Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Africana Studies

First Advisor

Deborah A. Thomas

Abstract

"Empire Unbound" is an exploration of the history and politics of empire and imperial citizenship that went into the making of South Africa before the Second World War. The making of racial difference in South Africa is often located in the temporal and political terrain that is Apartheid (1948-1994). In this dissertation I look to the history of South Africa in the long nineteenth century and recuperate the frameworks of empire and imperial citizenship in making sense of struggles for belonging. Empire, both as a form of government and imaginary, invokes a degree of scale that exceeds the nation-state. It also historically precedes the nation-state, which has come to exemplify the model form for organizing sovereign polities. In "Empire Unbound" I argue that as South Africa became a self governing territory in the early twentieth century it folded the remnants of empire into its instrumentalities of racial governance. I therefore explore South Africa's imperial politics and imaginary as it extends to other parts of Southern Africa such as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. Empires also have histories that date back to maritime commerce and the making of the modern world. In in this dissertation I turn to Cape Town to examine the ways in which this long history of empire gradually formed the grammars of belonging in South Africa and the Atlantic world. Black intellectuals in South Africa during the early twentieth century had their investments in empire but theirs was a struggle to wrestle its grammars into a form that included blackness in its regime of belonging. It was especially after the First World War that these intellectuals sought to write themselves and the colonized masses of the world into an alternative grammar of sovereignty. I demonstrate in this dissertation that these intellectuals were far from mimic men and women; they were involved in a dialogue of reshaping what it meant to belong in the world after empire.

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