The Politics of Distinction
African Elites from Colonialism to Liberation in a Namibian Frontier Town
UNAM Press, December 2016
In this insightful ethnography of the changing politics of the public sphere in urban Namibia, Mattia Fumanti focuses on the border town of Rundu.
The author highlights the fundamental contribution elites make to the public space through their much-praised concept of civility and their promotion of nation-building at the local level.
He focuses on how generational relations between elites in Rundu have shaped, and been shaped by, the transitions from colonial rule and the war of liberation, to Independence and post-Independence. He opens a window on relations between the hinterland and the capital, and illuminates post-apartheid issues in Namibia and elsewhere in Southern Africa, as they have come to be reflected in public debates about education, youth aspirations, the state, citizenship, good governance and the role of ethnic and settler minorities.
‘This book is a vibrant antidote to Afro-pessimism and views that emphasize the spectacle of disaster, kleptomania and corruption of the weak state. By examining the rhetoric of public morality Fumanti challenges this but is, nevertheless, also critical of the ruling elite. This is a sophisticated and nuanced analysis of how small-town elites emerge and how they see the world, a group of people who are potentially vital players in the evolving shape of African cultures and moralities, who have not received the scholarly attention they deserve.’
Robert Gordon, University of Vermont and University of the Free State
Mattia Fumanti is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom. He has conducted anthropological research in Namibia, Ghana and the UK.