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Anticolonialism in Africa

Aims And Objectives, The Development Of Nationalism, After Political Independence: The Struggle Continues, Bibliography

In post–World War II history, decolonization is a term generally employed to describe and explain the struggle for, and attainment of, freedom from colonial rule by most countries in Asia and Africa. This attainment was marked by a transfer of power; national political elites assumed the administrative responsibilities and duties previously discharged by the colonial authorities. Thus, new sovereign nations were born.

Steadfast struggle through political parties and related movements, in the pursuit of decolonization, marked the era of nationalism in Africa. Nationalism was the indispensable vehicle utilized to achieve the desired goal of decolonization.

It is important to point out that the study and analysis of nationalism in Asia and Africa has been affected by the scholarly and ideological controversies that still surround the "national question," nationality, and nationalism. While the power and influence of nationalism is undisputed, Benedict Anderson points out that the terms nation, nationality, and nationalism have all "proved notoriously difficult to define, let alone to analyze." Many scholars, especially in the West, have continued to look at nationalism as an anachronism and therefore as a concept that is not a revealing tool of analysis. Part of the explanation for this scholarly disillusionment is the ill repute nationalism acquired during the era of Nazism and fascism in Europe, when it came to be associated with intolerance and a reactionary chauvinism that was "at odds with the proper destiny of man."

The study of nationalism has also been a source of intellectual and ideological frustration to Marxists, who have traditionally been troubled by its "chameleon qualities." Nationalism "takes many different forms, is supported by many different groups and has different political effects." Unlike Marxism, which places much emphasis on a society's class structure, economics, and "form of economic organization," nationalism is basically political and cultural. This explains in part why Marxism and nationalism have had a "difficult dialogue" over the years.

In Asia and Africa, post–World War II nationalism was, above all, a "revolt against the West" (Barraclough), its chief characteristic "resistance to alien domination." This resistance, which led to decolonization, ultimately created a multitude of nations out of lands that had had "little or no national consciousness." It is fair to conclude that in order to comprehend the centrality and diversity of nationalism in postwar Asian and African history, "European modalities" may not be strictly relevant.

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