Language and Nationalism
in South Africa
To state that language and nationalism are closely related is a tautology, but one that needs restating in view of the loose usage of the term "nationalism" in the Third World and particularly in the African literature. In the nineteenth-century European sense of the word, "nationalism" referred to a political movement or a process of growing self-consciousness based on a feeling of common ethnicity. Of the several criteria of ethnicity, a common language has often been the paramount one, with religion coming in second place. Thus, when one speaks of German or Italian nationalism, one means primarily the growth of political consciousness by people sharing the same language.
In dealing with contemporary Africa, social scientists have greatly confused political analysis by using "nationalism" to mean broadly "anti-colonialism." 1 If the confusion had stopped there, not too much damage would have been made, but, faced with the problem of having to use a descriptive term to refer to true nationalism in Africa, the word "tribalism" was resorted to.____________________