PROJECT

NATION-STATE FORMATION AND POLITICAL TRANSITIONS: AN EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS OF APARTHEID IN SOUTH AFRICA

Researcher: Thomas Leavitt, PhD Student in Political Science

From Puerto Ricans in the contemporary United States to Algerians in the French colonial empire and Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, history offers many examples of nationalities that are subject to the legal domain of a state but have nonetheless been excluded from the community of citizens able to participate in the formation of that state's laws. In contrast to studies of democracy or authoritarianism that refer to a determinate, bounded legal community of citizens to which politicians are (or are not) accountable, this project considers the logically prior question of why political communities include some territories and populations, but not others. I develop a formal model that elucidates the conditions under which individuals excluded from the community of citizens obtain political suffrage (and the concomitant membership in the community of citizens) as well as the conditions under which the contours of the state itself change such that individuals excluded from the community of citizens establish self-governance and the right to form their own laws. I then test the model’s empirical implications in the paradigmatic case of apartheid South Africa.

Although South Africa eventually incorporated all of its subjects into a regime of common citizenship, at earlier points in its history, the apartheid government acted in a manner contrary to this principle. Through forced removals of non-white South Africans and the creation of self-governing “Bantu homelands” (or “Bantustans”), the apartheid government sought to extricate African subjects from the state’s legal purview. The South African government, in fact, even advocated for the national independence of four of South Africa’s largest and most populous “Bantustans” and the transfer of rural territory to neighboring Swaziland, which would have made South Africa's sovereign, political boundaries congruent with the boundaries of the white national community. Drawing on a dataset I compiled from South Africa’s apartheid-era parliamentary Hansards, this project tests hypotheses about the causal effects on apartheid South Africa’s policies of nation-state formation of (1) the role of foreign pressure for democratization and (2) the threat of collective political mobilization.