Political Culture and Nationalism in Malawi

Political Culture and Nationalism in Malawi

Building Kwacha

Joey Power


University of Rochester Press



Malawi's political culture is examined as it emerged in the colonial and early post-colonial periods, particularly in light of anti-colonial protest.
Inspired by the events leading up to the overthrow of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda's Life Presidency, this book explores the deep logic of Malawi's political culture as it emerged in the colonial and early post-colonial periods. It draws on archival sources from three continents and oral testimonies gathered over a ten-year period provided by those who lived these events. Power narrates how anti-colonial protest was made relevant to the African majority through the painstaking engagement of politicians in local grievances and struggles, which they then linked to the fight against white settler domination in the guise of the Central African Federation. She also explores how Dr. Banda (leader of independent Malawi for thirty years), the Nyasaland African Congress, and its successor, the Malawi Congress Party, functioned within this political culture, and how the MCP became a formidable political machine. Central to this process was the deployment of women and youth to cut across parochial politics and consolidate a broad base of support. No less important was the deliberate manipulation of history and the use of rumor and innuendo, symbol and pageantry, persecution and reward. It was this mix that made people both accept and reject the MCP regime, sometimes simultaneously.

Joey Power is Professor of History at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario.


January 2010
6 black and white, 2 line illustrations
350 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580463102
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC LCO001000, POL053000, POL045000
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Related Titles

Table of Contents

Power and Authority in Early Colonial Malawi
From "Tribe" to Nation: Defending Indirect Rule
From "Tribe" to Nation: The Nyasaland African Congress
The Federal Challenge: Noncooperation and the Crisis of Confidence in Elite Politics
Building Urban Populism
Planting Populism in the Countryside
Bringing Back Banda
Prelude to Crisis: Inventing a Malawian Political Culture
Du's Challenge: Car Accident as Metaphor for Political Violence
Crisis and Kuthana Politics
Selected Bibliography


This book is an inimitable read. The rigorous research and ingenious interpretation that Joey Power brings to bear on the missing pages of the nation's history, helps to close the void that was evident, and brings balance to what has been otherwise a one-sided tale. Joey Power is a serious and diligent researcher. . . . A third of her book consists of splendid footnotes, bibliography and index; her use of primary and rare sources, oral interviews, even rumours, as well as her speculative interpretation of Malawi's culture and politics are original and robust. LEEDS AFRICAN STUDIES BULLETIN

A convincing analysis that significantly improves on existing understandings of the political history of late-colonial Malawi. (It) will certainly become a standard work of reference on Malawian nationalism. JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY, vol. 51, 2010

Political Culture and Nationalism in Malawi is the most detailed study of the evolution of organized politics in colonial and early post-colonial Malawi. Based on extensive archival and oral research, this volume tells the stories of the different personalities who fought for power; examines ethnicity, gender, and class in Malawi's nascent political milieu; and explores the intrigues, bravery, cowardice, clash of ideas, and conflict resolution inside the first political movements. The book is a major and welcome contribution to the historiography of nationalism in Malawi and sub-Saharan Africa. --Owen J. M. Kalinga, Professor of History, North Carolina State University

An invaluable contribution to the study of the political history of Malawi. JOURNAL OF AFRICA, vol. 81, 2011

Power's research is prodigious. She shows mastery of a vast secondary literature. (.) This gracefully written book is a rich feast. It will likely remain a standard for years to come. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, April 2011

Also in Series