I concentrated on finding a formula by which the
whole colonial question and the problem of imperialism could be solved. I read Hegel, Marx,
Engels, Lenin, and Mazzini. The writings of these
men did much to influence me in my revolutionary
ideas and activities, and Marx and Lenin particularly
impressed me as I felt sure that their philosophy was
capable of solving these problems. But I think that
of all the literature that I studied, the book that did
more than any other to fire my enthusiasm was The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey
... with his philosophy of "Africa for the Africans"
and his "Back to Africa" movement.
58Thomas Hodgkin I have been obliged to think recently about the language of African nationalism; in particular to ask
what light the language of African nationalists throws
on their theory; whether indeed there is what can
reasonably be called a "theory" of African nationalism, which can be distinguished from other theories
—and, if there is, what this theory asserts. My
practical interest in these questions arose out of disagreement with two prevailing opinions: the view,
expressed by the Prosecution in the South African
Treason Trial, that in so far as those who talk the
language of African nationalism are moved by any
political theory it must be a "Communist" theory;
and the view that African nationalism lacks any
genuine theoretical basis—that such ideas as it makes
use of are merely gadgets, borrowed to give an
appearance of respectability. This note attempts to
formulate, in a preliminary way, a different view.For the most part African national movements
have developed within the artificial frontiers determined by the European Powers—Britain, France,
Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Italy, and to a very
minor extent, Spain—during the last quarter of the
nineteenth century. With the disappearance of Germany from the ranks of the colonial Powers after
World War I, and of Italy World War II, and given
the lack of opportunity for political organization in
the Portuguese territories, national movements inAfrica south of the Sahara have in practice been
largely confined to countries in which either English
or French is the dominant language—for administrative, judicial, educational, journalistic, and similar
purposes. (Somalia, within the zone of Italian linguistic influence, is an important exception.) In
these territories indigenous languages are, of course,
widely used for purposes of political agitation and
debate, especially where—as in the case of Swahili
in Tanganyika—a particular African language serves
as a lingua franca throughout a territory. But most
of the literature of these national movements—newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, broadsheets, programmes and policy statements, reports, biographical
and autobiographical works, studies of specific problems—is in either English or French. (This generalization does not apply to Arab North Africa, where
the Arabic literature is probably more important
than the French.) Hence, although an adequate
account of nationalist language would be bound to
pay attention to material—in the form of speeches,
songs, poetry, journals, et cetera—in the various
African languages, a good deal can be learned from
a study of the literature existing in English and
French.If one considers the output of national movements
of sub-Saharan Africa only, whether in English or
French, over the past fifteen years, one point is
immediately clear: there is, to a large extent, a
common political language; common themes continually recur. These themes might be summarized
A Note on the Language of African Nationalism
|1. ||The people inhabiting a given colonial territory
constitute a "nation," or a nation in process of |
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Political Sociology:A Reader.
Contributors: S. N. Eisenstadt - Editor.
Publisher: Basic Books.
Place of publication: New York.
Publication year: 1971.
Page number: 376.
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