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Chapter 11 - The Invasion of the White Mind

Race, Automatism, and Mental Hierarchy in the Late Nineteenth Century

from Part III - Literary Genre and Popular Fiction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2024

Suzy Anger
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Thomas Vranken
Affiliation:
University of the South Pacific
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Summary

This chapter examines late nineteenth-century instances of a fictional trope of “mind invasion,” in which the white male unconscious is controlled by the very subaltern mind that Western science associated with “primitive” levels of mental and cultural evolution. The psychical automatism of mind invasion sometimes reproduces the power dynamics of colonialism, but the chapter examines countervailing examples in which the colonizer’s unconscious is dominated by mental powers and occult knowledge attributed to the colonized. It also explores depictions of extraterrestrial or future-human mind invasion, which redraw the racialized hierarches of mind constructed by Western scientists. Reiterations of the mind-invasion trope satirized the claim of educated white males to possess superior rationality, detached objectivity, and the ability to resist automatist mental states. The chapter analyses the multivalent aims of this reversal, including antimaterialism, a defense of paranormal experience, and a decolonizing attack on the very concept of racial hierarchy.

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Victorian Automata
Mechanism and Agency in the Nineteenth Century
, pp. 229 - 252
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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