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Megan Vaughan

Megan Vaughan is a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. She is working on a history of death in Africa.

Explorers of the Nile

Megan Vaughan, 8 March 2012

In the final episode of the TV series Joanna Lumley’s Nile, Joanna Lumley stretches out next to the muddy dribble that is apparently the furthest source of the White Nile, deep in the mountains of Rwanda, and muses on the fact that this unimpressive wet patch gives rise to such a mighty river. Indeed, it is surprising. Determining the ‘source’ of a river is, it turns out,...

Fanon’s Psychiatric Hospital

Megan Vaughan, 31 July 2008

In 1953, Frantz Fanon took over as director of the Hôpital Psychiatrique de Blida-Joinville in Algeria. It is said that Fanon’s first act on taking charge of this overcrowded colonial hospital, in which electroconvulsive therapy was liberally dispensed and lobotomies regularly performed, was to unchain the patients. The story echoes that of Philippe Pinel breaking open the doors of...

Colonial Psychology

Megan Vaughan, 23 March 2006

Is there a distinct social psychology of colonialism? Albert Memmi certainly thought so when he published The Coloniser and the Colonised in 1957. He was not the only one. Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban had appeared in 1950, and Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks in 1952. And while Memmi had mixed feelings about Fanon, and Fanon had bitterly attacked Mannoni for his...

Diary: Vampires in Malawi

Megan Vaughan, 20 March 2003

Vampires are not uncommon visitors to the villages of Malawi. Historically, they have adopted different guises – Catholic priests have often been subject to accusation, water engineers and medical workers, too. In the 1980s an impending visit by Princess Anne sparked rumours: what exactly had the British Royal Family fed on to become so wealthy? Children in a school near where I lived...

The Middle Passage

Megan Vaughan, 12 December 2002

On 1 June 1731, the Billy brothers, Guillaume and François, waved goodbye to their ship, the Diligent, as it set sail from Brittany. It was weighed down with Indian cloth, cowry shells from the Maldives, white linen from Hamburg, guns, ammunition and smoking pipes from Holland, kegs of brandy from the Loire Valley, and with the all-important supplies for the crew: firewood and flour,...

Fanon and Third Worldism

Megan Vaughan, 18 October 2001

In August 1777 a crowd gathered in Port Louis, the capital of the Indian Ocean island of Ile de France (now Mauritius), for the execution of Benoît Giraud, otherwise known as ‘Hector the Mulatto’. Though the term ‘mulatto’ implied some ‘white’ parentage, Giraud was also described as a ‘free-born black’ from Martinique, an island on the...

Diary: Kenneth Mdala

Megan Vaughan, 16 November 2000

Kenneth Gray Mdala was born around 1880 in what was later to become Nyasaland and is now Malawi. It is that part of Africa through which Livingstone trod or was carried, defined for strangers by its long, thin lake lying in the Rift Valley and by the ravages of the slave trade. Mdala came from a chiefly family and belonged to an ethnic group known as the Yao, who were one of the agents of...

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