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November 09, 2005



This is the framework:

1. The tribal reference delegitimizes the addressed people in question: Doctrinally, it renders them incapable of self government in the Modern world, ergo, justifying colonialism, by implying the need for a "Tribal Unification" - which most often happens to be external.

2. It apposes them to "civilization" - thus setting the stage for "civilizing missions"

The usage of the term is clearly an outgrowth of Colonial discourse. Its ironic isnt it? Some politicians in Nigeria today use the term freely: The goal again, is to delegitimize separatist movements: "Tribalism" is primitive, retrogressive, etc": This reinforces the claims of the Nigerian State, as the embodiment of progress.

Interesting: In 1897, Samuel Johnson (an Oyo man) who wrote the History of the Yoruba in 1897, never refers to the Yoruba as a Tribe. The rise of the Tribal appellation, I strongly suspect, is linked to the rise of education among Africans who end up imbibing these European terminologies without question them: Although, it does seem to be frequently interchangeable with "ethnic Nationality" in most public discourses in Nigeria. But to Western ears, it means something entirely different.


I've noticed the same in the past, too. I'm glad that the BBC is willing to make corrections, but you would think that since they do more coverage of Africa than the other large news organizations that they would have resolved problems like this long ago. New copy editor, perhaps?


Maybe there is something to the post-colonialist discourse. As an Irish ethnic nationalist I have been labeled as a 'tribalist' on any number of occasions.

I dont really find the word that pejorative.


Saying someone is a "tribalist" is entirely different from referring to the Irish as a "tribe" - or to have them completely identified with that moniker in the popular culture.

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