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Tanzania is commonly cited as “a success story” where a cohesive society has been built in tandem with its nationhood. In this chapter, we offer an account of interplay between ethnicity and social norms in the context of nation building in Tanzania and highlight the historical transformation of localized, ethnic-based mechanisms for self-protection, “trust networks”, to a national framework for trust enhancement and resolution of conflicts at local levels. This, we argue, was the key for acceptance of national identity by Tanzanians for self-protection, and, hence, a transition from divided pasts to cohesive futures. The chapter traces nation building efforts in Tanzania, and explains why Tanzania is an exception to the patterns of violence and instability experienced in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is argued that that, although conflicts are sometime inevitable, cross-cutting identities such as occupation, and particularly the all-encompassing identity of nationality, can help to decrease the likelihood that conflicts will divide the nation. Diversity may present a challenge to national unity, but it is not insuperable if the political leadership is genuinely committed to deemphasizing ethnic group identities in the public sphere and pursues policies which consider the goal of equality.
The ‘triumph of liberalism’ in the mid-twentieth-century west is well known and much studied. But what has it meant for the way the decolonisation of Africa has been viewed, both at the time and since? In this paper, I suggest that it has quietly but effectively shaped our understanding of African political thinking in the 1950s to 1960s. Although the nationalist framing that once led historians to neglect those aspects of the political thinking of the period which did not move in the direction of a territorial nation-state has now been challenged, we still struggle with those aspects of political thinking that were, for instance, suspicious of a focus on the individual and profoundly opposed to egalitarian visions of a post-colonial future. I argue that to understand better the history of decolonisation in the African continent, both before and after independence, while also enabling comparative work with other times and places, we need to think more carefully and sensitively about how freedom and equality were understood and argued over in local contexts.
This article offers a historical perspective on the concept of voluntarism in modern Africa. It does so by exploring the ways in which postcolonial states grappled with the legacies of colonial-era concepts of voluntarism, using Tanzania as a case study. It argues that the postcolonial state sought to combine two strands of colonial thinking about voluntarism in a new conception of “virtuous citizenship.” But this was a fragile construction, and the language of voluntarism could bring to light divisions in society that many would have preferred to keep hidden.
Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania is a study of the interplay of vernacular and global languages of politics in the era of decolonization in Africa. Decolonization is often understood as a moment when Western forms of political order were imposed on non-Western societies, but this book draws attention instead to debates over universal questions about the nature of politics, concept of freedom and the meaning of citizenship. These debates generated political narratives that were formed in dialogue with both global discourses and local political arguments. The United Nations Trusteeship Territory of Tanganyika, now mainland Tanzania, serves as a compelling example of these processes. Starting in 1945 and culminating with the Arusha Declaration of 1967, Emma Hunter explores political argument in Tanzania's public sphere to show how political narratives succeeded when they managed to combine promises of freedom with new forms of belonging at local and national level.