John M. Lonsdale
Following on from the argument of the joint introduction to African nationalism, this chapter emphasizes Africa’s place in a global history of nationalism by emphasizing what seems to be a universal instinct to search out instructive history in order either to ride modernity’s adventure or to face up to its ordeal. The early scholarly analysis of African nationalism assumed that colonialism’s allegedly modernizing history was the past that counted, with nationalist elites riding the tide of social change that consigned ‘tribal loyalty’ to the past. Scholars are now more aware of deeper African pasts that made Africans see colonialism as less of an adventure, more of an ordeal, especially for deep-rooted ideas of household self-mastery as the basis of African citizenships. This archive of political thought encouraged local ethnic patriotisms in which the lively constitutional histories of African kingdoms, and the sense of ethnic moral economies outraged by class formation. Territorial nationalisms were shaped as much by such local energies as by demands for unity against colonial rule. Such contradictions could be at their most severe in southern Africa, as liberation movements had to take up arms against entrenched white minorities. African nationalisms, in short, have been shaped as much by African history as by imported ideas.
Bruce J. Berman and John M. Lonsdale
Africa has often been omitted from general histories of nationalism since Western scholars have seen the European powers’ strategies of decolonization to be historically more important than the emergence of African nationalism and because post-colonial Africa appears to be, uniquely, a continent of false nations and failing states, cut off from world history. This introduction places Africa back into world history by highlighting how Africa’s modern history is intertwined with recent global economic history, by showing the close comparisons between European nationalisms and African political ethnicity as reactions to the social disorders of capitalist modernity and, finally, by showing how far recent African state-building has been conditioned by the foundations laid in the colonial era of state-building.
Bruce J. Berman
Self-conscious efforts at nation building, while only partially successful, created a clear presence of the nation in the social imaginary and, along with often quite successful state-centred development strategies, focused politics on the state as the source of the resources of modernity and access to the market. One-party states and military autocracies provided opaque carapaces within which patronage networks could be negotiated among ethnic elites with more and less success in different states. From the 1980s, however, neo-liberal market doctrine and Structural Adjustment Programs, intent on eliminating state ‘interference’ and corruption from economic growth, produced uneven and segmentary globalization with widespread economic decline, social decay and disorder, a weakening of states, and increasing corruption expressed in conflicts framed in terms of moral ethnicity and political tribalism. Nationalism became powerfully intertwined with mobilized ethnicity in struggles, not to destroy but control post-colonial states. Efforts at democratization actually increased ethnic conflict, especially conflicts about autochthony, which focused on the meaning of national citizenship, belonging, and access to the resources of state and market. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, African states were both shadows and portents of the developing global crisis of social diversity and cohesion.