabrication o f Ancient Greece 1785-1985 (New Brunswick Rutgers University Press, 1987). History is made to seem synonymous with a linear notion of European progress. This Eurocentric view is premised on crucial exclusions of internal and external other^": the African and Semitic cultures that strongly inflected the culture of classical Greece; the Islamic and Arabic-Sephardic culture that played an invaluable role during the so-called Dark and Middle ages; and the diverse indigenous peoples whose land and natural resources were violently appropriated and whose cultures were consuucted as savage and irrational. 34 For a discussion of travel literature, see M a r y Louise P r a t t ,Fieldwork in Common l i f f o r d aild George Marcus, eds., Writing Culture. (Berkeley: Places, in James C University of C a l i f o r n i a Press, 1986).


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Cinema, in this sense, enacted a historiographical and anthropological role, writing (in light) the cultures of others. Silent films penchant for graphological signifiers such as hieroglyphs (in the different versions of Cleopatra),Hebrew script (htokrance),o r the image of an open book (as in The Book of Intolerance and the marginal notes accompanying the intertitles, which in Intolerance pedagogically supply the spectator with additional infonnation), imply Hollywood as a kind of a Western popular griot. By associating itself with writing, and particularly with original writing, early cinema lent a pedagogical, historical and artistic aura to a medium still associated with circuslike entertainments. And by linking a new apprentice art to ancient times and exotic places, cinema celebrated its ethnographic and quasi-archeologicalpowers to resuscitate forgotten and distant civilizations, a celebration implicit in the architecture of pseudo-Egyptian movie palaces. The birth of cinema itself coincided w i t h the imperialist moment, when diverse colonized civilizations were already shaping their conflicting identities vis-his their colonizers. These films about the ancient world suggest, perhaps, a Romantic nostalgia for a pure civilization that existed prior to Western contamination. They also represent a Romantic search for the l o s t Eastern o r i g i n s of Western civilizations, analogous to Schliemanns excavation of Troy. It is within this context that we can understand the structuring absence, in the representation of Egypt, Babylonia and the (Biblical) Holy Land, of the contemporary colonized Arab Orient and its nationalist struggles? Through a historiographical gesture, the films define the Orient as ancient and mysterious, best epitomized by an iconography of papyruses, sphinxes and mummies, whose existence and revival depends on the look and reading of the Westerner. This rescue of the past, in other words, suppresses the voice of the present and thus legitimates by default the availability of the space of the Orient for the geopolitical maneuvers of the Western powers. The implicit archeologicalrole of the cinema in deciphering buried civilizations for the spectator takes on, at times, an explicit thematization of archeologicalrescue missions. The origins of archeology, the search for the roots of civilization, as a discipline are, we know,inextricably linked to imperial expansionism. Films from the Mummy series (particularlyf r o m the 1930s and 1940s) to the Indiana Jones series reproduce exactly this colonial
35 The Egyptologists mania-for a mere ancient Egypt, for example, is ironic in an Arab context where Egypt has often been posited as the model of an Arab country.

imaging Terra Incognita


vision in which Western knowledge of ancient civilizationsrescues the past from oblivion. It is this masculinist rescue in Raiders o f the Lost Ark that legitimizes denuding the Egyptians of their heritage and confining it within Western metropolitan museums-an ideology implicit as well in the Orientalist Intolerance, Cleopatra and the Mummy series. These films, not surprisingly, tend to be programmed in museums featuring Egyptological exhibitions. Raiders o f the Lost Ark, symptomatically, assumes a disjuncture between contemporary and ancient Egypt, since the space between the present and the past can only be bridged by the scientist. The full significanceof the ancient archeological objects, within the Eurocentric vision of the Spielberg f i l m , is presumed to be understood only by the Western scientists, relegat-

ing the Egyptian people to the role of obscurantist Arabs who happen to be sitting on a land full of historical treasures-much as they happen to sit on oil. Marked by temporal and spatial ruptures, the archeological master-narrative implies a notion of historical strata within a politicized geology.The deep stratum, in the literal and figurative sense, is associated with the Westerners, while the surface level is associated with the Arabs, as a recent superficial historical element. In other words, although Western culture is associated w i t h modernity, it is also undergirded by historical depth. The heroic, almost sanctimonious, language of Egyptological missions archeological reports, for example on the 1881 discovery of pharaonic tombs in the Valley of the.Kings, describes their rescue of the ancient Easts powerful kings from Arab clans in a way that associates the Westerner w i t h ernperors and royal dynasties. The simplistic positing of a rupture between present and past Egypt conveniently empowers the Western claim over Egypts past?6 thus naturalizing the presence of the Rosetta Stone, for ex-

36 Howard C a r t e r and A. C. Maces narrative of their predecessors 1881 discovery, for example, links the Egyptologists rescue of mummies to the ancient Egyptian priests protection of their Kings: There, huddled together i n a shallow, ill-cut grave, lay the most powerful monarchs of the ancient e a s t , kings whose names were familiar to the whole world, whom no one i n his wildest moments had ever dreamed of seeing. There h e r e the priests in secrecy had hurriedly brought them that dark night they had remained,w three thousand y m ago; and on their coffins and mummies, neatly docketed, were the tecords of their joumeyings fiorn one hiding place to another. Some had been wrapped, and two or three in the course of their many wanderings had been moved to other coffins. In forty-eight hours-we dont do things quite so hastily nowadays-the tomb was cleared; the kings were embarked upon the museum b a r g e . : (Shirley Glubok, ed.


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ample, in the British M~seurn.3~ (In Zionist discourse, furthermore, the Western unification with the past and the knowledge of antiquity takes on the explicit discourse of origins, not as an abstract notion of the Eastern origins of civilization but as the idea that the roots of a specific group of people, can be traced to the biblical Land o f Israel.38)The moment of encountering the past, of penetrating and possessing it, is understood as a

Discovering Tut-ankh-AmensTomb, (Abridged and adapted from Howard Carter and A. C. Mace, The Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen,M I : Macmillan Publishing, 1 9 6 8 ) , 15. 37 Shadi Abdel Salams film The Mummy implicitly challenges the archaeological master-narrativeby foregrounding the voices of those on the margins of Egyptological texts. If the Egyptian film opens with an archeologicai project and ends w i t h its successful accomplishment, it also undermines t h a t mission by focusing on the conmete dilemmas of living Egyptians. The nondiegetic musical motif based on Upper Egypt popular music (A1 Arian? and the slow rhythm evocative of the regional atmosphere, furthermore,cinematicallyconvey the cultural force of their environment, The f i l m does not end, significantly, with the narrative closure of safe placement of the artifacts in a museum, but rather with the slow vanishing of the boat carrying the Egyptologists and the mummies, all from the perspective of the devastated tribe. If How Tarry W a s My Frenchman opens with the penetration by the Europeans as it is Seen from the perspective of the Native Americans, The Mummy ends with the emptiness left behind by the intrusion of Europe. Far from conveying the triumphant conclusion of the archaeological narrative, the gaze of the Egyptians unveils the disastrous rupture in their lives, thus subverting the self-celebratory Egyptological definitionsof dispossession and theft 38 Raiders of rhe Lost Ark combines Western colonial discourse with that of Zionism. The American h e r w f t e n cinematically portrayed as a cowboy-is an archeologist implicitly searching for the Eastern roots of Western civilization. He liberates the ancient r o m illegal Egyptian possession while also rescuing it from immoral Nazi Hebrew ark f control, subliminally reinforcing American and Jewish solidarity vis4-viS the N a z i s and their Arab assistants.The geopolitical alignments here are as clear as in the inadvertent allegory of The Ten Commandments, where a WASPish Charlton Heston is made to incarnate Hebrew Moses struggling against the Egyptians, thus allegorizing in the context of the fifties the contemporary struggle of the West (Israel and the United States) against Egyptians/Arabs. That at the end of Raiders it iS the American army that guards the top secret a r k w i t h the active complicity of the ark itself-strengthens this evocation of geopolitical alliances. Raiders significantly develops parallel, linked plots in which the female protagonist, Marian, and the ark become the twin objects of the heros search for harmony. The necklace that leads to the ark is first associated with Marian, who herself becomes the object of competing nationalist male desires. Her abduction by the Nazis and their Arab assistants, similar to the arks hijacking by them, is followed by D r .Joness a r i a n and the ark from the Nazis. The teIos of the voyage into unknown rescue of M region--whether mental or geographical-is that the Westerner both knows the Orient (in the epistemologicaland Biblical senses) and at the same time brings it knowledge, rescuing it from its own obscurantism.

Imaging Tern Incognita


moment of collectivereflection and introspection on the great chain of national being.


Freuds metaphor of the dark continent must be seen within this imperial context, as functioning within the fragile boundaries of the epistemological and the sexual in colonial disco~rse?~ Freud speaks of female sexuality in terms of metaphors of darkness and obscurity drawn from the realms of archeology and exploration-the metaphor of the dark continent, for example, deriving from a book by the Victorian explorer Stanley.4* Seeing himself as an explorer and discoverer of new worlds, Freud, in Studies on Hysteria, compared the role of the psychoanalyst to that of the archeologist clearing away the pathogenic psychical material layer by layer, which is analogous with the technique of excavating a buried ~ i t y . The ~ l analogy, made in the context of examining a woman patient, Fraulein Elisabeth von R., calls attention to the role of the therapist in locating obscure trains of thought followed by, as Freud puts it in his first-person accent: I would penetrate into deeper layers of her memories at these points carrying out an investigation under hypnosis or by the use of some similar technique.42 Speaking generally of penetrating deeply into the neurosis of women, thanks to a science that can give a deeper and more coherent in39 In dominant cinema, numerous films set in Africa, such as the Tartan series, referred to the Dark Continent as the locus of obscure dangers. The ethnographic film The Sudan (American Museum of Natural History, 1953) even went as far as to establish its narrative by using a map of Africa, entitled Africa,the D a r k Continent, accompanied by a male voiceover asserting: If anything could have slain the fable of the dark continent, it would have been the motion picture. The cameras eye sees nothing but reality. For a critical discussion of the myth of the D a r k Continent see Patrick Brantlinger, Victorians and Africans: The Genealogy of the M y t h of the D a r k Continent Critical lnquiry 12, no. 1 (1985). 40 Freud associates Africa and femininity in The Interpretation of Dreams when he of Haggards She as a strange book, but fuli of hidden meaning....the eternal femmme.... She describes an adventurous road that had scarcely even been trodden before, f she Complete leading into an undiscovered region....(1900), in The Standard Edition o Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 195374), SE IV-V, 453-54. 41 Joseph Breuer and Sigmu_ndFreud, Studies on Hysteria, trans. James Strachey in collaboration with Anna Freud (New Yok Basic Books,1957), 139. 42 bid., Studies on Hysteria, 193.


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sight into femininityp3 Freud is perhaps unaware of the political overtones of his optical metaphor. Penetration, as Toril Moi suggests, is very much on Freuds mind as he approaches femininity,M including, one might add, the dark continent of female sexuality. The notion of the necessary unveiling of the unconscious requires a n obscure object in order to sustain the very desire to explore, penetrate and master. David Maceys suggestion that psychoanalysis posits femininity as being in excess of its rationalist discourse, and then complains that it cannot explain itP5 is equally applicable to the in colonial discourse. Furthermore, Freud uses the positing of the language of force, for example, we force our way into the internal strata, overcoming resistances at all tirne~.~6 (Freud, symptomatically, did not expand much on the experience and concept of rape.) Looking at the Eastern roots of civilizations, Freud employs ancient myths and figures such as the Sphinx and Oedipus in order to draw parallels between the development of civilization and that of the psyche. (Although Freud did not speculate at any great length on Egyptian mythology, over half of his private collection of antiquities reportedly consisted of ancient Egyptian sculptures and a r t i fact~.~) The psychoanalyst, who unearths the suppressed past and thereby heals (most of Freuds studies of hysteria were conducted in relation to women), resembles the archeologist, who recovers the hidden past or strata of civilization (most of which was found in Third World lands). As in archeology, Freuds epistemology assumes the (white) male as the bearer of knowledge, one who can penetrate woman and text, while she, as a remote region, will let herself be explored till truth is uncovered. Woman and native are figures of darkness and threat that must be controlled through the systematic unearthing of the hidden. Just as the details of hysteria were studied and documented by psychoanalysis, possession rituals were documented by anthropology. Thedisordered body is thus
Sigmund Freud. On Transformationsof Instinct as Exemplified in Anal Erotism, k The Siandc;rd Edition of the Complere Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, SE XmI, 129,135. Toril Moi, Representation of Patriarchy: Sexuality and Epistemology in Freuds Dora, in C h a r l e s Bemheimer and Claire Kahane, e d s . , In Doras Case (London: V b g o , 1985), 198. 45 David Macey, Lacan in Contexts (London: Verso, 1988), 178-80. 46 Breuer and Freud, Studies rn Hysteria, 292. 47 Stephen Salisbwy, In Dr. Freuds Collection, O b j e c t s of D e s i r e , The New York Times, 3 September, 1989.


Imaging Terra Incognita


the object of a scientific gaze, marking the space between the comprehending scientist and his objects of rational observation, the sexual and the racial other. Within this apparatus there is no imaginative space for what Fanon termed creative madness,4*a proposition suggested, to some extent, by Jean Rouchs critical ethnographic f i l m Les MuftresFous (1955). The film, which documents the possession ritual of the West African Hauka cult, posits the trance ritual as testifying to a collective exorcism of colonialism. Here the present corporeal disorder allegorizes the broader political disorder. The parodic mixnicry of the colonizer by a possessed colonized links the symptoms of coloniahm to the original trauma of colonial encounters. Fanon, in quite explicit criticism of Freuds Eurocentric psychoanalytical work, explains mental disorder as a symptom of political disorder and of power relations.49 Here we may draw a parallel between the disorders of the female body and the colonized body, and consider them as reaction formations or even as the exorcism and transcendance of the pathologies of patriarchal and colonial powers. Psychoanalytical praxis itself must be historicized, taking into account the power European psychoanalysts exercised over the mentally confined colonized, who were disciplined to confess to the (colonizer) psychoanalyst, not in Arabic but in French.50 Freuds theory, which draws an analogy between the development of the psyche and that of civilization, must also be understood as part of the culture of empire. ( I am not suggesting that it is reducible to the culture of empire.) The nineteenth-century medical and biological sciences were at
48 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched o f the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York Grove, 1968), 95. 49 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. trans. Charles Markmann (New York Grove, 1 9 6 7 ) , 56. Fanon explicitly states: The discoveries of Freud are of no use to us here (104). Fanons critique, particularly of the concept of the family as the subject of major psychoanalytical inquiry, is suggested through his repeat& question about the possibility of applying the family model to the colonized. If the family is a miniature of the nation, he asks,then where would the colonized fit? 50 The notion of archeology is not separablefrom the notion of culture. If Freud elided patriarchal culture as part of his discussion of (female) disorder, Fanon was involved in sociotherapy, which perceived pathology in historical terms. Here-even when the explicit metaphor of archeology does not exist-we can read Fanon as engaging in an archeology of culture in order to understand madness in context This is evident in the article he co-authored with his colleague FranGois Sanchez, The Attitude of the Maghreb Muslim toward Madness in R q u e pratique de psychologie de fa vie socide et dhyg2ne mentale, No. 1 (1956)). His critique focuses on the fact that the natives have history and tradition-and that any cure must take it into account


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pains to prove that certain features of the brain and sexual organs were the m a r k of lower, primitive civilizations, thus providing a scientific context for the then-current political equation between native and child, not unlike the equation between woman and child. The psychoanalyticalpostulation of id and superego parallels, to some extent, the primitive/civilized dichotomy permeating colonial discourse. (This binarist discourse has its variant in sociology, particularly in the 1950s school of modernization, exemplified by Talcott Parsons, which divides societies into primitive, or less developed, and modern, or more complex.) Questions of tempoxality within the analogy between the layers of civilization and those of the psyche become, in other words, historically highly charged. The relegation of the other, to a primal time frame offers an apologia for the literal-geographicaland metaphoricalinstitutional domination of space. The penetration into the enigmas of the interiors is embedded in the constant new imperial discoveries (i.e., expansion in the nineteenth century), and implicitly in the scientificdiscoveries that expand upon the aberrations of the Thus the idea of the dark continent implicitly celebrates the notion of geographicUpsychic discoveries-in some ways not unlike Bacons analogy between geographic and philosophical explorations. The positioning of Afiica in anticolonial critique can illuminate the metaphors of light and darkness and the tropes of discovery, For Aim6 Cksaire and Fanon, much as for Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X, Africa is celebrated as a space of enlightenment, particularly for its diaspora. The (re)discovery of Africa by black intellectuals (including many in Africa), particularly since the nkgritude movement, can be Seen as a challenge to the notion of mimicry:
If we want t o turn Africa into a new Europe, and America into a new Europe, then let us leave the destiny of our countries t o the Europeans....But if we want humanity t o advance further, if we want to bring it up to a different level than that which Europe has shown it, then we must ride discoveries>1 (my emphasis)

The (re)discovexy of Africa by the anticolonial intellectual, it can be argued, is a return to the early site of a collective trauma, the trauma of the fmt encounters with the discoverers. Fanons repeated reference to history lessons about our ancestors, the Gauls, lessons taught to people of color in French schools, conceives institutions as perpetuating the disorder of the

51 Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth,


Imaging Terra Incognita


colonized.52 Thus the discovery of ones ancestry, we might argue, is a form of recovery. Overcoming the temporal-culturalrupture within a colonial context is an enactment of a revolt against a present dispossession.

The cinema participated in the study of other cultures, and in the development of ethnography and geography, through observing and recording the details o f topographies and cultures, often represented as aberrant in relation to Europe? The study of peoples through the camera operated on the same continuum as did zoology, anthropology, botany, entornol~gy?~ biology and medical examinations. The camera was not unlike the microscope in its detailing of the other, whereby analysis and dissection serve to consmct a presumably holistic picture of the other. If writing cultures was embedded in the ideology of power, visualizing cultures documented not only the other but also the power of science to decipher the other. The growth of technology facilitated access to remote regions, assisting imperial expansion while also serving the expanding sciences. Technological inventions, in other words, mapped the globe as a neatly organized space of knowledge. The information documented, which could be replayed and studied in detail in the metropolis, was accumulated for the purposes of
52 My reading ofFanon might seem to contradict certain emphases in his work. Fanon suggested, in a semimaterialist fashion, that the discovery of the existence of a Negro civilization in the fifteenth century confers no patent of humanity on me. Like it or not, the past can in no way guide me in the present moment (Black Skin, White Masks, 225). Or It is not because the Indo-Chinese has discovered a culture of his own that he is in revolt. It is because quite simply it was, in more than one way, becoming impossible for him to breathe ibid., 2 2 6 ) . Yet this point, I argue, is-not in contradiction with the liberatory structure of feelings that the symbolic return to Africa offers colonized blacks, and which Fanon himself discusses to some extent. 53 For a critical study of ethnography see, for example, James Clifford and George M a r c u s ,&.,Writing Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); James Clifford, The Predicament o f Culture (Cambridge, M a s s . :Harvard University Press, 1988); and Trinh Minh-ha, Woman,Native, Other (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989). 54 Jean Rouch, in his Critique of ethnographic filmmaking, wrote: The anthropologist is no longer an entomologist observing his subject as if it were an insect (putting it down) but rather as if it were a stimulant for mutual understanding (hence dignity) (Camera and Man in MickEaton, ed.,Anrhropology-ReaZity-Cinema(London: 1979),



Public Culture

economic and military control. Topographies were documented for military and economic strategies, often on the literal backs of the natives who carried the cinematographers and their equipment. It is perhaps not surprising that f r o m its early days the camera was referred to as a gun, precisely because the camera has been used as a gun by colonial powers. (Etienne-Jules Marey, a French physiologist interested in animal locomotion and in wildlife photography, called his 1882 camera a fusil cinhatographique because of its gunlike apparatus, which made twelve rapid exposures on a circular glass plate that revolved like a bullet cylinder.) The camera entered the zone of the other, taking its loot of images as raw material to be reworked in the motherland and displayed to Western spectators/consumers~~ The visualist inclinationsof Western culture and the metaphors of seeing dominant in anthropological discourse prepared the way for the technological powers of cinema to represent other temtories and cultures. The celebration of the visual privileged the camera over the presumably more mediated written word and even over still photography. The mimetic celluloid facilitated the ontological status of the moving image. The cinema brought credibility to anthropology,arming it, as it were, with visual evidence-not only of the existence of others but also of their existing otherness. The mimetic capabilitiesof the cinema satisfied the three-dimensional need for gazing at the other, bridging, as it were, the spatial gap between the Western spectators and the objects of their gaze. Cinema in this sense continued museological efforts to gather and bring to the metropolis three-dimensional archeological and ethnographic objects as well as botanical and zoological

ones.5 6
Ethnographic cinema and Hollywoods ethnography inherited as well the practice of popular shows and scientific exhibitions of collecting red human objects-seen, for example, in the early importation of American Indians to Europe for amusement and scientific g a ~ e . Africans 5~ were im55 Hollywood, furthemore, aggressively participated in the exploration of new markets for its products, a tactic best exemplified during the years of the good-neighbor policy when the closed European markets led t o the production of numerous films utilizingLatin American settings, music and dance. 56 On the safari as a kind of traveling minisociety, see Donna Haraway, Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden Of Eden, New York City, 1908-1936, Social T a t

11 (1984-85). 57 The Venezuelan fdm Amerika: TerraIncognita, directed by Diego Riquez, examines these images of dislocation and colonial encounters set partly in E u r o p e .

Imaging Terra Incognita


ported to Europe to be exhibited as human figures bearing kinship to specific animal species. The sideshow OT freak show paraded before the Wests bemused eye a variety of exotic pathologies. For example, Saartjie Baartman, popularly referred to as the Hottentot Venus,8 was exhibited during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century throughout the entera i n attraction was her protrutainment circuit in England and France. The m sive buttocks; however, rumors of her peculiar genitalia drew crowds as well. Her racidvsexual anomaly was associated with animality.59The fat of her buttocks, writes the zoologist and anatomist Georges Cuvier, who studied her intimately, bears a striking resemblance to those which appear in the female mandrills, baboons, and which assume at certain epochs of their life a truly monstrous developrnent.60 After her death at the age of twenty-five, Cuvier seized the opportunity for obtaining a n even closer gaze at her private parts, and received o f f i c i a l permission to dissect her, resulting in a detailed description of her body inside and out.61 Her genitalia were dissected, and, according to Stephen Gould, the jar still rests on a shelf in the Musee de 1Hommein P a r i s ,which preserved as well the female genitalia of other (racially different) women: me nkgresse and une peruvienne.62 (That the female parts are placed in the Museum of Man constitutes the final patriarchal irony.) Scientificstudy of the other took, at times, the form of literal objectification of the female and racial body. Cinema, being not only a product of science but also of popular culture, linked traveling knowledge with traveling spectacles. The penetrating study of the other in scientific discourse catered to the scopophilic nature of the cinematic panopticon. Hypersexualization of the other in the cinema took the form of rape narratives (The Birth of LI Nation, The Searchers) as well as of nudity and dance imagery.
58 The real name of the Hottentot Venus remains unknown since it was never referred to by those who studied her. She w a s given a C h r i s t i a n name, Saartjie Baartman. 59 For further discussion on science and the racial/sexual body, see Sander Gilman, Black Bodies, White Bodies: Toward an Iconography of Female Sexuality i n Late Nineteenth-Century Art, Medicine, and Literature, CriticalInquiry 12, no. 1 (1985). Flower and Murie on the Dissection of a Bushwoman, Anthropological Review 5 (July 1867), 268. (Statement originally from Memoires du musee dhistoire naturelle

61 Richard Altick, The Shows o f London (Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1978), 272. Stephen Gould, The Flu&ngos Smile (New York W. W. Norton & Co., 1985),



Public Culture

Hollywoods filmic corpus offered an abundance of such exotic imagery, at times incorporating actual travelogues, dug from its archives and used in such films as the Turzan series. The 1930-1934 Production Code of the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America, Inc., which censored Janes two-piece suit into one piece in later Tarzan films, however, did not affect the nudity of African women who comprised ?he backdrop. The nudity, masquerading as authenticity and science, implicitly exposes the hidden pleasures of travel and exploration. The National Geographic syndrome of fascination with dance rituals, best exemplified in the ethnographic film Dance F u m Around the World (1955) and in numerous fiction films, such as The Dunce of Farim (circa 1898), The Sheik (19211, Bird of Paradise, Sanders of the River, and Kismet (1944), reveals the flesh of the putative other. If dance imagery in ethnographic films focused on the bouncing breasts of dancing women, Hollywood, under the surveillance of various moral majorities, restricted its imagery to native nudity in the background, or minimal native clothing. The mandatory dance scenes of dark bodies in trance moving to the accelerating rhythm of beating drums sutures the spectator to natives possession (or mass hysteria), their uncontrollable id, or their (implicit) hypersexuality. The rescue of obscure matter in psychoanalysis, as in archeology and ethnography-the process of diving into a dark hole to uncover objects of desire-culminates in the cinematic exposure of showing and seeing, where interlocution. takes place over the body of the exposed. Geographic/ethnographic imagery, then, typically involves the unleashing of pornographic impulses. Exhibiting, showing and seeing the other mark the imaginary boundaries between self and other, thus mapping not only the knowledge of the globe, but also the sphere of knowledge.
Ella Shohat is the coordinator of the Cinema Studies Program at the City University of New York,Staten Island, where she teaches cinema and cultural studies. She is on the editorial board of Social Text and is the author of Israeli Cinema: EastIWest and the Politics of Representation (University of Texas Press, 1989).