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Tlhabane Mokhine Dan Motaung


This paper probes the impact of colonial designs in the fabrication of native subjectivities, which eventuated in toxic political identities that would later undermine the post-colonial nationalist project. African history was shaped by three discursive periods: pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial. The colonisation period deformed, distorted and adulterated Africa’s pre-colonial cultural landscape—its sense of selfhood. African nationalism was a response to this ontologically debilitated condition of African personhood resulting from the violence of self-serving European colonial modernity, which created a structured subjugation of the African ‘other.’ African colonial elites at once defined and epitomised various forms of African nationalism against European incursion. However, these African modernisers failed to grasp the historicity of such enduringly baneful identity politics, and were thereby often themselves cast into the vortex of social contradictions reflective of this history. Mamdani made this observation when he stated that in kick-starting the nation-building project after independence, post-colonial elites turned their backs on the history of colonialism and thus on their own history.
Instead, they modelled their political imagination on the modern European state, the result being the nationalist dream was imposed on the reality of colonially imposed fragmentation, leading to new rounds of nation-building by ethnic cleansing. Consequently, African nationalism has invariably spread across large swathes of postcolonial Africa as it degenerated into odious ethnonationalism and chauvinism. Only through a deeper historical understanding of these colonial processes of African political identification can an we begin to understand how this once glorious African nationalism regressed into a dystopian one. This article draws on history to dissect this legacy of subjective forms of African self-understanding. 

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