Nationalism in Post-Colonial Africa

Bruce J. Berman

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199209194
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Nationalism in Post-Colonial             Africa

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  • History
  • African History
  • Colonialism and Imperialism


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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.

Keywords: Nationalism; ethnicity; states; Africa; globalization; citizenship; modernity; conflict

Article.  8687 words. 

Subjects: History ; African History ; Colonialism and Imperialism

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