Cultured States: Youth, Gender, and Modern Style in 1960s Dar es Salaam

Cultured States: Youth, Gender, and Modern Style in 1960s Dar es Salaam

by Andrew Ivaska


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822347705
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Andrew Ivaska is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University in Montreal.

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Cultured States


Duke University Press

Copyright © 2011 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4770-5

Chapter One

National Culture and Its Others in a Cosmopolitan Capital

Addressing Tanganyika's Parliament in December 1962, exactly one year after formal independence, President Julius K. Nyerere spoke of dance. In what would become one of his most-cited statements for decades to come, he invited his audience of fellow, largely mission-educated elites to reminisce with him:

When we were at school, we were taught to sing the songs of the European. How many of us were taught the songs of the Wanyamwezi or of the Wahehe? Many of us have learned to dance the "rumba" or the "chachacha," to "rock-en-roll" and to "twist" and even to dance the "waltz" and the "foxtrot." But how many of us can dance, have even heard of, the Gombe Sugu, the Mangala, the Konge, Nyang'umumi, Kiduo or Lele Mama? Most of us can play the guitar, the piano, or other European musical instruments. How many Africans in Tanganyika, particularly among the educated, can play the African drums? How many can play the Nanga, or the Marimba, the Kilamzi, Ligomgo, or the Imangala? And even though we dance and play the piano, how often does that dancing—even if it is "rock-en-roll" or "twist"—how often does it really give us the sort of thrill we get from dancing the mganda or the gombe sugu, even though the music may be no more than the shaking of pebbles in a tin? It is hard for any man to get much real excitement from dances and music which are not in his own blood.

In the context of this situation and because "culture is the essence and spirit of any nation," Nyerere argued, his latest proclamation was crucial: the creation of a Ministry of National Culture and Youth charged with "seek[ing] out the best of the traditions and customs of all our tribes and mak[ing] them part of our national culture." This "entirely new" ministry, said the president, represented a radical break from the colonial past and a critical part of the nation-building tasks at hand: "A country which lacks its own culture is no more than a collection of people without the spirit which makes them a nation. Of the crimes of colonialism there is none worse than the attempt to make us believe we had no indigenous culture of our own; or that what we did have was worthless."

In framing the new initiative as a rupture with a colonial situation defined by wholesale deligitimation of indigenous culture, Nyerere powerfully captured twin axioms shared by the many national cultural projects springing up around the continent in the early 1960s: first, that because they were inhibited under colonial rule, efforts to articulate and promote tradition were new; and, second, that the primary scene or raison d'être of the national cultural project was indeed an overcoming of the colonial situation. Rhetorically compelling and widely shared, both assertions nonetheless entailed important occlusions. Obscured in the declaration of a radical break with the colonial past was a complex colonial history of many of the positions that would be articulated under the banner of national culture. This was a history marked, not least, by efforts on the part of elite Africans and colonial officials alike to wrestle with the questions of indigeneity and foreignness embedded in Nyerere's speech and to define and promote versions of tradition much like those that would become staples of national cultural discourse after independence. As Kelly Askew has put it in reference to Tanzania in the early-sixties, the identification and promotion of tradition was "a venture pursued in true colonial fashion." The fact that these positions were being developed in a Dar es Salaam that was crisscrossed by transnational ideas, images, and cultural products made these negotiations all the more complex.

If this first founding assertion of national cultural projects has been effectively complicated (albeit in some cases implicitly) by histories of the production of tradition under colonial conditions, the second is often taken for granted in much popular and academic thinking on questions of postcolonial national culture. Indeed, it seems natural that national culture in the immediate wake of colonial domination should be imagined in reference to cultural loss under colonial rule. And yet a close look at the trajectories of Tanzania's national cultural project in its heyday suggests that overcoming a colonial past was only one—and perhaps not even the most primary—scene of national culture. As I begin to argue in this chapter, national culture in Tanzania in the 1960s was fundamentally as much a vehicle for negotiating anxieties about urban order, gender chaos, and undisciplined youth in a cosmopolitan capital as a tool for overcoming a colonial past.

In an additional irony, if in Nyerere's launch the national cultural project was imagined as a promotional endeavor, the activities of the various administrative units housing it (four different ministries in the 1960s alone) were notoriously thin, underfunded, and poorly organized. 6 The late 1960s and 1970s saw national culture being taken up instead as a rallying cry and a framework for social action against a range of cultural practices and icons deemed antithetical to it, including wigs, cosmetics, miniskirts, tight trousers, bell-bottoms, Maasai traditional dress, beauty contests, soul music, and Afro hairstyles. Particularly for Tanzania's rapidly growing urban population in this period, many of the most prominent manifestations of the presence of the state in everyday life were its proscriptive cultural initiatives. The banning campaigns were more than simply an outgrowth of a fully formed vision of national culture. Rather, the image of a decadent, feminized city that such operations helped to consolidate and maintain was a crucial foil against which national culture was constituted.

Furthermore, contrary to many popular conceptions of national cultural visions, a reference point of tradition was only one part of even the promotional side of Tanzania's national cultural project. Obvious by the late 1960s, as Askew has shown, national culture was also characterized by meanings and emphases that had little to do with the range of traditional associations outlined in Nyerere's speech and rather more to do with avowedly modernizationist visions of cultural development. If existing treatments of Tanzanian national culture have explained this curious coexistence as a temporal succession from one imperative to another (contradictory) one, the promotion of tradition making way for modernizationist impulses, I suggest an alternate reading. Drawing inspiration from work like Partha Chatterjee's that has attempted to imagine the colonial birth of tradition as a decidedly modern project, I argue that references to the traditional and the modern constituted an enduring two-sidedness to Tanzanian national culture—a doubling evident in nationalist constructions of culture not only after independence, but also, as I illustrated in the introduction, in the late colonial period. While changes in emphasis in national cultural discourse are certainly evident and important, I interpret these trajectories less as the replacement of one reigning imperative by a contradictory successor than as shifts in the idioms through which attempts to imagine a simultaneously modern and authentic national culture were expressed.

But what exactly were the contours of the modern, of tradition, of a national culture constituted around these idioms? These parameters were always contested. In the proscriptive cultural initiatives that increasingly took national culture to the cosmopolitan streets of Dar es Salaam in the late 1960s, young Tanzanians seized upon bans on popular markers of urban style to express ideas about authenticity, tradition, and modern style that were often at odds with official ones. If debates about these campaigns showcased the extraordinary, singular power of the modern as an idiom to make certain kinds of claims about culture, the question of what exactly qualified as modern was far from settled. Indeed, in the campaigns against forms of dress and music I consider in the second half of this chapter, official attempts to distinguish the state's vision of the cultural contours of a modern Tanzania from claims upon the same from supposed decadent quarters were far from secure. Such debates unfolded in a context marked by competing transnational imaginaries, as official architects of national culture and their myriad challengers alike drew on global references that were often difficult to reconcile.

Finally, there is a generational aspect of the story to highlight here. If Nyerere launched the national cultural project with reference to the perceived cultural preferences of his own cohort of nationalists, for much of Tanzania's long sixties it was deployed against a specter of disorderly, decadent, urban youth of the next generation. The nationalists who came to power in Tanganyika in 1961 were, as in most other decolonizing contexts in Africa, a youthful, colonial-educated elite whose political victory can be partly understood as a triumph over the chiefs of the Native Authorities. If, in a context of British colonial "indirect rule," the latter men had achieved their power through control over the signs and institutions of tradition, then the young nationalists of the 1940s and 1950s had mounted their challenge by struggling to gain access to the signs, institutions, and accoutrements of European modernity as passes to new forms of wealth, status, and autonomy. Nyerere himself was educated at the elite Tabora secondary school before moving on to obtain a bachelor's degree at Makerere University and a master of arts degree at Edinburgh. If Nyerere was unique in degree, his path was the norm for much of Tanzania's political class. In chiding his cohort of nationalist elites in Parliament in 1962 for their familiarity with the foxtrot and estrangement from the Gombe Sugu, Nyerere was therefore making a curious and complex statement, for it was in large part through successful appropriation of these markers of European cultural competence that this group had achieved its power.

Now in government, this first nationalist generation confronted its own youth question. Burgeoning with young migrants, a city like Dar es Salaam presented plenty of fodder for both fantasy and frustration of the efforts of its youth to move up in the world as well as competing transnational imaginaries on which both the state and its young could draw to imagine youth. Aware—and wary—of the social and discursive power of youth, officials constructed youth as both promise and threat. Writing of late twentieth-century Africa, Jean and John Comaroff have suggested that youth is marked by an "intrinsic bipolarity, a doubling." On the one hand, youth have been used as the "infantry of adult statecraft" and are often portrayed as embodying utopian hopes of betterment. On the other hand, youth is a force that is not always easy to control, one which is "liable to seize the initiative from their elders and betters," and thus is also a dangerous category represented as embodying all manner of social pathology. Analyzed most fully in chapter 3 with reference to struggles between state and student over the university, this is an ambiguity that also rears its head in the national cultural campaigns considered here. Indeed, the national cultural project became an important site of struggles surrounding efforts by the political class of the 1960s, the first generation of nationalists, to negotiate its own relationship with youth. From the initial yoking of national culture with youth in a single ministerial portfolio through the use of the TYL as the primary enforcers of so many of the banning campaigns of the late sixties, the national cultural project served as a crucial vehicle for the articulation of a vision of a healthy citizen-youth battling its decadent alter ego. At the same time, the debates that erupted around the banning campaigns also served as platforms for young Tanzanians to articulate identifications with very different visions of global youth aesthetics and style that challenged any would-be official monopoly on youth.

My aim in this chapter is to examine what happened as the national cultural project was contested in a cosmopolitan Dar es Salaam. As this story unfolds, my focus moves from rehearsing shifts in the meanings of national culture within the project's positive or promotional content to what I argue was the more prominent, proscriptive face of national culture in Dar es Salaam: the banning campaigns of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The heated debates surrounding some key targeted forms and practices—particularly so-called indecent dress and soul music— showcase both the ways in which national culture was defined negatively against these targets and the terms upon which it was contested.

National Culture: The Promotional Project

The establishment of a Ministry of National Culture and Youth may have marked a swift and symbolically powerful shift at the commanding heights of the Tanganyikan state, but the logistics of actually developing a national culture were fraught with difficulties. The process of appointing a commissioner for culture to supervise on a daily basis what was known as the Culture Division took six months. Less than a year later, in April 1964, the Ministry of National Culture and Youth was disbanded, the Culture Division being incorporated into the new Ministry of Community Development and National Culture. Even as the division's ministerial home remained stable for three years, its appointed heads did not: between 1963 and 1965 alone, four ministers and as many principal secretaries came and went. In 1968 and 1969 the Culture Division moved ministries twice more: first, to the Ministry of Regional Administration and Rural Development, then to the Ministry of National Education and Culture. The organizational overhauls continued into the 1970s, the most extensive of them bringing the Culture Division full circle with a reestablishment of a Ministry of National Culture and Youth in 1974; this move was based, perhaps ironically, on a commissioned study by the U.S.-based consulting firm of McKinsey and Company.

Organization was not the only problem. The Culture Division's share of the budget was consistently, dramatically low, even by the standards of the Tanzanian government, and this was so particularly when it was sharing a ministerial portfolio, as was the case throughout most of this period. In the five-year period from 1964 to 1969 (what would be looked back upon as the fat years for the Culture Division, if not its most effective ones), 337,900 British pounds were allocated to the division. The next five years, 1969–74, during which the division shared a ministry with Education, funding for Culture entered a gradual decline. Of the 297,136,300 Tanzanian shillings (slightly under 15 million British pounds) budgeted for the ministry as a whole for that period, the Culture Division had access to a mere 6,052,300 shillings (302,615 pounds), approximately one-fiftieth of the ministry's funds.

Underfunding had a severe impact on what the Culture Division was able to accomplish. Proposed in the form of five-year plans, the division's major projects during the sixties and seventies included the expansion of the National Stadium, the building of regional museums, funding for antiquities collection, and the establishment of an art institute in Dar es Salaam. During the first five-year plan (1964–69) only one of these projects made any progress, and minimal at that, consisting of "preliminary surveys" conducted for the art institute. The next five years saw a few of the projects begun, but only the funding of the collection of antiquities and an originally unplanned project, the construction of a stadium on Zanzibar, were completed. In terms of these large-scale projects, the work of the Culture Division was directed, even in the planning stages, toward institutions with long histories in the colonial period, such as museums and archaeology, and ones that were centerpieces of colonial knowledge about Africa; add to this the minimal amount of work done to reshape these institutions, and the result was that much of the Culture Division's work in this area consisted of struggling to merely maintain the institutions' essentially colonial form and content. As Askew has convincingly argued in assessing this situation, the much-touted "cultural revolution" fell far short of being revolutionary.


Excerpted from Cultured States by ANDREW IVASKA Copyright © 2011 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Postcolonial Public Culture in Sixties Times 1

1 National Culture and Its Others in a Cosmopolitan Capital 37

2 "The Age of Minis": Secretaries, City Girls, and Masculinity Downtown 86

3 Of Students, 'Nizers, and Comrades: Youth, Internationalism, and the University College, Dar es Salaam 124

4 "Marriage Goes Metric": Negotiating Gender, Generation, and Wealth in a Changing Capital 166

Conclusion 206

Notes 219

Bibliography 253

Index 271

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