During the colonial period, Africans told each other terrifying rumors that Africans who worked for white colonists captured unwary residents and took their blood. In colonial Tanganyika, for example, Africans were said to be captured by these agents of colonialism and hung upside down, their throats cut so their blood drained into huge buckets. In Kampala, the police were said to abduct Africans and keep them in pits, where their blood was sucked. Luise White presents and interprets vampire stories from East and Central Africa as a way of understanding the world as the storytellers did. Using gossip and rumor as historical sources in their own right, she assesses the place of such evidence, oral and written, in historical reconstruction.
White conducted more than 130 interviews for this book and did research in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia. In addition to presenting powerful, vivid stories that Africans told to describe colonial power, the book presents an original epistemological inquiry into the nature of historical truth and memory, and into their relationship to the writing of history.
Luise White is Associate Professor of History at the University of Florida. Her previous book, The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi (1990), won the Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association.
"It took courage, determination, and a clear mind to make us see unexpected aspects of colonial history, not beneath, but through, stories of bloodsuckers and cannibals. Luise White's book convincingly demonstrates that these tales of the fantastic can be sources of history-writing, giving us access to realities that are ignored by those who uncritically accept the injunctions of scientific realism."—Johannes Fabian, author of Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire
"Luise White is as usual stimulating and provocative. This book on vampires reverses strong mythologies and will make a significant difference in African studies."—Valentin Mudimbe, author of The Idea of Africa
"A brilliant, eccentric, original book. It is deeply researched, intellectually engaged, and morally serious. It deserves a wide readership." —Thomas Laqueur, author of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud