The Congo Free State across Language, Media, Culture


Probing the renowned myth of 'the heart of darkness', this project is the first to analyze the Congo Free State under Leopold II (1885-1908) as a space of international cultural encounter through an analysis of cultural production across language (Dutch, Italian, French, English etc), media (literature, photography etc) and culture (Europe, US, Africa). From this new perspective, the Congo Free State will be considered as a transnational phenomenon with a significant impact across the fin the siècle world.

Our aim is 1) to expose cross-linguistic, transcultural and transmedial connections between Congo Free State materials never before explored in a comparative context, hereby turning the Congo Free State into a case study par excellence for cultural exchange in Europe overseas history. 2) to develop a new methodology which moves beyond the 'coloniser versus colonised' paradigm, recasting European imperial culture in terms of entanglements and proximities across language, media, and culture.

The latter critical enterprise can only be undertaken in an international research collaboration. Therefore we will set up a permanent, structurally embedded Congo Free State research network that endeavors to organize 3 annual meetings, 2 joint publications and a virtual research portal creating a focal entry point for anyone interested in the Congo Free State. In parallel, the main applicant will develop her research on the transnational epistolary networks of Congo campaigners into a competitive ERC Starting Grant proposal, reinforcing (her role in) this international research collaboration in mutually productive ways.


Book or monography

  • SPJ De Mul, S. Donovan, R. Burroughs(2018): The Congo Free State across fin-the-siecle cultures. , Liverpool

Scientific article

Publications for the general public

  • spj De Mul(2013): Research Network Website The Congo Free State Across Language, Culture, Media


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. S.P.J. de Mul

Affiliated with

Open Universiteit, Faculteit Cultuur- en rechtswetenschappen, Rechtswetenschappen


01/09/2014 to 31/10/2017