Colonialism and The Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement

  • Created : 12.05.2017 05:33
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This article is about existence of two different public realms in African societies contrary to western societies. The author discusses the colonial and African bourgeois ideologies that justify colonization and creates two public realms:  primordial public realm and civic public realm.
These two public realms have different type of moral linkages to private realm.
a) Primordial public realm: primordial groupings, ties, and sentiments influence and determine the individual's public behavior. it is moral and operates on the same moral imperatives as the private realm.
b) Civic public realm: this is historically associated with the colonial administration and has become identified with popular politics in post-colonial Africa. it is based on civil structures: the military, the civil service, police, etc. Its main characteristic is that it has no moral linkages with the private realm. civic public realm in Africa is amoral and lacks the generalized moral imperatives operative in the private realm and in the primordial public.
The same political actors operate in the same public realms at the same time.
His following paragraph summarizes the main theme of the article:
"Most educated Africans are citizens of two publics in the same society. On the one hand, they belong to a civic public from which they gain materially but to which they give only grudgingly. On the other hand they belong to a primordial public from which they derive little or no material benefits but to which they are expected to give generously and do give materially. Their relationship to the primordial public is moral, while that to the civic public is amoral. "
Our post-colonial present has been fashioned by our colonial past. It is that colonial past that has defined for us the spheres of morality that have come to dominate our politics. The destructive results of African politics in the post-colonial era owe something to the amorality of the civic public.
Modern African politics are in large measure a product of the colonial experience.
The author argues that two critical bourgeois groups influence colonial Africa and continue to influence post-colonial African politics: a) group of colonial administrators, mostly drawn from the rising bourgeois class in Europe, and b) African bourgeois class born out of the colonial experience itself.
Author contends that the emergence and the structures of the two publics owe their origin first and foremost to these two groups, especially to their ideological formulations intended to legitimate their rule of the ordinary African.
Since the discussion of the concept of ideology constitutes an essential part, the author begins with an operationalized definition of the term. By ideology, he refers to unconscious distortions or perversions of truth by intellectuals in advancing points of view that favor or benefit the interests of particular groups for which the intellectuals act as spokesmen.
Ideological distortions and abuse of truth usually indicate a degree of insecurity on the part of the group promoting such ideologies.
History is to a large extent the selective emphasis of events from a national point of view.
In the article he talks about two different ideologies and discusses each with its different ways. a) Colonial ideology of legitimation b) African bourgeois ideology of legitimating
1) Backwardness of the African past: according to colonizers, the African should forget about their pasts because the only important thing is the present. Missionaries told Africans that ancestor-worship is bad and shameful.
2) Lack of contributions by Africans to the building of Africa: colonial administration downplayed African contributions and exaggerated westerners. it would be a rare American teacher who says that England built or founded the U.S. colonial history is the demonstration of the massive importance of the European 'intervention' in Africa an of the 'fact' that African contributions to the building of Africa have relevance only when seen in the context of a wider and more significant contribution of the European colonizers. Africans read in school books that Africa and especially its important landmarks and waterways were 'discovered' by European explorers. Mungo Park, an adventurer, becomes a 'discoverer' in colonial history taught in British colonized nations. Certainly colonial history as taught in African schools and universities had a primary purpose: to legitimate the European colonial rule of Africa. It is ironic that British colonized Africans don't know French discoverers and French colonized Africans don't know British ones. The author argues that this because of the fact that each colonial nation created its own version of the history.
3) Inter-tribal feuds: by carefully emphasizing 'inter-tribal' disharmonies in pre-colonial Africa, European colonial administrators had two things to gain at once. First, creation of disharmony between groups especially in the declining days of colonization helped divide and conquer policy. Second, it gave the colonial administrations the image of benevolent/humanist intervener.
4) Benefits of European colonial rule: it is always the benefits of the colonization that is emphasized. Its disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Author draws our attention to the fact that only non-western nations that have successfully developed are china and Japan and they were not colonized.
5) Administrative costs of colonization to Europeans: Europeans want to give the impression that colonization had cost on ordinary European citizens by taxation etc. they want to show that benefits colonized nation gained from colonizer more than colonizer gained from African nations.
6) Native vs. westernized: colonial administrations had a strategy of separating 'native' from western institutions and define the 'native' in terms of what is low. But western educated Africans in fact did not escape the native sector. Indeed their difficulty is to adapt two different mentally contraposing orders.
Then the author discusses the methods of African bourgeois ideologies of legitimation. He argues that these methods were formed to achieve two interrelated goals. First, these were weapons to be used by African bourgeois class for replacing colonial rulers. Second, they were used to legitimate their hold on their own power. Anti-colonial ideologies were used during colonialism but post-colonial ideologies of legitimation were used while alien colonial rulers were leaving the country.
1) African high standards: African bourgeois, western educated Africans try to show that they are as good as their former colonizers. they try to prove that they are equals but never the betters, of their former rulers. African bourgeois is very uncomfortable with the idea of being different from his former colonizers in matters regarding education, administration, or technology. one suspects that he is unconsciously afraid that he may not be qualified to be an effective replacer of the former colonizers.
2) Independence strategies: the fight for independence was a struggle for power between the two bourgeois classes involved in the colonization of Africa. It was not about issue of difference of ideas regarding moral principles but rather the issue of which bourgeois class should rule Africans. African bourgeois had no basis of legitimacy independent of colonialism.
3) Promise of independence: another method/strategy was to raise the hopes and expectations of the ordinary citizen. First promised increased benefits and second to lower the colonial burden.
1)  In the waning days of colonialism in many African nations two sorts of divisions were created or at least encouraged by the colonizers: a) to undermine the African bourgeois class by reviving tradition as the basis of legitimacy, i.e by restoring the defeated chiefs and kings to power. b) Creation of divisions within the bourgeois class along primordial ethnic lines.
2) Education as guarantee of success: education was made important by western educated African bourgeois to legitimate its rule. in order to challenge the illiterate chiefs, low degrees guaranteed success.
3) Ethnic domain-partition ideology: ideologies and myths do have reality-creating function. Bourgeois created ethnic groups in their nations. the author argues that ethnic identity of being Ibo or Yoruba is not very old.