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Abstract

This paper tries to revisit two different moments in the history of Portuguese colonialism. The differences between the moment of definition of a borderline between Swaziland and Mozambique, in 1888, and the 1890 British ‘ultimatum’ couldn’t be any more distinguishable. If the first has had an insignificant magnitude in Portuguese colonial history, the second is frequently defined as a watershed in the transition of Portuguese presence in Africa towards a modern imperialism. Again, if the first is defined by ‘equilibrium’, the second was imposed by ‘conflict’. Raising issues of representation, imperial discourse and historiography, this paper points out the need of a dialectical approach in order to contemplate the complementary nature of these two events. Colonial equilibrium and imperial conflict, I argue, are equally part of the constitutive nature of colonialism. Besides providing a good occasion to rethink the Portuguese colonial history, this paper will try to propose a different analytic framing on the nature of the colonial encounter and, consequently, the early stages of the colonial state. In order to do so, I propose the colonial praxis of Henrique de Carvalho’s expedition to Lunda (1884-1888) as a valid contrast to the use of the ‘ultimatum’ imperial narrative. But let me begin by a short digression to the opposite coast, in the region disputed between colonial Mozambique and what would be later Swaziland.

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