Darwin’s Nightmare

Short Essay #1 (10%): Darwin’s Nightmare

The first short essay assignment is a reaction paper requiring viewing of and reflection on the documentary film Darwin’s Nightmare by Hubert Sauper (2004).


Three weeks in to the course, we have been exposed to several readings that comment on (Africa’s) development or underdevelopment. We have also, during week 2, screened Sauper’s documentary, Darwin’s Nightmare, that seems to associate poverty with development and underdevelopment. This assignment requires you to reflect on that film, and the discussion which followed the screening, to write a three-page reaction paper based on the film.

Please select one of the five issues under “Issues to consider” and write a 650-word reaction paper that addresses the questions and issues therein and, conforms to the guidelines provided in the attached “Handy-Dandy Guide to Writing a Reaction Paper” and, addresses your issue(s). This assignment is due on Saturday, November 7, 2015.

Issues to consider

1. In a world (i.e., global space) where poverty and development, or the lack of development, are frequently associated/conflated, one might observe a number of “nightmares” in Darwin’s nightmare. Considering Moss’ “narrowest economic definition” of development, what “development nightmares” did you see in Sauper’s documentary? Please explain.

2. Flying into Mwanza airport apparently is a nightmare, given evidence of aircraft wreckage around the airport and, the stated unscheduled nature of air traffic in to Mwanza airport. Yet, the Russian pilots appear willing to take the risk and fly into Mwanza. What do you think is in it for them? Work and money? Weapons or arms for Africa’s wars? Please explain.

3. According to the LA Times review, One Fish Sparks A Chain of Social Ills, “It was just one man who brought the fish with one bucket on one afternoon and poured it in the lake … That was it, all scientific discussion was over, the fish was there.” What happened? And, what resulted from the one afternoon? Please explain.

4. A take on Sauper’s Darwin’s nightmare, based on readings of Myrdal or Hugo Slim (see D2L) and the social issues around Lake Victoria, is that it shows how fish processing plants are inappropriate for Mwanza and Tanzania. What do you think? Is Mwanza ready for the global trade in fish, as presented in Suaper’s documentary? Why or why not? Please explain.

5. According to the LA Times review, One Fish Sparks a Chain of Social Ills, Darwin’s Nightmare “starts slowly, hypnotically, like a cobra with all the time in the world to strike. It immerses you in its reality one toe at a time, until suddenly you are in over your head, gasping for air as the horror of the situation reveals itself in all its savage devastation.” What are they talking about? Agree or disagree? Please explain.
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