Political Sociology: A Reader

By S. N. Eisenstadt | Go to book overview
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.
58
A Note on the Language of African Nationalism
Thomas 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 as follows:
1. The people inhabiting a given colonial territory constitute a "nation," or a nation in process of
____________________
From Thomas Hodgkin, "A Note on the Language of African Nationalism," in Kenneth Kirkwood, ed., St. Antony's Papers No. 10 (London: Chatto and Windus Ltd., 1961), pp. 22-24, 31-32, 39-40. Copyright 1961 by Thomas Hodgkin. Reprinted by permission of Chatto and Windus Ltd., and the Southern Illinois University Press.

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