POLI 324 Chapter Notes -Overconsumption, Covenant Of The League Of Nations, International Relations
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The African Colonial State and its Political Legacy
Three features that make the African colonial state stand out:
o Conquest of Africa much more competitive than that in other regions. There were
multiple competitors for given territories
o Colonial-state building in Africa was a far more comprehensive culture than in Asia or
the Middle-East (although similar to that of the Americas). The Europeans were a lot
more convinced of their cultural superiority and these racist ideologies were therefore a
lot more elaborated during the colonization of Africa.
o The colonial expansion of Africa took place when European powers were far more
comprehensive and elaborated than in earlier centuries.
Phase I of the African Colonial State: Construction
Internal logic of the growth of the colonial African state based on: hegemony, security,
autonomy, legitimation and revenue.
o Hegemony being the key to security
In an attempt to stop the scramble of Africa to turn into a European War, 1884-1885 Berlin
Conference, the concept of hegemony imperative was developed. Basically, for a colonizer had
to validate his claim to an African territory by establishing the rudimentary infrastructure of
hegemonic institutions (military outposts, modest networks of administrative centers)- idea of
o Military supremacy was indispensable to the achievement of hegemony. African groups
would therefore ally with one power to either stop conquest but an other force or gain an
advantage over neighboring kingdoms.
But deployment of armies expensive use of indigenous force (as Indian experience taught
the British). Many colonial powers allied with local tribe enabling a lot less financial and
o Military technology added to this- first generation machine guns used for the 1st time
Military defeats of African tribes not always enough, they also needed communications routes
and frontier zones. In many countries task was initially delegated to the Private sector (ex.
Belgian Congo), but in many cases this failed and led to sanguinary plundering expeditions.
Again, the British applied its learning’s in India, and decided to adapt the indigenous structures
to colonial institutions. Intermediaries were political – indirect rule.
o This system worked well in Nigeria, who had strong structures and willing collaborators.
o But the success very uneven across the African region.
French colonial concept of institutionalizing administrative hegemony: based on more
pragmatic concepts of empirical adaptation.
o Bonapartist edict: There is no two authorities: French and Indigenous: they are one and
the same. This is called the “cercle’ (unit of administration) and its commandant is the
only one responsible. The indigenous chief is only an instrument- use of “politiques
o However the intermediary chiefs were chosen not for ancestral credentials but rather
with more priority given to malleability.