introduction
Dangerous Supplements
Critical (Mis)understandings
In October 1848, about forty years before the formal European partitioning
of Africa, the British lieutenant governor Winniett visitedthe king of the
Asante in the city of Kumasi. Winniett notes:
We immediately entered into conversation, and after briefly adverting to
the kindly feelings of Her Majesty’s Government towards him, I em-
bracedthe favourable opportunity thus oVeredfor speaking to him on
the subject of human sacrifices; I toldhim of the anxious desire on the
part of Her Majesty, that these sanguinary rites shouldbe abolished, and
beggedhisserious attentiontoaquestion soimportanttothe causeofhu-
manity.1
Upon hearing this the Asantehene, we are told, asked whether the gover-
nor hadhimself witnessedany such sacrifices. When Winniett responded in
the negative, the governor’s journal records the king’s response as follows:
‘‘Hethen observedthatalthoughhuman sacrificeswerethecustom ofhisfore-
fathers, he was reducing their number and extent in his kingdom, and that the
wishes of Her Majesty shouldnot be forgotten.’’2
The fact that this last utterance is as much a product of Winniett’s oYcial
discourse as it is perhaps that of the Asantehene should be self-evident to any
student of colonial discourse. The particular historical circumstances in
1. W. Winniett,‘‘Journal of Lieutenant Governor Winniett’sVisit to the King ofAshantee,’’ in Brit-
ish Parliamentary Papers, 1949, 235.
2. Ibid.
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