P090 – Visuals of State and Nationhood
9 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Murison Jude / University of Edinburgh
Hammett Daniel / University of Sheffield


Post-colonial African states have faced the challenge of fostering a sense of nation-hood and citizenship, often against a backdrop of division and discrimination, and in an international environment dominated by former colonial states wishing to exert their economic power. Governments have deployed various tools of nation-building to create national narratives. These mundane, everyday practices often involve the production and distribution of national narratives through quotidian objects such as currency and postage stamps. These products have been used as a means through which to portray to domestic and international audiences the values, ideologies, aspirations, and ideals of the state. For newly established/independent states, the political importance of these practices is heightened as they can provide a material embodiment of the state’s founding ideology and their vision for state modernisation. These narratives frequently draw upon territoriality, nationhood, political authority, and international citizenship and economic developments in efforts to claim sovereignty. This panel explores how (post-colonial) African states have utilised such practices to promote particular views of state- and nation-hood. In particular, papers will address how histories and memories are promoted, manipulated or silenced, how specific identities are privileged or marginalised, and how visions of modernisation, ‘good’ citizenship and the future of the nation are depicted.

Visuels d’État et de la nation
Les États africains post-coloniaux ont relevé le défi de favoriser un sentiment de nation-capot et de la citoyenneté, souvent dans un contexte de division et de discrimination, et dans un environnement international dominé anciens Etats coloniaux qui souhaitent exercer leur pouvoir économique. Les gouvernements ont déployé divers outils de construction de la nation pour créer des récits nationaux. Ce panel explore comment les Etats africains post-coloniaux ont utilisé des objets du quotidien tels que les timbres-poste et de change à promouvoir des opinions particulières de déclaration et de la nation-capot. En particulier, les documents porteront sur la façon dont les histoires et les souvenirs sont promus, manipulés ou réduits au silence, comment les identités spécifiques sont privilégiés ou marginalisés, et comment les visions de la modernisation, «bonne» citoyenneté et l’avenir de la nation sont représentées.

Paper 1

Hammett Dan / University of Sheffield

Visual negotiations of constrained soveriegnty and nation-hood

States utilize a range of everyday objects to transmit ideals of nation- and state-hood. Quotidian objects such as currency and postage stamps have provided a visual means through which to portray to domestic and international audiences the values, ideologies, aspirations and ideals of the state. For newly established or newly independent states, the political importance of these practices is heightened as they can provide a material visual embodiment of the state’s founding ideology. However, in situations where (sub)state entities have independence imposed upon them, rather than sought and claimed, the role and content of the expressions of nationhood expressed through these objects can be complicated by experiences of constrained sovereignty. This paper explores how South Africa’s creation of the independent Bantustans resulted in the complex expression of nationalism through postage stamp iconography. The resultant narratives are identified as drawing upon territoriality,
nation-hood, political authority, and international citizenship in efforts to claim sovereignty that served to reinscribe and reinforce factors contributing to the Bantustans’ experiences of constrained sovereignty.

Paper 2

Jude Murison / University of Edinburgh

Ubumwe, Umurimo, Gukunda Igihugu: Images of statehood and the Rwandan nation

This paper examines the narrative of Rwanda represented on its postage stamps since Independence. Through an analysis of the iconography of Rwandan postage stamps, three common themes emerge: cultural and national unity, achieving development and the legacy of the colonial past. This paper examines how these themes are represented visually, and the significance of iconography for portraying images of nation and statehood both internally to replicate the Rwandan motto of Ubumwe, Umurimo, Gukunda Igihugu (Unity, Work, Patriotism) and to the rest of the world.

Paper 3

Keavne Michael / Santa Clara University

Nation-building, multi-culturalism, and civil conflict in Africa: An analysis of imagery on postage stamps

Postage stamps may be valid indicators of the efforts by a regime to develop a shared national identity. The images valorized by stamps are widely disseminated, and may reinforce feelings of inclusion and exclusion. While a number of researchers have investigated the imagery of stamps from particular countries, to date no cross-country, quantitative analysis of the imagery on postage stamps in sub-Saharan Africa seems to have been conducted. Quantitative analysis should enable discernment of alternative patterns and styles of nation-building. Moreover, if the images on stamps are important, the strategies adopted by regimes for representing national identity on stamps should be correlated with other efforts to manipulate collective sentiments of nationalism. Causal analysis- that messages emanating from regimes actually cause people to act differently than they would otherwise- is a possibility opened up by this quantifiable measure of messages. This paper confines analysis to the imagery on regular stamps of independent African nations. There are clear differences between states and within states over time. The patterns are correlated with a variety of outcomes, such as the incidence of conflict.

Paper 4

Ole Frahm / Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Seeing is believing!? Making and propagating an idea of the nation in South Sudan

Since the CPA in 2005 South Sudan has pursued parallel processes of building a state structure and a national community. While theories of peacebuilding assume interdependence between statebuilding and nationbuilding in post-conflict settings, South Sudan shows that both can diverge substantially. The construction of modern state institutions has been guided by Western governments and donors; the construction of a national identity to supersede the focus on the enemy other (‘Khartoum’, ‘the Arabs’) however arose from an elite consensus.
The two pillars of official state nationalism are the idea of unity-in-diversity and the commemoration of martyrs from the long ‘war of liberation’. Whereas a stanza in the national anthem is devoted to all martyrs, the main monument in the heart of Juba is a giant statue of the late SPLA leader John Garang. Since commemorations stress the role of SPLA martyrs and ignore rival militias let alone civilians, this form of national identity is more divisive than unifying. Unity-in-diversity has also not won traction as politics of belonging and ethnic exclusivism have been on the rise; exacerbated by ongoing ethnic atrocities. While it may be unrealistic to expect a widely accepted idea of the nation to take root in only a few years official state nationalism has so far not succeeded in winning many adherents.

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