Do ‘Africans’ exist? Geneaologies and paradoxes of African identities and the discourse of nativism and xenophobia

One of the paradoxes of the making of African nations and African identities is the recent metamorphoses and mutations of African nationalism from civic principles founded on the slogan of ‘diverse people unite’ to narrow, autochthonous, nativist and xenophobic forms that breed violence. This article seeks to examine key contours in the making of African identities, with a specific focus on historical, cartographic, and hegemonic processes that coalesced towards the creation of a particular kind of nationalism that failed to create a stable African common identity within postcolonial states. Beginning with the making of the African continent itself (as both an idea and reality), the article delves deeper into the pertinent issues in the making of Africans-as-people. At the centre of analysis are the key identity-forming processes such as the Atlantic slave trade, imperialism, colonialism, apartheid, as well as ideologies like Pan-Africanism, Garveyism, Negritude, African Personality, Black Consciousness Movement, and African Renaissance. The central challenge in the struggle of forging stable African identities remains that of how to negotiate and blend together diversities of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, class, region, language, culture, generation as well as how to deal with the phenomenon of degeneration of plural and civic forms of nationalism into nativism, xenophobia and even genocides in recent years. These issues need serious and unsententious consideration at this juncture when African leaders are busy toying with and implementing the mega-project of establishing the United States of Africa. This is taking place within a terrain dominated by bigotry and prejudices on the African continent.