Nation-Building in Post-Colonial States: Historical Past and Present-Day Realities

скачать Автор: Bondarenko, Dmitri M. - подписаться на статьи автора
Журнал: Journal of Globalization Studies. Volume 12, Number 1 / May 2021 - подписаться на статьи журнала


In the form the nation-state has been known until now it formed in Europe and North America in the Early Modern time and flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, being adequate to realities of the world of industrial capitalism and cultural nationalism. However, nowadays other trends, related to superintensive globalization and post-industrialism, are dominating in the world. At present, the Western states have to depart from the classical concept of the nation and seek solutions to a completely different problem – of supporting their citizens' unity at preservation of cultural diversity brought by migrants from all over the world in recent decades. Under the current circumstances, it should not be ruled out that post-colonial states, most of which are multicultural initially due to their unique history of formation, will find themselves in an advantageous position, if they abandon attempts to build nations according to the outdated classical Western pattern. While irreversible, globalization is associated with Modernity (Modern time) started in the West half a millennium ago, nation-building in contemporary post-colonial countries shows that globalization is by no means equal to Westernization, and that Modernity as a historically-specific type of society and culture, splits into multiple modernities.

Keywords: nation-building, nation, post-colonialism, post-colonial state and society, historical past, historical memory, history use and abuse, Modernity, multiple modernities, globalization, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda.

Dmitri M. Bondarenko, Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences more

Historical Originality and Nation-Building in Post-colonial Countries

Post-colonial societies are a unique phenomenon in the world history. Their emergence in the mid-twentieth century did not result from centuries-old internal social processes, but was directly determined by the formation and short-lived (by historical standards) existence and disintegration of the European colonial empires. The colonial borders reflected primarily the balance of forces between the metropolitan powers in this or that region but not the preceding course of local political, social, economic, and cultural history. With rare exceptions, many different peoples were forcibly united within a colony. Not only kinship but also cultural affinity among those peoples was often absent. The colonialists forcibly united peoples that had never formed regional political and economic systems; moreover, had different levels of socio-cultural complexity, and sometimes did not even know about each other or were historical enemies. At the same time, the colonial borders would divide one people or break the historically established regional systems of economic and cultural ties no less infrequently. These features were supplemented by economic and cultural heterogeneity of the colonial societies in the sense that the elements of capitalism implanted by the Europeans in different spheres, did not synthesize with a set of pre-capitalist features of the local societies. As a result, as Keith Hart writes, today, ‘African development must build on independent nation-states whose economic base is pre-industrial agriculture’ (Hart 2011: 13). There also was little intersection between the autochthonous and new sectors of public life, in which essentially different value systems dominated.

When different institutions are products of societies of different socioeconomic types and culture areas, in particular, when pre-industrial and industrial, originally local and Western institutions combined in colonial and then post-colonial societies, this conflict between institutions gives dynamism to a whole societal system (Balandier 2004; Onoma 2010; Osterhammel 2010; Young 2012; Højbjerg et al. 2013; Gulbrandsen 2014; Mamdani 2018; Niang 2018; Njoku and Bondarenko 2018). Most post-colonial states have inherited the artificial complexity of societal composition, economic and cultural heterogeneity as their fundamental features alongside with the former colonial borders. Post-colonial states are a legacy of colonialism in the sense that when the colonizers were leaving, the world was already ‘global.’ As a matter of fact, it became such due to the Europeans' endeavors since the Age of Discoveries that became the beginning of colonial time in some geographic areas and prelude to it in others. The sovereign nation-state is the form of political organization that allows a country to be a full subject of modern international law. It is so because this law is based on the recognition of nation-state as the basic unit of international relations and world politics. ‘Europe did not bring to Africa a tropical version of the late-nineteenth-century European nation-state. Instead it created a multicultural and multiethnic state’ (Mamdani 2018: 287). However, after becoming politically independent, post-colonial countries simply had no alternative to declaring themselves sovereign nation-states.

In the post-colonial situation, the problems born by colonialism have acquired new dimensions associated, in particular, with the necessity to substitute colonial states with sovereign nation-states. Respectively, the formation of national unity, when national identity would be more important for the citizens than belonging to any other group (regional, ethnic, religious, etc.), has become an important task. In Europe, it took centuries for gradual realization of internal prerequisites for ripening of nation as a form of cultural unity in the civil society and of nation-state as a form of its political organization. This process started at least with proclamation of the Charter of Liberties in 1100, while the immediate period of nation-building in Europe covers the interval between the end of the last religious war, the Thirty Years' War, in 1648 and the French Revolution of 1789–1799. As a result, in nation-states the cultural and political borders were brought into conformity (Gellner 1983) while the formation of the civil society would bridge the gap between society and state (Breuilly 1993, 2005). On the contrary, in most post-colonial states, it became necessary to form civil societies, nation-states, and national cultures as fast as possible on the basis of in many ways random and heterogeneous conglomerate of cultures and societies. This task has been even more difficult to fulfil since the original pre-colonial internal dynamics of contemporary post-colonial societies did not push them in the direction of the European-type civil society and nation-building. Nowadays, many post-colonial societies are still groping for a way to internal organicity and to socio-cultural and national integrity.

Thus, the specific characteristics of post-colonial societies and states are predetermined historically, being a consequence of the unprecedented way of their emergence (see also, e.g., Wallerstein 1966; Balandier 1970; Mbembe 2005; Bhambra 2007; Mamdani 2018; Njoku and Bondarenko 2018). Most of them began to form during the colonial period and that is why reproduced in their form the political institutions and legal norms of the Modern-time West. However, copying their form, the post-colonial state could not internalize automatically their content, attached by the civil society that rose independently in Europe but not in Africa or Asia (Bondarenko 2014b). Because of their specific way of formation and development during the colonial period, the initially leading role of the state, not society, has become a significant feature of nation-building in post-colonial countries. Since the mature civil society had not been formed in African and Asian countries in the colonial period, their societies remained fragmented along tribal, ethnic, regional, religious and other lines that determined the identities of most of their members. This made impossible the society's self-integration into nation, and only the state could take on the integrating role. That is why nation-building in post-colonial countries was initiated and directed by an external to the society force that stood above it. This determines the specificity of both the process and current results of post-colonial nation-building. In particular, it explains why there remains a significant gap between society and state, why the impact of the former on the latter is still relatively weak.

At the same time, the post-colonial state has turned out much more stable and capable of adapting to changes at the global, regional, and national levels than scholars used to suppose not so long ago (see Nugent 2011; Young 2012; Jakwa 2017). Although formation of the civil society institutions and their increasing role in recent decades is an indisputable fact in many post-colonial countries, the central role of the state in them, its priority over social and economic institutions (i.e., the ability not just to serve and direct, but also shape them and the very system of social relations) usually preserves. More so, authoritarian regimes in many post-colonial states turn out to be able to involve and even integrate the rising civil institutions into their political and socio-cultural discourse. A grave problem of many post-colonial countries is not that the role of the state in them is much more inclusive and decisive than in the West but that the state in them often demonstrates ineffectiveness in terms of its own historical and socio-cultural logic (Chabal and Skalník 2010).

History, Modernity, and Nation-Building in Post-colonial States

Without internal preconditions for the formation in the present borders in most cases and having an originally Modern European political system, the post-colonial countries more and more often can remain viable only with a considerable (compared to the liberal West) role of the state, including its ‘constructivist’ role in nation-building. In particular, in the post-colonial situation, an appeal to the historical past is important for identities construction (see, e.g., Lentz 2006; Jewsiewicki 2010; Bondarenko et al. 2014; Mawere and Mubaya 2016; Bondarenko and Butovskaya 2019: 21–81), and the state has especially great opportunities for manipulating the citizens' historical memory for achieving national unity.

It is so because the collective historical (cultural) memory is not a ‘verbatim quote,’ a ‘cast’ or a ‘photo’ of a people's true history: constructed and reconstructed by various actors, passed through a filter of social consciousness again and again with each generation, the past is intricately refracted and even often distorted in it. However, the result of the operation of historical memory is not necessarily lie or fib. Historical memory can be unrelated to the facts, but the images of the past, cultural myths generated by the historical memory, may prove reliable in the way they reflect the general essence of specific events and whole periods. These images and myths can appear convincing to people, and hence influence their worldview and social behavior. From a social-constructivist perspective, history is a part of a distinct local cultural and symbolic universe and represents the result of social processes of selection, remembrance, and oblivion (Tonkin et al. 1989). Before independence, the peoples' historical memory also was an ideological battlefield – the one where colonialists and activists of the liberation movements struggled (see, e.g., Werbner 1998). Therefore, history is not ‘neutral.’ ‘The use of memory for the identity of the community (from as small as a few people to as large as a nation) highlights the very political nature of history and memory’ (Tallentire 2001: 199). Hence, historical memory cannot but play a part in nation-building (Llobera 1996; Eller 1997; von Beyme 2014: 19–33; Galaty 2018).

At the same time, the historical past plays not only a significant but also an ambiguous role in the post-colonial world in general and in nation-building in post-colonial countries in particular (Bondarenko and Butovskaya 2019). Not only the use and abuse of history for different ends by different actors, including state as well as non-state agents (e.g., Kuba and Lentz 2006; Grätz 2009; Sicilia 2014; Skalník 2014; D'Angelo 2019; Effiboley 2019) is important. Real historical facts and processes objectively promote or hinder nation-building and can affect the directions of nations' current development. Many challenges facing the post-colonial, especially African, societies are rooted in the precolonial and colonial history. Many other problems have arisen in already about six decades of their independent history. All of them are aggravated by the still peripheral status of Africa in the global world-system (Wallerstein 2017).

Importantly for the present discussion, the consideration of colonial and postcolonial societies as specific socio-cultural forms whose uniqueness is predetermined historically is very well compatible with the concept of multiple modernities. Shmuel Eisenstadt introduced this concept in the early 2000s (Eisenstadt 2000; 2002; 2003; see also Ben-Rafael and Sternberg 2005; Preyer and Sussmann 2015) within the trend of reexamining the notion of Modernity as actually synonymous with the Western modernity that emerged at the turn of the millennia (see, e.g., Appadurai 1996; Gaonkar 2001; Wagner 2001, 2008; Therborn 2003). Advocating for multiple modernities, Eisenstadt rightly pointed out that ‘the best way to understand the contemporary world – indeed to explain the history of modernity – is to see it as a story of continual constitution and reconstitution of a multiplicity of cultural programs’ (Eisenstadt 2000: 2). We fully agree with this argument and believe as firmly as Eisenstadt did that ‘modernity and Westernization are not identical’ (Ibid.: 2).

The introduction of this view led to a reevaluation of relations between the Western and (post)colonial cultures as manifestations of ‘local modernities’ (e.g., Robbins 2001). The look at colonial and post-colonial societies as a specifically modern part of the world rather than an arena of ‘struggle’ between the tradition and the only possible Western modernity has become quite popular by now. Probably, the Comaroffs were the first Africanists to declare: ‘There are, in short, many modernities’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 1993: xi). This line of reasoning was continued in their own and others' publications, including those in which colonial and postcolonial world, especially Africa (in general or at the level of individual states), is discussed as modern in its own specific way or directly in the context of the ‘multiple modernities’ conception (e.g., Comaroff and Comaroff 1997; Ferguson 1999; Macamo 1999, 2005; Deutsch et al. 2002; Nkwi 2015; Wagner 2015; Palmer 2018a, 2018b; Imafidon 2020). In fact, all societies in the contemporary world tend to be modern in this or that way, so it may be legitimate to talk about ‘multiple modernities’ as different ‘varieties-of-modernity’ (Schmidt 2006: 88).

The problem of nation-building in post-colonial societies is among the most tightly connected with their historical past from both perspectives, ‘subjective’ (constructivist) and ‘objective’ (factual), and most firmly embedded in the issue of single (Western) modernity vs. multiple modernities. Despite the aforesaid, we agree with Eisenstadt that ‘Western patterns of modernity ... enjoy historical precedence and continue to be a basic reference point for others’ up until now (Eisenstadt 2000: 2–3). The phenomena we are used to call ‘nation’ and ‘nation-state’ are offspring of the Western modernity. However, since the first days of independence, governments of most post-colonial countries declare the task of building nations in accordance with that pattern. Indeed, the nation and nation-state are part and parcel of Modernity. However, would not they be more viable if their concrete patterns correlate with specific features of Modernity in respective socio-cultural areas – the features rooted in particular historical pathways of those areas? This question seems especially important exactly for the post-colonial societies.

The Historical Past and Nation-Building in Three Post-Colonial States: A Brief Comparison

In this section, we will discuss the process of nation-building in its relation to the historical past, as well as to its use and abuse, in three post-colonial states of Africa – Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda. Geographically, they form a kind of a cluster or a chain, as Tanzania borders on both Zambia and Uganda, and they all were British possessions in the past (the continental part of Tanzania, then Tanganyika now called Mainland, used to be German before that). We will base our discussion primarily on the field evidence on different aspects of nation-building collected in these countries by the present author and his associates between 2003 and 2019. The main methods used were extensive questionnaires, interviews (structured, semi-structured, and non-structured), and intensive observation (participant when possible).

Our analysis undertaken elsewhere (Bondarenko 2016) has shown that today Tanzania is closer than most African countries to the emergence of a nation in its classical, i.e. modern European form – as a community of co-citizens devoted to single basic values, sharing common culture and identity atop local and particular, and for whom loyalty to the nation-state is primary with respect to regional, religious, ethnic, tribal and other divisions. In most other post-colonial states, including Zambia and Uganda, local identities play a much greater part than in Tanzania.

We argue that this important difference possesses a historical background. It is rooted in their different historical (pre-colonial and colonial) past and its interpretations in the time of independence. Contrary to Zambia and Uganda, in Tanzania what today serves as the socio-cultural background common for the overwhelming majority of its population began to form long before the establishment of the colonial regime (first, from 1885, German and then, in 1919–1961/63, British). This background is the Swahili culture with its written language, now the country's only official language (Prins 1967; Mazrui and Shariff 1994; Middleton 1994; Horton and Middleton 2000; Knappert 2005). Thus in Tanzania the growth of national consciousness and feelings can manifest itself mainly (although not exclusively, of course) at the level of not just separate ethnic groups but of its almost all autochthonous population.

Indeed, only in the nineteenth century, the Swahili culture and language of even now relatively small-numbered eponymous coastal people began to spread widely in the depth of Mainland. Furthermore, it was taking place not without participation of European missionaries who often preached in Swahili and made it the language of instruction in missionary schools (Gromova 2012: 256; Mortamet and Amourette 2015: 34–36). Besides, the Swahili culture and language have absorbed numerous Arab elements (see, e.g., Hurreiz 1985; Allen 1993; Whiteley 1993; Horton and Middleton 2000; Middleton 2004).

However, today the vast majority of Tanzanians irrespective of ethnic origin and religion are proud of belonging to the Swahili culture and consider it as completely African and originally pre-colonial, integrating people of different African ‘tribes’ into the Tanzanian nation atop (not instead of) their particular ethnic origins (Bondarenko 2010; Ivanchenko 2013). In fact, the Tanzanians usually know the origin (not only ethnic but regional as well) of their friends, neighbors and colleagues, but to know does not inevitably mean to give priority. As a respondent told us, ‘We [Tanzanians] are ethnically blind in some sense. … If you want to lose people's respect, repeat every time from what ethnic group or region you are. Finally, someone will dare to ask you: “So… So what?”’

For Tanzanians, the Swahili culture, including language, is the root, source, and background of the Tanzanian nation, which hence does not owe its origin to the Europeans and European colonialism to a great extent. These are several of many typical statements on this matter of the Tanzanians of various ages, levels of education, and social statuses: ‘There is the Tanzanian nation and it is single, as we all speak the same language – Swahili. There are more than 120 tribes in Tanzania but the Swahili language unites us all …’; ‘Yes, there is the Tanzanian nation. Swahili is not ethnicity. Notwithstanding if a Tanzanian is a Gogo, or Luguru, or someone else by origin, we are united by the fact that we all speak the Swahili language’; ‘To be a Tanzanian means to be able to speak Swahili’; ‘I believe that there is a single Tanzanian nation, because we have a common language – Swahili’; ‘We all speak Swahili, we are all brothers and sisters.’ As Nelli Gromova (2008: 92) argues (and many our interviews do prove that she is right; see also Batibo 1992; Yoneda 2010), in general

…the ethno-linguistic situation in Tanzania is characterized by noticeable predominance of the Swahili language and by its use in all the key functions of communicative sphere. The languages of relatively large ethnic groups, such as the Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Haya and some others that preserve compactness of residence, are not in such a threatening situation as the languages of small ethnic groups that can disappear in the non-distant future under the influence of mobility and dynamics of the contemporary Swahili language.

The Swahili culture serves not only as the formative substratum but also as a means of construction of the Tanzanian nation since the early days of independence (see, e.g., Jerman 1997: 318–322, 335–339). The official ideology based on the ‘Ujamaa theory’ elaborated by the first President of Tanzania Julius Kambarage Nyerere, has contributed a lot to the citizens' perception of the Tanzanian nation as not a legacy of colonialism (what, as we have stressed above, is actually the point, although it was just in the colonial period that the Swahili culture and language acquired the all-regional spread, prominence, and recognition):

… the nation, which in Ujamaa theory carries the national culture transmitted through Swahili, is in fact the state. Thus state ideology and National Culture become synonymous – an unjustified synonymy which has allowed the confusion between ‘objective’ Swahili culture (the historical culture of the coastal societies) and ‘subjective’ political Swahili culture (that of contemporary Tanzania) … (Blommaert 2006: 18; emphasis in the original).

The state and the nation are to become manifestations of the same substance, like the two faces of Janus, like two sides of the same coin.

The language policy of the state is also aimed at strengthening positions of Swahili as the official national language within the framework of state ideology (e.g., Blommaert 2005, 2014; Topan 2008; Kanana 2013; Rugemalira 2013; Kioko 2014). ‘While the adoption of a national language was an inevitable aspect for creating common national interest, the adoption of a clear political ideology as well as instituting a strong leadership became an important tool through which legitimacy and nationhood could be attained’ (Kavina 2020: 61). This trend has become especially strong in recent years, but from the very birth of the independent state, Nyerere insisted on treating Swahili as the national language of Tanzania what was enshrined in law in 1967. Indeed,

[w]ith regard to deliberate attempts at promotion in both formal and informal areas of life and the creation of a true national and official language, the post-independence spread of Swahili among the population of Tanzania is regularly noted to be a remarkably successful example of African national language planning in a multi-ethnic context. Now, following considerable extended efforts from the 1960s onwards, Swahili is extremely widely known in Tanzania and used in education, government administration, and inter-ethnic communication throughout the country (Simpson 2008: 10).

While the existence since pre-colonial time of the autochthonous Swahili culture and language that spread all over the country in the early colonial period makes Tanzania a lucky exception to the rule, Zambia and Uganda, as well as most of post-colonial states, especially African, do not have such a background for national unity. None of the local cultures is able to play this role; the integration of peoples in contemporary Zambia and Uganda began only during the colonial time and due to colonialism, so it is only the colonial socio-cultural legacy including the English language that can serve as the historical and cultural background for the formation of the Zambian and Ugandan nations. Some interlocutors in these countries pointed out that peoples there ‘have similarities in cultures and traditions,’ ‘speak similar languages’ and so forth but, of course, none of them could argue that they belong to one particular autochthonous culture in the sense in which the Tanzanians coming from different ethnic groups share the Swahili culture. While the Tanzanian respondents were unanimous in stating that there was a single Tanzanian nation, most Zambian and Ugandan interlocutors depicted their countries as conglomerates of ‘tribes’ with their own languages and cultures. The states there have to make attempts to integrate the populace into nations by strengthening rather weak cultural unity that began to form only within colonial borders and on the basis of languages of the former colonial powers (although particularly in Zambia the state has been making attempts to represent multilingualism since the 1990s, and hence multiculturalism, as an asset rather than an obstacle to nation-building [Marten and Kula 2008; Prokopenko 2018: 67]). As Amy Niang writes,

… post-colonial states are built on morally and ethically uncertain grounds. … It was never … clear what the post-colonial state was meant to be or what goods and morality it was meant to create or cultivate for African peoples. … the post-colonial state offered no moral resolution to the dilemma of ‘community,’ social solidarity and legitimate authority (Niang 2018: 201, 202).

Furthermore, from the standpoint of nation-building prospects, Zambia and Uganda have at least one more disadvantage compared to Tanzania. In pre-colonial time, there were no strong centralized polities in Tanzania's Mainland except the Shambaa (Shambala) kingdom of the eponymous ethnic group (Winans 1962; Feierman 1974). If there had been many such polities, in the post-colonial independent state they could have become centers of tribalistic nationalist regionalism or separatism and excite the neighboring peoples' historical memory of the former subjugation. In Tanzania, the potential resistance of relatively weak local chiefs was nipped effectively and without serious problems at the dawn of independence (Kavina 2020: 61). Some of our respondents named the lack of tribalism as a sign of existing Tanzanian nation alongside with the Swahili culture and language.

In the meantime, in Zambia, at least four such polities rose in the pre-colonial period (of the Bemba, Chewa, Lozi, or Barotse, and Lunda [Langworthy 1972; Roberts 1973; Banda 2002; Macola 2002; Mainga 2010]). After independence, particularly the Bemba leaders tried to ensure their ethnic group's political dominance in Zambia and it took much effort, including repressive actions, on the part of the state's first President Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda to suppress those attempts (Sardanis 2019: 261–263). However, with the transition to a multi-party system in the 1990s, the ethnic factor manifested itself once again, ‘A number of political parties were created then on the basis of ethnicity’ (Prokopenko 2018: 63). The struggle between the pro-Bemba and pro-Lozi political organizations, heated by their members' feelings of these ethnic groups' historical importance, has become especially intense. Another projection of the pre-colonial past on post-colonial present in Zambia since the first years of independence is the constantly painful issue of autonomy for Barotseland – the former kingdom of the Lozi (Prokopenko 2018: 63–64, 68–69). The answer of a university student to the question, ‘What ... must be done in the sphere of interethnic relations?’ is symptomatic: ‘[It is necessary] to improve interethnic relations by removal of the inferiority complex that certain people from some ethnic cultures have towards other ethnic cultures, for example, Bembas and Lozis.’

Similarly in Uganda, four kingdoms had dominated the regional political scene by the establishment of the British protectorate in 1894: the Ganda's Buganda was the mightiest one, followed by Bunyoro of the Nyoro, Nkorem or Ankole, of the Nyankole, and Tooro of the eponymous ethnic group (Karugire 1971; Nyakatura 1973; Wrigley 2002; Rwagweri 2003). Despite sincere statements of many respondents that they were proud to be Ugandans and that the Ugandan identity was very important or even most important to them, almost all accentuated their ethnic identity as well. It was especially typical for the Ganda, many of whom called their people ‘the central people’ of Uganda in the political sense, but also historical and cultural, arguing that the Ganda had once ‘civilized’ the other ‘tribes’ of contemporary Uganda, ‘taught them their culture and civilization.’ Here is a typical statement, ‘Today, the Ganda are accommodating other tribes: they allow other tribes to come to their kingdom, share their culture with them. The Ganda integrate Ugandans. Buganda as a kingdom unites Uganda. So, today the nation is one because it is united by the Buganda Kingdom.’ Our interviews show clearly that this Ganda nationalism, even exceptionalism (or ‘Ganda ethnic patriotism,’ as Derek Peterson [2012] would prefer to call it) is based on the assumption of the Buganda Kingdom's political and cultural domination in the region before colonialism and desire to restore its exceptional position within the Republic of Uganda in the future.

While the Tanzanian law does not recognize the power of chiefs since 1962, the Zambian Constitution of 1996 restored the House of Chiefs as attachment to the national Parliament, once abolished by the first President Kaunda. The House of Chiefs, as its member told us openly in 2010, tries its best to influence all spheres of social and political life in the country at both regional and national levels, although officially its prerogatives are limited to so-called ‘traditional issues.’ Village and district chiefs are also very influential figures at their levels of competence (e.g., as we found out during our field research, by no means can they be avoided when a mining company intends to start and successfully carry on business in their areas). The situation with chiefs in Zambia is so typical for contemporary Africa (at all the diversity of their official statuses and informal positions across the states of the continent) that Kate Baldwin has concentrated exactly on them in her study of ‘the paradox of traditional chiefs in democratic Africa’ (Baldwin 2016: 83–146).

In Uganda, President Apollo Milton Obote declared illegal traditional rulers immediately after coming to power in 1966, but the current President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recognized them officially again soon after taking the office in 1986. There is a great number of local dignitaries of different ranks in Uganda; as a respondent said, ‘many of them are so poor and insignificant that they don't even have a car.’ However, some are very influential persons. Especially it is true for the Kabaka (the King) of Buganda. Mikael Karlström (1999, 2004) showed that the Ganda's sense of ‘a collective future’ was modern yet distinctly Ganda, as it was rooted in their belief in indestructible power of the Kabaka and inextricable mystical connection between him and his people. Our own fieldwork gives all grounds to argue that these trends have become even stronger since the time of their study by Karlström. Actually all our Ganda respondents recognized themselves as his subjects and many openly argued that for them he was more important than the President of Uganda. As one of them said, ‘As you are not a Ganda, you cannot understand us. But for us, the Kabaka is in our blood and bones while the President is someone whose office was invented for us by the British.’ So the Kabaka is the living symbol and embodiment of the Ganda's identity, culture, former might, current glory, and future greatness. It is an extraordinary honor for a Ganda to get a certificate of being a Kabaka's subject signed by the Kabaka himself – framed, it will occupy the central place in that person's house. The veneration of the Kabaka takes place, for example, in the form of making volunteer offerings to his spirit in the sacred grove of Ssezibwa. From 1966 until 1986, the Buganda royal family had to live in exile. In 1986, they returned to the home country and in 1993, the traditional Ganda monarchy was restored. The position of the Kabaka in contemporary Uganda is not just a matter of ‘respect to traditions’: he is among the wealthiest and politically most influential people of the country, probably even the second after the President of Republic. Besides the Kabaka's lush court that occupies a big palace, the importance of Buganda within the Republic of Uganda is manifested in existence of its own Parliament whose premises are comparable in size with those of the national Parliament.

Other Uganda's traditional rulers are not so influential as the Kabaka of Buganda; however, the kingdoms of Bunyoro, Tooro, Busoga (of the Soga people), and Rwenzururu (of the Konjo and Amba peoples) do have their own political bodies and institutions parallel to those of the Ugandan state. It is interesting and important to note that the two latter local polities became kingdoms only in the colonial (Busoga [Fallers 1965; Gonza and Nabwiso 2016]) and even early post-colonial time (Rwenzururu [Syahuku-Muhindo 1994]). The subjects of all these kingdoms rulers (as well as those of numerous minor rulers throughout the country) are no less devoted to them than the Ganda to the Kabaka. For them, their own kings and chiefs are also embodiments of their ethnic and cultural identity. An educated interlocutor explained that ‘to identify my identity I have to belong to a certain kingdom. That's why you can see that many people respect kingdoms here. And you can even say that they respect them more than Ugandan government.’ As, for example, an old peasant told us, ‘Since I am Soga, I must recognize the Soga king: his power is compulsory and nothing can be done with it.’ From this perspective, it is natural that for many citizens, even despite their allegiance to Uganda as a nation, ‘King is more important than the President,’ another Soga man concluded. ‘Both being Ugandan and a subject of a king is important, but I think that to be a member of my kingdom is more important in my life,’ said a Ganda woman, and she was very far from being the only respondent to state this. It is also not surprising that some interlocutors said that in the country, ‘there is still some disunity based on tribe’ (although some others stressed the role of socio-economic stratification or political affiliations). In the words of a respondent, ‘My Soga identity is the natural one, but the artificial one is Ugandan, because now you need to have a passport of Uganda. But here [within Uganda] I am Musoga, he is Muganda (sing. of Soga, or Basoga, and Ganda, or Baganda, respectively. – D. B.), so that is how we identify ourselves.’

Thus, our central argument in this section is that the differences in the nation-building process and its current results in the post-colonial states of Tanzania on the one hand, and Zambia and Uganda on the other, can be explained by significant dissimilarities in their real pre-colonial and colonial historical fortunes and the ways history has been used and abused in them since independence. While in Tanzania the national unity has the background in the autochthonous peoples' pre-colonial cultural history (and this fact is inflated and instilled in the citizens' minds via official ideology), in Zambia and Uganda the background was created (unintentionally, of course) only by the colonial regimes. In the interviews, many Zambian and Ugandan interlocutors told unequivocally that the Zambian and Ugandan nations had formed or begun to form in the colonial time with the countries' gaining of independence as the climax point of the process. Here is a typical statement: the Zambian nation ‘formed after North-Western and North-Eastern Rhodesia were amalgamated in 1911 to form Northern Rhodesia which was declared independent Zambia in 1964. Since then the Zambian nation has existed well intact even if we have 72 ethnic groups’. (Seventy-two is the official number of autochthonous ethnic groups in the country). Similarly, Ugandan interlocutors argued that ‘history of Uganda begins with coming of the British’ or even ‘from Independence Day 1962.’ In sharp contrast to Tanzania, in Zambia and Uganda nobody related the formation of their nations to the pre-colonial period, while several interlocutors in both states argued that even at present there are no Zambian or Ugandan nations at all but only conglomerates of ethnic cultures (see also Holmberg 2016).

We attach the greatest importance to the existence of a background for national integration in Tanzania since the pre-colonial time provided by the presence of the Swahili culture and language and almost complete absence of strong centralized polities, on the one hand, and a lack of such a background in Zambia and Uganda before the colonial period, on the other. The importance of these facts in itself is multiplied by the states' manipulations with the historical memory, by their use and abuse of it. The states in all the three countries appeal to the historical memory of the peoples in attempts to rely on the historical heritage for the sake of consolidating the nations, but also with the aim of firmer legitimizing themselves in the citizens' minds and souls – these two tasks are inseparable (e.g., Marten and Kula 2008; Kawalya 2011; Bondarenko 2014a; Karusigarira 2019; Lindström 2019; Sishuwa 2020). Legitimation – persuading the governed that precisely this government is good for them (gaining legitimacy) – is a vitally important constant task for any power (Cohen and Toland 1988; Beetham 1991; Kurtz 2001: 53–65; Giordano 2015), and manipulations with history are essentially legitimation practices: the state makes attempts to build up a nation whose members would feel their indivisibility from the state in its present form.

Nation-Building in Post-colonial States: From Single Modernity to Multiple Modernities

Nations are a modern phenomenon, or, to be more precise, a phenomenon of Modernity, intrinsically and essentially connected with it. During the period called Early Modern time, the first nations as communities of co-citizens with common basic values, culture, and identity, were rising in the West hand in hand with other institutions that eventually formed part and parcel of the world of Modernity – capitalism, contemporary science, democratic state and so on (Baskin 2020). However, today, the West has to try to move away from the concept of the nation established by the end of the eighteenth century, first of all due to the French revolution (see, e.g., Dann and Dinwiddy 1988; Bell 2001; Keitner 2007). Now the Western states have to seek solutions to a completely different problem – of supporting their citizens' unity at preservation of cultural diversity brought by migrants from all over the world, and this may change the ‘original’ and ‘classical’ conception of the nation (Bondarenko 2016; Njoku and Bondarenko 2018; Nitschke 2019). Not a single cultural identity based on a single value system and dominating over local and particular identities, but equitable coexistence of many cultural identities is accentuated nowadays as a new basic national value, as a source of national development in the situation of superintensive globalization of recent decades.

Respectively, globalization – socio-cultural, political, and economic – questions the future of the nation-state as a form of political organization and of the concept of sovereignty as the foundation of its legitimacy. It should not be overlooked that the nation-state is a historical phenomenon, which means that it emerges in peculiar historical conditions and disappears with their radical change. In the form the nation-state has been known until present, it formed in Europe and North America in the Early Modern time and flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, being adequate to realities of the world of industrial capitalism and cultural nationalism. Other trends, related to globalization and post-industrialism, are dominating in the world nowadays. Not surprisingly, the Modern-time European concept of sovereignty as the main attribute of the nation-state, that considers a separate nation-state as the basic unit of international relations, is in crisis, too (see Turner 2004: 94–97; Kapferer and Bertelsen 2012: 29–94, 163–304). The creation of the European Union in 1993 became the first attempt (with still an unclear outcome) to endow trans-national institutions the supreme sovereignty (and not to create a union of sovereign states, like the United Nations, the African Union and so forth). Evidently, in the already not so distant post-industrial and post-modern world (Baskin and Bondarenko 2019), we will witness the rise of a post-nation-state, based on refusal from national sovereignty (but not independence) as the state's main attribute in favor of trans-state governance institutions (Baskin and Bondarenko 2014: 115–119, 127–136; Bondarenko 2016: 240).

In parallel, a global trans-national culture will be forming, that will not eliminate but unite and integrate national cultures. At this, the cultural nationalism is losing congruence with patriotism: similar to national patriotism, it praises devotion to co-citizens as people of the same culture and value system, while nowadays co-citizenship does not presuppose inevitably such a unity. That is why citizenship is becoming more and more a legal category, gradually losing cultural, ethnic, and national content. Moreover, while in the past nations emerged as the result of bringing cultural and political identities into conformity, nowadays they may not coincide again: today, to be a member of a nation means, among other things, to be tolerant to co-citizens of other cultures.

If we now look from this perspective at the post-colonial states, we will have to recognize once again that most of them, especially African, do not have an integrating autochthonous culture and language like Swahili in Tanzania. Due to better historical preconditions, today Tanzania is closer than Zambia or Uganda to the formation of a nation adequate to the West-dominated modernity – let us repeat, as a community of co-citizens devoted to single basic values, sharing common culture and identity atop local and particular, and for whom loyalty to the nation-state is primary with respect to regional, religious, ethnic, and other divisions. The Tanzanian situation is largely exceptional for post-colonial countries, while Zambian and Ugandan is typical. The theories based on the European historical experience do prompt that Tanzania has better prospects for nation-building. However, we hardly find it grounded to rule out that in the long run, in the wake of multiculturalism and profound shift in comprehension of nation as social reality in contemporary world, the Zambia's and Uganda's position can be even more favorable for multicultural nation-building and creation of effective post-colonial nation-states than that of Tanzania, despite all the evident limitations, including ‘ethnic patriotism.’

To clarify the point, we will draw an analogy between socio-cultural and economic history of post-colonial states. During the first decades of independence, many of them sought to implement the so-called ‘catch-up development model,’ that is to create an economic system similar to that of the developed countries. This model did not justify itself: while the post-colonial countries tried to industrialize, the First World was already becoming post-industrial, and the gap between it and post-colonial states was only growing. Likewise, in post-colonial states, the task of nation-building following the model of the European nations of the Modern time has been and continues to be set, despite immense difficulties that can be explained among other things by differences between the European and local political cultures, social institution, value systems and so on.

So today in the global situation cannot the position of Zambia, Uganda, and similar post-colonial countries, which are in the majority, be more promising than that of Tanzania? Furthermore, in most of such countries, including Zambia and Uganda, the main division runs between cultures of the autochthonous peoples, the differences between which are not as great as between the cultures of natives and migrants – the main ‘cultural actors’ in the present-day Western countries. Today, this question still has no valid answer, particularly in view of the unclear prospects of multiculturalism in the West, which, despite numerous internal problems and the current rise of China and some other non-Western states, still plays the leading role in the global socio-cultural processes. Nevertheless, it may already be high time to raise it.

The unique history of post-colonial societies has made their pathways to and through Modernity highly specific, very different from the European pathway. The pattern of the nation is now radically transforming in the West itself, while the basic features of most post-colonial societies can make the process of nation-building in them advanced rather than catching up on a global scale. The nations emerging in post-colonial states (although with significant variations and unevenly from country to country) can be considered as an additional proof of Modernity's multiplicity, as far as nation-building is a fundamental feature of Modernity as such and of any of its multiple forms. While irreversible, globalization is firmly associated with Modernity (Modern time) started in the West half a millennium ago, nation-building in contemporary post-colonial countries shows that globalization is by no means equal to Westernization, and Modernity as a historically-specific type of society and culture splits into multiple modernities.


The article was prepared within the project “Post-crisis world order: challenges and technologies, competition and cooperation” supported by the grant from Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation program for research projects in priority areas of scientific and technological development (Agreement № 075-15-2020-783).


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