Nationalism in Question: A Study of Key Categories in Ghanaian History
Owusu, Mary Akosua Seiwaa
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The unquestioned and unquestioning use of the categories of proto-nationalism, cultural nationalism, conservative nationalism and radical nationalism leads to a homogenised, homoarchic and binary framing of nineteenth- and twentieth-century writer-intellectuals in the nationalist historiography of Africa. By building a hierarchy of nationalisms that upholds radical nationalism above all others, existing scholarship has proven to be biased and misleading. This project points out the limitations of the key categories that have shaped the nationalist history of Ghana. It contextualises Ghanaian intellectuals and their writings and acknowledges the intellectuals’ cosmopolitanism. The intellectual history of Ghana continues to be shaped by the fascination of scholars with the vaunted radical nationalism of the Convention People’s Party and its leader Kwame Nkrumah. The “Grand Narrative” built around this account of the birth of the Ghanaian nation treats all other forms of nationalism as less important than radical nationalism, thus creating an account that is simplistic, incomplete and exclusionary. Perhaps though, those who suffer the most in these accounts are the opponents of Nkrumah and his CPP, who are habitually marginalised and misrepresented. Consequently, the scholarly examination of writer-intellectuals whose works span an entire century, the 1860s to the 1960s, remains flawed. Ghanaian writer-intellectuals were cosmopolitan, inspired by their nationalism to interpret their lived experience and projected from it the form of society that would best suit their community. They prescribed and adopted different approaches, which, although they appeared conservative sometimes, were mostly inventive in their promotion of synthesis. Through an examination of the intellectuals’ writings as debates unfolding over time among cosmopolites, it becomes evident that there is a need to rethink the “Grand Narrative,” carving out a space in it for their voices and pathways, and for the diversity of issues they studied, explained and resolved. This dissertation does not recognise those who have hitherto been omitted and leave out those already included, rather it tells a story in which loser and winner categories become superfluous. It disproves the theory of a single founder of Ghana by showing the conceptual complexities of making such a claim about Ghana and its nationalisms.
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