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Hook, D. (2005). The Racial Stereotype, Colonial Discourse, Fetishism, and Racism. Psychoanal. Rev., 92(5):701-734.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Review, 92(5):701-734

The Racial Stereotype, Colonial Discourse, Fetishism, and Racism

Derek Hook, Ph.D.

Radical Difference

In a historical overview of some of the first Western writing to be recorded in Southern Africa, novelist J.M. Coetzee makes following description of the Khoi-San, as published in Amsterdam in 1652:

The local natives have everything in common with the dumb cattle, barring their human nature…. [They] are handicapped in their speech, clucking like turkey-cocks…. Their food consists of herbs, reference to a series of disturbing depictions of racial otherness. Take for example the cattle, wild animals, and fish. The animals are eaten together with their internal organs. Having been shaken out a little, the intestines are not washed, but as soon as the animal has been slaughtered or discovered, these are eaten raw, skin and all…. A number of them will sleep together in the veldt, making no difference between men and women…. They all smell fiercely, as can be noted at a distance of more than twelve feet against the wind, and they also give the appearance of never having washed. (Hondius, cited in Coetzee, 1988, p. 12)

On the one hand, one is here confronted with an almost ethnographic mode of exposition, an ostensibly factual documentation of otherness. On the other, we have a writing that seethes with anxiety at the radical otherness which it witnesses and which it struggles to contain. So different is the world thus entered, in physical appearance, in the smells, foods, religion, and society of its peoples—indeed, in all important dimensions of human life—that the text becomes a catalogue of what can barely be believed, a radiant source of otherness, frightened unto itself.

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