Towards grim voyeurism: The poetics of the gaze on Africa

  • A.M. Gahutu
Keywords: Africa, voyeurism, tourism, genocide.


In literature as well as in the press, television and the cinema, voyeurism is an attitude which is very typical to the Western gaze on Africa. By definition, the voyeur is in a morally inferior position. This is the connotation we wish to give the touristic attitude inclined to enjoy the misfortune of the other. Concerning the case in point in this paper, it is grim tourism.

The motif of tourism will be theoretically tackled from the point of view of minimum definition as movement to another place, as proposed by Jafar Jafari. Whenever it is a question of curiosity offered by Africa to Western tourists, they automatically become voyeurs since the product presented to their eyes is indecent: death from starvation, disease, war and since recently, illegal immigration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Moreover, voyeurism finds support in the conceptual gains of tourism like John Urry‘s approach. We are going to track the movement of this gaze, from Chateaubriand, founder of modern voyeurism which already at that time indicated special attraction by death, to the Humanitarianism, a form of biased tourism (since it compounds traveling and paid job) which ironically benefits from the bad situation of forced travelers, and of refugees of African wars and disasters.

Philippe Hamon‘s analytical model of the ―proper gaze‖62 will be precious in the reading of an emblematic work about the gazer tourist (Monenémbo, L’aîné des orphelins) to identify the ideology that goes with the competence and performance of the gaze. The camera is in this instance doubly emblematic and the functional extension of the gaze.

Key words: Africa, voyeurism, tourism, genocide.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2305-2678