TINTIN AU CONGO: Sovereignty, Alterity, Progress and the Post-Colonial World

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    • Presentation speakers
      • André de Almeida Chaves, University of the State of São Paulo, Brazil


    About a year ago, the Belgian Justice rejected a legal attempt to ban the commercialization of the graphic novel Tintin au Congo (The Adventures of Tintin, reporter for “Le Petit Vingtième…, in the Congo). The rejected motion was made by a Congolese citizen, Mr. Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, and also was endorsed by a French Civil Rights movement, Le CRAN (Representative Council for Black People’s Associations). The charge? Racism. The comic book, written by Hergé (Georges Remi) in early 1930′s – and late recognized by its own author as product of prejudice – was translated and published all around the world since then and have been facing the same charges and censorship attempts everywhere. Rumors of appeals to the European Humans Rights Court were spreading – at the same time of the quarrel over the religious controversies over some cartoons in Europe. Notwithstanding the legal developments of those charges, our goal here is to make another, yet small, contribution to the debate over the role of the graphic novels in the forgery of a cosmogony of positive and negative identities. And, after doing so, to discuss about the limits of freedom of speech under the so-called open societies. And the comic book itself is a masterpiece of popular culture at the dawn of the Colonial Era. More than this, it is quite emblematic once it is related to the most infamous colonial adventure, whose “horrors” have been inspiring denounces in Western culture, from the times of Joseph Conrad to those of Vargas Llosa. We assume that Tintin’s (mis)adventures is the perfect demonstration of Naipaul’s idea of the role of identity in the colonization: ‘the colonizer constructs himself as he constructs the colony. The relationship is intimate, an open secret that cannot be part of official knowledge’ . Since Francisco de Vitoria, new forms to describe Mankind, race and human law (also International Law or ius gens) lead to new concepts capable to anticipate a whole new for to face the world: the most know is the idea of Civilization (and its derivations, such as modernity or even aspects of universal rights). In this sense, we are not interested in the idea of human (or inhuman) rights; actually, we are interested in the construction of the sovereign ego based upon the creation of the alterity. That “identity framework”, if we can say so, cannot be restrained or contained by a legal corpus or other official registries of a decades-long nightmare. As Naipaul remembered, at the same time that the identity during colonialism and post colonialism was not a single way movement, it has also an “open secret”. We dare assume that “open secret” as a cultural ground whose primary manifestations are perceivable through myths, unwritten conceptions of the world. And, specially during the Twentieth Century, no other form of cultural expression was more capable to translate its elementary (deeper and more spread) forms as the Comic Books. Therefore, to discuss about Tintin au Congo is not only to talk about figure out if the character was or was not racist. It is a glimpse of the very cultural foundations of the Colonialism and how that short nightmare have been shaping our ideas of ourselves until nowadays.