The State and the Social

The State and the Social: State Formation in Botswana and its Precolonial and Colonial Genealogies

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 364
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qd0n4
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  • Book Info
    The State and the Social
    Book Description:

    Botswana has been portrayed as a major case of exception in Africa-as an oasis of peace and harmony with an enduring parliamentary democracy, blessed with remarkable diamond-driven economic growth. Whereas the "failure" of other states on the continent is often attributed to the prevalence of indigenous political ideas and structures, the author argues that Botswana's apparent success is not the result of Western ideas and practices of government havingreplacedindigenous ideas and structures. Rather, the postcolonial state of Botswana is best understood as a unique, complex formation, one that arose dialectically through the meeting of European ideas and practices with the symbolism and hierarchies of authority, rooted in the cosmologies of indigenous polities, and both have become integral to the formation of a strong state with a stable government. Yet there are destabilizing potentialities in progress due to emerging class conflict between all the poor sections of the population and the privileged modern elites born of the expansion of a beef and diamond-driven political economy, in addition to conflicts between dominant Tswana and vast other ethnic groups. These transformations of the modern state are viewed from the long-term perspectives of precolonial and colonial genealogies and the rise of structures of domination, propelled by changing global forces.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-298-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. x-xvi)
    Bruce Kapferer

    This volume presents an anthropological discussion of the socio-historical emergence of the Botswana nation-state. Gulbrandsen, in the best tradition of anthropological field research, adopts a holistic perspective grounded in ethnographic experience and immersion in a diversity of social and political practices over the long-term. This is not the kind of travelogue ethnography that has begun to take a hold in anthropology, one perhaps over-influenced by postmodern cultural studies perspectives.

    Gulbrandsen’s observations and interpretations build from his engagement beginning in the 1970s with predominantly members of the Tswana majority, and in a great variety of contexts involving many different subject positions....

  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Ørnulf Gulbrandsen
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Botswana has often been portrayed as an oasis of peace and harmony, admired for its continuous parliamentarian democracy, esteemed for the sustainable strength of its postcolonial state and widely recognized for its tremendous economic growth. One might assume that these developments have come about due to Western ideas and practices of government, with their strong emphasis on electoral democracy and a well-functioning state bureaucracy having successfully replaced the premodern structures of power. It is my contention, however, that the postcolonial state of Botswana is best comprehended as a unique, complex formation arising dialectically from the intersection of Western ideas and...

  8. Chapter 1 The Development of Tswana Merafe and the Arrival of Christianity and Colonialism
    (pp. 29-63)

    On 3 October 2005 Botswana’s state president, Festus Mogae, unveiled what is known as the Three Dikgosi Monument in the capital, Gaborone (see cover of this book). The monument commemoratesKgosiSechele I of the Bakwena,KgosiBathoen I of the Bangwaketse andKgosiKhama III of the Bangwato, renowned for their diplomatic mission to London in 1895. The president asserted in his speech, ‘During the early years of colonialism these three distinguished monarchs played a leading role in ultimately ensuring our territory’s independent future, by preventing its administrative handover to neighbouring white settler regimes’. In such terms the three...

  9. Chapter 2 Tswana Consolidation within the Colonial State: Development of a Postcolonial State Embryo
    (pp. 64-108)

    In view of the ways in which the British established supremacy as a rather distant power, it is not surprising that the peoples of the Bechuanaland Protectorate did not develop any strong notion of colonial power as repressive. Of course, the imposition of tax and levies and other requirements were received negatively. Yet many of my old friends and acquaintances on labour migration to South Africa (which was very substantial for almost a hundred years, until the mid-1980s¹) recalled a strong contrast between the protectorate and the increasingly repressive, racist regime of South Africa. This difference finds one of its...

  10. Chapter 3 Cattle, Diamonds and the ‘Grand Coalition’
    (pp. 109-135)

    The development of a strong state in Botswana is closely linked to what Bayart (1993: 155ff.) has identified as critical for a sustainable government in post-colonial Africa – ‘fusion of elites’. He was, as indicated in the Introduction, centrally concerned with how powerful people operate in predatory and violent ways in relation to postcolonial states on the continent, making them notoriously fragile, weak and failing. This is a matter of forces, in Deleuze and Guattari’s conception, exterior to the state – ‘war-machines’ that generate rhizomic attacks on the state. My chief aim in this chapter is to identify major conditions underpinning the...

  11. Chapter 4 The State and Indigenous Authority Structures: Ambiguities of Co-optation and Confrontation
    (pp. 136-189)

    However crucial, the development of a grand coalition has, of course, not been a sufficient condition for the post-colonial state in Botswana to prevail as strong and sustainable. In accordance with what I indicated in the Introduction about the Foucauldian notion of the state as ‘superstructural’ in relation to a wide range of power networks, I shall show how the establishment of the postcolonial state involved a major transformation through which the Tswanamerafeand other indigenous authority structures became highly instrumental to the state for the exercise of societal control without overt exercise of coercive power.

    The establishment of...

  12. Chapter 5 Tswana Domination, Minority Protests and the Discourse of Development
    (pp. 190-226)

    While ‘African socialism’, in various versions, had considerable appeal elsewhere on the continent in the years following Botswana’s independence (1966), President Seretse Khama rejected it as a ‘guiding ideology’. The occasion was an address at the Dag Hammarskjøld Centre in Uppsala (Sweden) in 1970, where he asserted that ‘[w]e in Botswana have chosen to develop our own guiding principles and describe them in terms readily comprehensible to our people … rooted in our culture and tradition’ (Carter and Morgan 1980: 102). That is, ‘our culture and tradition’ in the singular – which might be taken to mean the dominant Tswana culture,...

  13. Chapter 6 Antipolitics and Questions of Democracy and Domination
    (pp. 227-254)

    The postcolonial state leadership in Botswana has always taken pride in the country’s international reputation as one of Africa’s most successful democracies. They are quick to explain that the sustainability of parliamentary democracy in Botswana reflects the ‘fact’ that ‘democracy is deeply rooted in our culture’. One of Botswana’s previous vice-presidents stated once that ‘[w]e haven’t learned democracy from America or England. It is inborn … grew from a system developed by our forefathers’.¹ This has often enough been re-asserted by other modern political leaders. Such a notion of ‘democracy’ obviously reflects an attempt to create an imagination of the...

  14. Chapter 7 Governmentalization of the State: On State Interventions in the Population
    (pp. 255-281)

    Ranked amongst the twenty-five poorest countries on earth at its independence and widely viewed as a highly peaceful, democratic island in the midst of authoritarian regimes of racism and violence, Botswana became a favourite target of Western aid agencies. From its early beginnings the post-colonial state received vast financial and technical foreign support for ‘development’ purposes – which wasnotdiscontinued when the flow of revenues from diamond mining into the state treasury started to accelerate in the late 1970s (see Harvey and Lewis 1990: 198ff.). Foreign aid has, with very few exceptions, been channelled through the state to government-conducted ‘development’...

  15. Chapter 8 Escalating Inequality: Popular Reactions to Political Leaders
    (pp. 282-310)

    The strength of the postcolonial state and the sustainability of the ruling group are clearly conditioned by its successful capture of the different parts of the population into the processes of nation-state building. This development involves, however, transformations that work upon the relationship between the different categories of people. In Chapter 5 I explained how the state’s subscription to liberalism and social equity spilled into the prevailing relationships between dominant Tswana and minorities. I indicated how state policies and programmes have progressively divided the population into social classes – a multitude of social classes in the sense of Hardt and Negri...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 311-317)

    I started out by examining the formation of the small Tswana states on the edge of the Kalahari – known asmerafe– from the late eighteenth century because, as I have argued, they gave rise to sociopolitical practices, institutions of authority and structures of domination that were of a great significance, first, to the development of a colonial state and prevention of annexation to neighbouring racist regimes. Second, by virtue of their enhanced force and range of domination under the British wing, especially in relation to other communities, the Tswanamerafeembodied cultural and social conditions that gave rise to a...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 318-334)
  18. Index
    (pp. 335-343)