Paradoxes of Sovereignty and Independence discussion

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Short reflective response page . A page response on James Ferguson (2006: 50-68) Paradoxes of Sovereignty and Independence.

The page response should include one page answering :

what the reading tells us about structures of inequality?

**Please use the reading and highlight key points to answer the question on the paper**

Easy vocabulary.

Do not summarize reading, its more of like what you got from the reading and what it reminds you at the present day or past so please relate it to other people or historic events or current social issues in the U.S(current events).


I will provide the pdf file of the reading.

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2 Paradoxes of Sovereignty and Independence ‘‘REAL’’ AND ‘‘PSEUDO-’’ NATION-STATES AND THE DEPOLITICIZATION OF POVERTY There is a joke, which is said to be told (in various versions) by residents of Tijuana, Mexico. A ‘‘gringo’’ tourist walks into a Tijuana bar and finds himself getting the cold shoulder from the locals who are drinking there. He approaches a Mexican drinking at the bar for an explanation, asking if they could not have a beer together. The Mexican refuses, saying: ‘‘Look, you gringos came here in 1840 and stole half our country. Now you sit up there with your cars and your swimming pools and your skyscrapers, while we sit here in our poverty. Why should I have a drink with you?’’ The gringo responds: ‘‘You mean, 150 years later, you still can’t forgive us for taking half of your country?’’ ‘‘No,’’ the Mexican replies. ‘‘I can forgive that. It is not easy, but I can forgive that you took half of our country. But there is one thing that I can’t forgive.’’ ‘‘What is that?’’ asks the gringo. ‘‘What I can’t forgive, is that you didn’t take the other half, too.’’ 1 The joke is not very funny. Even when told by Mexicans, it is vaguely embarrassing to a liberal political sensibility. At the end of a century dominated by anticolonial nationalist struggles for sovereignty and independence, we can hardly help but see national independence as almost synonymous with dignity, freedom, and From Global Shadows by Ferguson, James. DOI: 10.1215/9780822387640 Duke University Press, 2006. All rights reserved. Downloaded 29 Apr 2017 01:57 at empowerment. This, I will suggest here, may be in some respects a trap. A comparison drawn from the recent political history of southern Africa may be a way of illuminating this. In particular, I will briefly describe the way poverty and powerlessness have been apprehended and written about in Lesotho, a nation-state whose political independence and territorial sovereignty are universally acknowledged. I will then compare this with the way that very similar realities have been apprehended in the pseudo–nation-state of Transkei, a South African ‘‘Bantustan’’ whose claims to national independence and sovereignty were fiercely contested, and ultimately denied (see map). I will argue that the very weakness of Transkei’s claims for sovereignty facilitated a radical, politicizing analysis of the roots of poverty and underdevelopment that can usefully be extended to the predicaments of the impoverished ‘‘real’’ nation-states of the world. Particularly at a time when the nation-state form is under unprecedented strain all around the world, with naturalized national mappings of peoples onto places more and more widely challenged and contested both in scholarship and in the wider world, there may be much to be gained from exploring political and analytical alternatives to the sovereign nation-state frame of reference. A close look at the southern African experience may help us to do just that. In a final note, I will also reflect on some parallels between the dominant anthropological vision of the world as an assemblage of separate and unique ‘‘cultures’’ or ‘‘societies’’ and the dominant ‘‘development’’ vision of the world as an assemblage of ‘‘national economies.’’ I will argue that anthropological ideas of culture, society, and ‘‘the field’’ tend to localize and depoliticize our understandings of global inequality and cultural difference in the same way that the idea of the sovereign nation-state localizes and depoliticizes our perceptions of poverty. LESOTHO: A ‘‘REAL’’ NATION-STATE As I first prepared to travel to Lesotho for field research in 1982, it was necessary to assure many friends and acquaintances in the United States that Lesotho was, as I said, ‘‘a real country.’’ With Paradoxes of Sovereignty 51 much discussion in the press of South Africa’s attempt to establish bogus ethnic ‘‘Bantustans’’ as supposedly independent states, it was necessary to insist on this. Given Lesotho’s precarious position as a small enclave completely surrounded by South Africa, confusion was perhaps understandable. In any case, it was necessary to emphasize that Lesotho was not a phony ethnic ‘‘homeland’’ but a former British colony that had received its internationally recognized independence in 1966. And that, to me and to my friends, made all the difference. It was history that had made Lesotho ‘‘a real country.’’ Through the resistance of its people and the canny diplomacy of its nineteenth-century founder, King Moshoeshoe I, Lesotho was not incorporated within South Africa but was (like Swaziland and Botswana) brought into the British Empire as a so-called protectorate (then known as Basutoland) under the jurisdiction of a High Commission. Spared the overrule of the South African settler state, Lesotho and the other so-called High Commission territories attained independence in the mid-1960s, along with the rest of the British-held colonies in Africa. Free and independent, one of the ‘‘front-line states’’ in the struggle against apartheid, Lesotho stood proudly apart from South Africa and its ethnic Bantustans (whose supposed independence Lesotho defiantly refused to recognize). When I arrived in Lesotho, however, this categorical difference began to seem less absolute. Thoroughly dominated by South Africa economically and politically, Lesotho’s ‘‘independence’’ proved difficult to locate. Migrant labor to South Africa was the predominant form of employment; South African firms dominated local banking, manufacture, and commerce; and the South African rand was the everyday currency. One of the few gestures toward economic independence (if only a symbolic one) was in fact the introduction of a Lesotho currency, the maloti, at par with the rand. Yet few seemed to take to the nationalist gesture; currency continued to be insistently spoken of as ‘‘rand,’’ and South African notes were actively preferred. Worse still, many informants compared their own situation unfavorably with that of the residents of South African Bantustans like the Transkei. Indeed, one of my most articulate and politically sophisticated informants shocked me by wishing openly that Lesotho might become a Bantustan— 52 Paradoxes of Sovereignty for in the Bantustans, he insisted, taxes were lower, and government services were better, than in Lesotho. The distinction between ‘‘real’’ and ‘‘pseudo’’ nation-states, so important back in the United States, seemed much less so here on the ground. To an economic historian, this would perhaps be unsurprising. For in economic terms, there is not a great deal to distinguish Lesotho’s history from that of the ‘‘Native Reserves’’ within South Africa (i.e., the territories reserved for ‘‘native’’ black South Africans, which would later become the foundation of the supposedly independent ‘‘Bantustans’’). To begin with, the Basotho subjects of King Moshoeshoe, like other African farmers in the region, lost most of their best agricultural land in a series of wars with encroaching white settlers between 1840 and 1869. On this diminished land area, the peasant farmers of Basutoland nonetheless managed to respond to new markets with the production of surprisingly large crops of surplus grain throughout the late nineteenth century (Murray 1981), a pattern which has also been documented for black peasant farmers in the South African ‘‘Native Reserves’’ (Bundy 1979; Wilson and Thompson 1971). At the same time, increasing numbers of Basotho traveled to work in South Africa after the discovery there of diamonds in 1867 and gold in 1886. Over the years, however, agricultural production slumped as more and more people cultivated a small and deteriorating land base and as the once lucrative South African markets for agricultural produce were closed off. More and more, families came to depend on cash remittances from men employed in South Africa, most commonly in the mines. By the time of independence in 1966, Lesotho was little more than a labor reserve for the South African economy (Murray 1981). This economic trajectory displays striking parallels with that of the ‘‘Native Reserves’’ of South Africa and of the Transkei in particular 2 (Wilson and Thompson 1971: 69).3 Yet if Lesotho’s economic history was surprisingly similar to that of ‘‘Native Reserves’’ like the Transkei, its political trajectory was dramatically different. For when the British decolonized in the 1960s, Lesotho, along with the other southern African protectorates, achieved the status of an internationally recognized, sovereign nation-state, notwithstanding its precarious geographical position entirely encircled by South Africa (see map). Paradoxes of Sovereignty 53 MAP. SOUTH AFRICA’S ‘‘HOMELANDS,’’ ALSO SHOWING LESOTHO, BOTSWANA, AND SWAZILAND. AFTER OMOND 1985: 7–8. As a small, economically dependent, geographically surrounded labor reserve, British Basutoland was perhaps an odd candidate for national independence. In the debates surrounding decolonization, certainly, there were some who claimed that such a territory would be economically neither independent nor (as it was said) ‘‘viable’’ (Spence 1968). Politically, too, it was not clear how ‘‘independent’’ an independent Lesotho could be, being completely surrounded by such a powerful and domineering neighbor. Indeed, such fears proved well founded in the early years of independent Lesotho, which saw not only continuing economic dependence, but repeated and unsubtle South African interference in electoral processes and a substantial presence of white South Africans in key government positions.4 Yet such reservations never seriously challenged Lesotho’s legitimacy and acceptance within the international community. The new nation-state was received as simply one of a number of former British colonial territories acceding to independence. Indeed, it seems clear that Lesotho’s sovereign status was accepted by the international community more as a response to its status as a British ex-colony than as an endorsement of any internal capabilities to function economically or politically. Unlike the case of Transkei, Lesotho’s accession to statehood was received as a routine decolonization, not as part of a cynical ploy to strip black South Africans of their citizenship (see later). It was this political context, rather than any objective features of the territories involved, that made Lesotho, but not Transkei, a ‘‘real country.’’ TRANSKEI: CHRONICLE OF A PSEUDO-NATION-STATE The roots of the apartheid-era attempt to create ethnic ‘‘homelands’’ or ‘‘Bantustans’’ in South Africa are to be found in the old ‘‘Native Reserves’’ formally established under the terms of the Land Act of 1913, which reserved about 7 percent of South Africa’s land (later increased to 13 percent) for exclusive African settlement, while setting aside the rest—the overwhelming majority—for the whites. These provided the territorial base for the infamous miParadoxes of Sovereignty 55 grant labor system, functioning as ‘‘labor reserves’’ for the South African economy while keeping (at least in theory) the families and dependents of migrant workers on the land and out of the cities (Wolpe 1972). With the rise of the Nationalist Party and its policy of ‘‘apartheid’’ in 1948, the rural reserves acquired a new political importance. For as the master plan of apartheid unfolded through the 1950s and 1960s, it became clear that its central strategy was to translate the facts of racial domination and segregation (already well established in South Africa) into the terms of national difference.With discrimination on the basis of color rapidly losing legitimacy both inside and outside South Africa, the planners of apartheid aimed to redefine black South Africans as ethnic citizens of ‘‘their own’’ (as they said) ‘‘national states’’ or ‘‘homelands’’ to be constructed and consolidated mainly out of the pieces of the old Native Reserves. As these new ‘‘Bantu states,’’ or Bantustans, attained ‘‘independence,’’ their ‘‘African’’ citizens would indeed enjoy the political rights and voting privileges that the world was demanding—but only within those states. There they would be free (as it was usually put) to ‘‘develop freely along their own lines.’’ But within the 87 percent of the country designated ‘‘white South Africa,’’ black Africans would be foreign citizens. Even Africans born and raised in so-called white areas would be assigned citizenship on the basis of their ethnicity in one of the Bantu states, thus becoming foreigners in their own land. Citizens of the Bantustans might, of course, be allowed within ‘‘white South Africa’’ as workers, with the proper permissions, but they would be no more entitled to political rights there than are foreign workers in other countries (such as Turks in Germany or Mexicans in the United States). Through this sinister and ingenious plan, the race problem (so-called) would be solved at a stroke, for there would be no more black South Africans. Instead, the problem would be re-posed as a problem of nationality and of migration between independent national states. A considerable amount of energy and money was put into this improbable plan. Millions of people, as is now well established, were forcibly relocated and dumped within the boundaries of the new Bantustans-to-be (Platzky and Walker 1985). Supposedly inde56 Paradoxes of Sovereignty pendent governments were indeed set up, starting in 1976, for the Bantustans of Transkei, Bophutatswana, Venda, and Ciskei. Ultimately, it was envisaged that all ten ethnic ‘‘homelands’’ (see map) would become independent, to be linked together with so-called white South Africa in what South African President P. W. Botha liked to call a ‘‘constellation of states’’ something like the British Commonwealth. Planners also harbored hopes (from as early as 1954) that the former High Commission territories of Lesotho, Swaziland, and Botswana might also eventually be brought into such a constellation (Spence 1968: 74). As all this was happening, an extraordinary effort was being made to establish the legitimacy of the supposed national states both within South Africa and beyond. National governments were established with all the trappings, complete with ambassadors, embassies, and limousines. Moreover, national symbols were selfconsciously fashioned for the new states. Anthems, flags, crests, mottos—all were being churned out at a record clip in the early 1970s by Pretoria’s Department of Bantu Administration and Development. The new ‘‘Republic of Transkei’’ was given not only a national flag, but also a national crest (in the incongruous style of medieval European heraldry) displaying a bull’s head (said to symbolize ‘‘not only the vital role of animal husbandry but also the importance of bulls in the ritual life of the Xhosa people’’), along with the unintentionally ironic motto, ‘‘Unity Is Strength’’ (Malan and Hattingh 1976). Transkei’s supposed independence in 1976 was accompanied by a tremendous flurry of such nationalist symbolwaving, including an elaborate and expensive independence ceremony and the publication of a glossy coffee-table book celebrating the new ‘‘Republic of Transkei’’ and its cultural heritage. Never was Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s somewhat cynical phrase ‘‘the invention of tradition’’ (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) more literally appropriate.5 In the end, of course, these various attempts to secure legitimacy for the Bantustans were a more or less complete failure. In spite of vigorous lobbying, no nation outside of South Africa ever extended formal diplomatic recognition to the supposedly independent states. And in spite of a dizzying combination of carrots and Paradoxes of Sovereignty 57 sticks thrust at them, the supposed citizens of the Bantustans were never well sold on the idea that ‘‘independence’’ for impoverished and scattered patches of African reserves constituted their political deliverance. Eventually, the Bantustan strategy was abandoned as a total failure. Today, in a democratic South Africa, the former homelands have been completely reincorporated within a unitary South Africa, with a provincial structure that preserves none of the old homeland boundaries or institutional structures. The era of independent Bantustans ended up being a short one. But it is worth remembering that such an outcome was not always obvious or inevitable. When Transkei was put forward as the first of the new ‘‘independent’’ Bantu states, many observers—black as well as white—regarded it as a not implausible new entry into the world of nation-states. It was, as its defenders noted, larger, richer, and more populous than its internationally recognized neighbors, Lesotho and Swaziland (see map). It was better consolidated, as well as larger, than the other proposed ‘‘national states,’’ and if its territory was not entirely contiguous, well, neither was that of many other well-established nation-states, including the United States, among many other examples. Moreover, the legal case for Transkeian statehood (in formal, constitutional terms) turned out to be surprisingly strong (Southall 1982: 5–6). Transkei’s poverty and lack of resources made it vulnerable to arguments about its economic ‘‘viability,’’ but, as Mlahleni Njisane (who would later become Transkei’s non-accredited ambassador to the United States), correctly observed, Transkei was ‘‘neither the smallest nor the poorest of countries in Africa.’’ On the contrary, he claimed, ‘‘The simple fact is that Transkei will not be any worse off than half the Third World’’ (bcp 1976: 16–17). Internationally, too, it was not immediately obvious that the Transkei’s independence would fail. The Republic of Transkei, let us remember, appeared on National Geographic’s world maps as an independent country from 1976 until at least 1981.6 Although formal diplomatic recognition was withheld, many informal and business contacts were established with foreign countries, especially with such internationally spurned states as Israel and Taiwan. And we may never know how close the Reagan administration may have come to extending formal recognition to the Bantustans. 58 Paradoxes of Sovereignty Some Reagan advisers, at least, were not prepared to dismiss the ‘‘independent national states.’’ Ultimately, the legitimacy of Transkei was arbitrated both in the international ‘‘community of nations’’ and in vigorous domestic political debate. Arrayed against the formidable propaganda apparatus of the South African state were powerful oppositional political movements (ironically, ‘‘anti-independence’’ movements), which stripped away the coating of flags and anthems and nationalist rhetoric to attack the underlying political maneuver they concealed. A few quotations will give a bit of the flavor of the antiindependence campaigns. The Black People’s Convention, in 1975, declared: The Independence of Transkei is a cunning manoeuvre by the racist regime of Vorster to give National and International credibility to the abhorrent policy of apartheid, precisely at a time when the process of liberation has shown itself to be inevitable in Africa, and also at a time when the subcontinent has dramatically changed in favour of the struggle for National liberation. . . . The so-called independence is ...
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School: UT Austin



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I must kick off by acknowledging Ferguson’s (2006) comments about the irony that
existed in the independence of African countries with particular focus on the present-day
Republic of South Africa and Lesotho as discussed in the article “Paradoxes of Sovereignty and

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Thanks, good work

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