Seminar: “The vast Empire of the grandfather”. Claiming to be the grandson of the king of the Congo (1856-1912)

Hippolyte Moussa-Mangoumbel in Le Petit Parisien, 29-12-1907. Photographer unknown (via Gallica).

Hippolyte Moussa-Mangoumbel was a Senegalese born on the island of Gorée in 1856. He participated in the French wars of occupation in West Africa, then settled in Nantes as a salesman and died in Le Havre in 1912. After 1895, his daily life was gradually organised around an obsession, that of the "mysterious kidnapping" of his parents. Supposedly members of the royal family of Loango, they were allegedly the victims of a plot orchestrated by the governor of Senegal, who had them captured and transported to Gorée. For years, Moussa-Mangoumbel looked for revenge, unsuccessfully published his story (in books and fliers) and alerted the press and the authorities by mail to have his status as the successor to the throne of Loango recognised.

In this presentation Juliette Ruaud (Les Afriques dans le Monde) will show that even an action as atypical and seemingly irrational as claiming to be the prince of Loango (and later of the Congo) as he did can be the object of a socio-historical analysis. Such behaviour raises classic sociological questions, notably those of vocation, aspirations for social mobility and distinction. Reconstructing Moussa-Mangoumbel's successive socialising experiences provides an understanding of how he came to incorporate such high expectations. In this seminar, Ruaud will also show how one can explore his texts, reinserting them into a larger set of writing and reading practices, and highlighting the circumstances of their writing. Finally, she will look at the circulation and reception of these unconventional texts in France and in Senegal. Far from being mere curiosities, these writings blur some of the most obvious chronologies of anti-colonialism in Senegal, reveal to us a memory of slavery that is hardly available, and inform us about the tensions of imperialism in the first decades of the European occupation of West and Equatorial Africa.

Juliette Ruaud is a political scientist who works primarily on the social history of voting and politics, and on colonial history. In 2021, she defended a doctoral dissertation prepared under the direction of Marie Brossier and Yves Déloye at Sciences Po Bordeaux (France) and Laval University in Quebec city (Canada), which was entitled : “On the edge of voting. Social history of the electoral institution in colonial Senegal (1840-1960)” (À la lisière du vote. Socio-histoire de l’institution électorale dans le Sénégal colonial (années 1840-1960). She is an associate member of the research center Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM, Bordeaux) and of the Centre Interdisciplinaire de Recherche sur l'Afrique et le Moyen-Orient (CIRAM, Quebec City).



Date, time and location

23 June 2022
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1.A15