The Belated Return of Lumumba's Tooth Shows the Tenacity of Colonialism

Dennis Brasky

The only reason that can be offered for keeping a man’s tooth for 61 years knowing that it was obtained through torture and murder is that the cruelty is the point. Colonisation was, after all, a projection of power through cruelty, rationalised by pseudo-intellectual arguments about racial superiority and difference. The fate of Lumumba’s tooth shows that the point of European imperialism was not just economic or social but to offer an outlet for the unchecked cruelty that was increasingly constrained by political change in Europe. Arguably, the ability to project cruelty elsewhere made it possible to contemplate and pursue a different way of organising political life in Europe after several centuries of intense conflict.

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