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agricultural policies mobilize nationalists

16 March 2011

…most important of all, it was over the issue of contour ridging that truly national politics finally came to Nyasaland. To the Africans, the fact that ridging was compulsory was another example of colonial brutality. To the administrators and agricultural experts, African resistance to ridging was another example of peasant conservatism and irrationality which had to be overcome with force if necessary. No other issue — not even the political question of the creation of the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland itself — generated such united mass protest at the village level as it became mixed with the political turmoil that surrounded the creation of the new Federation. This protest provided ample grounds for the Malawi Congress Party to mobilize an anti-colonial nationalism throughout the entire country, regardless of the presence or absence of local ethnic ideologies.

That is from “Tribalism in the Political History of Malawi,” written by Leroy Vail and Landeg White in 1989, a chapter from Leroy Vail’s The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 151-92.

Given all the current talk about food policies and revolution, it seems an historical study of grievances against agricultural policies is ripe, and Malawi looks like the right place to do it.

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