“If you are with ten, only two will be Batswana” : nation-making and the public discourse of paranoia in Botswana

“If you are with ten, only two will be Batswana” : nation-making and the public discourse of paranoia in Botswana

Publication Type:
article-journal
Date Issued:
2012
Authors:
Stephen Marr
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Language:
eng
Page:
65-86
DOI:
10.1080/00083968.2012.659579
Abstract:

A recurrent anxiety in contemporary Botswana is the perception of an immediate threat from external forces: strangers, livestock, and disease. How do the state and its citizens react under these conditions? The following article explores this question in the context of globalization, discourses of autochthony, and the blood-based politics of population management in Botswana. In recent years, Batswana increasingly see themselves as a nation under siege from foreigners, and in particular, newly arrived migrants from Zimbabwe. Under pressure from outside, Botswana citizens fear the loss of their physical homeland and the denigration of their collective identity and sense of morality. Through a reading of publications in the print media, I examine the articulation of the rhetoric of invasion and national paranoia that has taken root in Botswana. Although the presumption of assault by outsiders is said to threaten the existence of the Batswana nation through the erosion of the supposedly distinct boundaries between citizen and stranger, these apprehensions also carry a potent creative potential. I argue that, in an environment of economic uncertainty and ethnic instability, the specter of the stranger/Zimbabwean is used to reconfigure the content and emphasis of citizenship in Botswana.

Keywords:
Botswana Zimbabwe insecurity identity autochthony