Race, civilization, and paternalism
in The souls of white folk
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I begin this chapter by reviewing the foundational settler idea that race and civilization were intimately linked, and that whites stood in loco parentis to childlike Africans. I further explore the emotions that were concomitant with civilization and paternalism. First, settlers had to turn away those Africans who claimed “civilized” status – Christian, western-educated, dressed in European clothes. They did this humiliation. Second, I take seriously settler rhetoric of the “white man’s (and woman’s) burden.” By offering gifts – “civilization” taught through work, or medical care through very intimate bodily contact – settlers further asserted a hierarchal relationship, the internal logic of which would not allow Africans to equalize. Paternalism would become one of the defining features of settler thinking: it was both a duty to civilize Africans, and emotionally and psychologically pleasurable to do so.

The souls of white folk

White Settlers in Kenya, 1900s–1920s


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