The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective

The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective

Crawford Young
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npcmc
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  • Book Info
    The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective
    Book Description:

    In this comprehensive and original study, a distinguished specialist and scholar of African affairs argues that the current crisis in African development can be traced directly to European colonial rule, which left the continent with a "singularly difficult legacy" that is unique in modern history.Crawford Young proposes a new conception of the state, weighing the different characteristics of earlier European empires (including those of Holland, Portugal, England, and Venice) and distilling their common qualities. He then presents a concise and wide-ranging history of colonization in Africa, from the era of construction through consolidation and decolonization. Young argues that several qualities combined to make the European colonial experience in Africa distinctive. The high number of nations competing for power around the continent and the necessity to achieve effective occupation swiftly yet make the colonies self-financing drove colonial powers toward policies of "ruthless extractive action." The persistent, virulent racism that established a distance between rulers and subjects was especially central to African colonial history.Young concludes by turning his sights to other regions of the once-colonized world, comparing the fates of former African colonies to their counterparts elsewhere. In tracing both the overarching traits and variations in African colonial states, he makes a strong case that colonialism has played a critical role in shaping the fate of this troubled continent.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16447-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter One BULA MATARI AND THE CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN CRISIS
    (pp. 1-12)

    In 1879-1880 Henry Morton Stanley, an American in Leopoldian livery, forced a small army of porters bearing dismantled steamers over the tortuous terrain separating tidewater in the Zaire estuary from the vast pool of the Congo (Zaire) River above the rapids. Beyond lay the huge network of navigable waters along which the meager yet sufficient “tools of empire” projected the developing power of the colonial state in formation.¹ Stanley’s logistical feat engendered mingled fear and admiration in the Kongo regions through which he passed, reflected in the nickname Bula Matari (he who crushes rocks) by which he became known.

    Over...

  6. Chapter Two ON THE STATE
    (pp. 13-42)

    The state is the lead actor in the analysis that follows. Accordingly, this macrohistorical personage requires full introduction. The anatomy of the “master noun of political discourse,” as Clifford Geertz appropriately labels it,¹ occupies this chapter; in the next, I turn more specifically to the subsidiary species of the state genus, the colonial polity.

    The state as analytical quarry is an elusive and complex prey. In part, our conceptual grasp arises by perhaps unconscious empiricism through inductive contemplation of the political entities in the modern world which have borne that name. Also, states are known through the rich body of...

  7. Chapter Three THE NATURE AND GENESIS OF THE COLONIAL STATE
    (pp. 43-76)

    If we hold the colonial state up to the mirror of “state” as portrayed in the preceding chapter, we find that the reflection is flawed. Of the defining attributes of stateness, three crucial elements are missing. Sovereignty was emphatically denied; this comprehensive, ultimate power was vested in the colonizing state, delegated to its agents of rule. The doctrine of nation, redolent with overtones of self-determination, was vigorously disputed by the proprietary powers until the eve of their departure. And the colonial state was not an actor in the international scene; at most, it was occasionally a stage hand. The question...

  8. Chapter Four CONSTRUCTING BULA MATARI
    (pp. 77-140)

    Lord Kitchener, fresh from the smashing triumph over the crumbling Mahdist state at Omdurman in 1898, had just won designation as governor-general andsirdar(commander-in-chief) for the newly constituted “Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.” Commanding an essentially Egyptian army with some British contingents, Kitchener directed the final assault on the Mahdist capital, slaughtering eleven thousand of their troops while losing only twenty British and twenty Egyptian so1diers.¹ He was to preside over the creation of a bizarre colonial polity that by strange alchemy during the fourteen years of Mahdist rule became transformed from Egyptian province into de facto British possession, lightly concealed under...

  9. Chapter Five THE COLONIAL STATE INSTITUTIONALIZED
    (pp. 141-181)

    The compressed but momentous epoch of the colonial state in Africa at the start of the interwar period was at the end of the beginning. Its hegemony was consolidated and its rule thoroughly institutionalized during this phase. Paradoxically, the end of the beginning was also the beginning of the end, although the gathering forces, within and without Africa, that were to force European withdrawal were only dimly perceived, and they were largely discounted by the colonial state agents.

    These distant omens found their way into the colonial consciousness here and there through such pessimistic fantasies as the 1926 essayL’Afrique...

  10. Chapter Six TOWARD AFRICAN INDEPENDENCE
    (pp. 182-217)

    Bula Matari, convalescent but apparently on the road to recovery after the debilitating impact of the Great Depression, was mortally wounded—at least as an alien construct—by World War 11. The robust aura of invincibility and comfortable certitudes of the era of consolidation were progressively undermined by a newly hostile international environment and the burgeoning forces of African nationalism. The official mind was increasingly forced to contemplate that brooding nemesis: a future that could not simply be a reconstructed reproduction of the past. A progressively foreshortening time horizon enclosed the colonial state with narrowing options to avert or defer...

  11. Chapter Seven THE AMBIGUOUS CHALLENGE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
    (pp. 218-243)

    Bula Matari and civil society evoke utterly antithetical images. In the preceding chapters I have argued that until the final hours of the colonial state its system of rule was rooted in an exclusionary hegemony. The rise of a civil society inevitably marked the decline of Bula Matari as both cause and effect. Yet embedded within the complex process of the crystallization of African civil society were ambiguities and contradictions that were to haunt the postcolonial state. Ghostly residues of Bula Matari were concealed within an apparently triumphant civil society.

    No comprehensive review of the rise of African nationalism, normally...

  12. Chapter Eight THE IMPERIAL LEGACY AND STATE TRADITIONS
    (pp. 244-281)

    The time has come to return to the broader genus of colonial states, so as to argue the particularity of the African species. In chapter 3 the colonial state was introduced as a subdivision of the still more incorporative category of “state.” At that point I explored the rise of the imperial phenomenon from the fifteenth century onward and the major forms taken by early colonial regimes that served as precursors for Bula Matari. My objective was to catalogue the library of lessons in colonial statecraft built up in the early centuries of imperial expansion, which supplied the initial corpus...

  13. Chapter Nine THE AFTERLIFE OF THE AFRICAN COLONIAL STATE: CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS
    (pp. 282-292)

    In about 1980 a new genre of popular painting emerged in Zaire, especially in Kisangani and Kananga. The tableaux, painted with small variations by a number of street artists, depicted a man facing an open-jawed crocodile on a river bank, a snarling lion advancing from the forest, and a venomous serpent descending on him from a tree overhead. In a number of versions the canvas is accompanied by a reference to Romans 7:25. In the interpretation of a Zairian sociologist, this suggests that the Zairian crisis is so savage and cruel for the poor that only by entrusting themselves to...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 293-348)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 349-356)