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African intellectuals and nationalism

Mkandawire, Thandika


The relationship between African intellectuals and Pan-Africanism and nationalism has been both a symbiotic and a fraught one.  After independence, the capacity of intellectuals to "speak truth to power " and their penchant for puncturing myths which was prized in the struggle for independence, were now perceived as divisive and thus inimical to the new nation-state. 

Mkandawire speaks of three different phases in his chapter.  The age of euphoria, being the first, was the period up to the late 1970s which was when the first African "professoriate "  emerged.  During this period the relationship between the state and intellectuals was good.  For the first generation of post-colonial intellectuals, this was the era of affirmation of the nationalist project and rejection of imperial intellectual domination and neo-colonial machinations.  The second period was that of disenchantment and disillusionment when the intellectuals blamed the leaders for "betraying the nationalist struggle".  The third phase , being the decade that Mkandawire describes as one of "extremes: renaissance or resignation?" , is also characterised as a " period of bewildering extremes for Africa" ( Zeleza 2003: 101 ).  Not surprisingly, the repertoire of responses by African intellectuals was wide-ranging, including self-criticism, withdrawal, re-engagement in democratic politics, participation in tribalistic politics and joining the guerillas. 

In conclusion, Mkandawire asserts that an unfettered intellectual class is an emancipatory force that can be put to good use.          

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Chapter Title: African intellectuals and nationalism
Book Title: African intellectuals: rethinking politics, language, gender and development
Edited by: Thandika Mkandawire
City: London
Publisher: Zed Books in association with CODESRIA Books
No. of Pages: 10-55

Document Type:Chapter in Book (Peer Reviewed)
Subject Area:National Systems and Comparative Studies
Country:African Continent
Keywords:Intellectuals, Nationalism, Democracy, Political Ideologies

File Size:267 KB
Rights:Permission to reproduce this chapter was granted by the author.
Date Added:09 May 2007

Mkandawire, Thandika (2005). African intellectuals and nationalism. In Thandika Mkandawire (ed), African intellectuals: rethinking politics, language, gender and development London: Zed Books, 10-55