The Moving Location of Empire: Indirect Rule, International Law, and the Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment
Leiden Journal of International Law. 2018. Volume 31(3), pp. 539-567
48 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2018 Last revised: 13 Aug 2018
Date Written: 2018
Between 1935 and 1937, the International Missionary Council conducted the Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment. The objective was to produce silent educational films and screen them to ‘native’ people via mobile cinemas in the British territories in East and Central Africa. Embracing the principle of ‘indirect rule’, and its role in training colonial subjects in economic self-sufficiency and political self-rule, as then advocated by leading colonial figures and the League of Nations, the films strived to capture ‘the native point of view’ through an ‘ethnographic sensitivity’ towards local cultures, concerns and needs. Hoping to educate the natives from ‘within’, they used local actors, familiar locations and pedagogical instructions that were believed to meet the target audience’s cognitive capacity. Though in many respects unsuccessful, the experiment cemented the use of cinema in the late colonial project and, more importantly, embodied the clear move at the time towards a more dynamic and disaggregated, yet perhaps never fully post-imperial, international order. I argue in this article that the Bantu Experiment is thus a telling instance through which to examine both the mobility and multiplicity of late imperial locations and the system of modern international administration that emerged during the interwar period. I suggest that this mobility and multiplicity continue to characterize the workings of today’s international order, indicating the key role that ‘indirect rule’, as a silent principle of international law, still plays in its functioning today.
Keywords: International Law; Imperialism; Indirect Rule; League of Nations; Bantu Educational Kinema Experiment
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