Race in the Last King of Scotland

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Take Home Exam #1

The Last King of Scotland, through it’s character development, cinematographic imagery, and linguistic/semiotic messages reveals a plethora of concepts that have been historically created by Eurocentrism, and that reinforce the notion of “us” and “them,” or “the Other,” thereby illustrating many stereotypical depictions of blacks and blackness. From the onset of the film, the character Nicholas Garrigan is portrayed as a privileged and affluent Scot who is well educated and has the ability to leave his seemingly mundane surroundings and travel. His choice to leave Scotland and go to Uganda as a doctor with intentions of helping and healing sick and needy Africans can be viewed as a white man penetrating a black society. Upon arrival, Nicholas meets two other white characters, both of which are there to act as doctors and saviors to an immensely underprivileged Ugandan community in need of medical care. This situation is applicable to Pieterse’s concepts discussed in chapter four of White on Black; Pieterse states that European missionaries were characterized for centuries as the holy hero bringing knowledge, light, and Christian goodness to the “dark continent,” while traditional forms of medicine and healing were described as “evil,” and “uncivilized,” only practiced by heathens. (69-70). This is expressly stated by Dr. Merrit when he comments to Nicolas that the natives “interestingly” still prefer witch doctors to modern medicine in an incredibly condescending tone, automatically discounting and discrediting older and traditional tribal medical methods and emphasizing racist ideas. Other racist comments are made during the film. For instance, when Stone and Garrigan are in the tailor’s shop, Stone comments that Amin can be brutal, but “a firm hand is the only thing the African understands.” This statement alludes to the European notion that the African is uncivilized and incapable of controlling impulses and instincts and therefore needs...
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