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The Construction of Meta-Narratives: Perspectives on Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in Ghana, 1957-1966

Crone Barber, Katie L (2014) The Construction of Meta-Narratives: Perspectives on Pan-Africanism and Nationalism in Ghana, 1957-1966. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Restricted until 31 August 2020.


This thesis explores the development and deployment of two political meta-narratives, Pan-Africanism and nationalism, in both the Gold Coast/Ghana, and amongst diaspora intellectuals and activists. Through a close examination of the published and personal writings of those who engaged with these meta-narratives – African American intellectuals, West Indian activists, and the first post-colonial African Prime Minster of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah – the extent to which context impacts upon the development of these ideas will be demonstrated. Considering the interaction between the construction of meta-narratives and socio-political change, this thesis will argue that broader historical changes fundamentally shaped how these sets of ideas were interpreted, and in turn, Pan-Africanism and nationalism provided a framework for how those historical changes were understood. The resulting interaction between ideas and practices led to a wide variation in meanings attributed to the meta-narratives, and it was from these variations that Nkrumah began to articulate his own understandings of Pan-Africanism and nationalism in the mid-twentieth century. This is demonstrated through the placing of Nkrumah’s worldview within a longer history of Pan-Africanism. In situating his work this way, both the flexibility and potency of meaning that both meta-narratives provided becomes apparent. It is here argued that Nkrumah responded to a range of domestic, continental, and international influences, and his responses demonstrate both his understanding of the meta-narratives, and how this understanding changed over a relatively short period of time. As a result, Nkrumah’s development of and alterations to Pan-Africanism and nationalism were consistent with their historical utilisation, and not a reflection of his personal search for power. In analysing the interaction between thought and action on both sides of the Atlantic, the thesis also considers the experiences of African American émigrés to Ghana, and how their personal experiences in the USA, and subsequently in Ghana, altered and informed their understanding of Pan-Africanism. ‘Africa’ had played a powerful role in the African American imagination for decades, but it had been an imagined version of the continent, one which was intended to reinforce and direct self-perception among the diaspora. In choosing to emigrate to Ghana, a small group were brought into direct contact, mostly for the first time, with a very different reality. Through extended periods of interaction with Africa, diaspora assumptions about the continent were challenged, and those present were forced to reconsider the relationship between nationalism and Pan-Africanism in new ways.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Ms Katie L Crone Barber
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 14:57
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2015 14:57
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8210

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