Confederate and Afrikaner nationalism : myth, identity, and gender in comparative perspective.
This thesis provides a comparison of Confederate and Afrikaner nationalism - the
latter during the period of the Boer Republics. Anthony D. Smith's "ethno-symbolic"
approach to the study of ethnicity and nationalism - which emphasizes the importance of
socio-cultural factors such as myths, symbols, and memories - is utilized to reveal the
similarities between the two communities with regard to their respective struggles for
political independence. The analysis focuses primarily on the myth of divine election,
the dynamics of ethno-cultural identity, and the roles of women in the nationalist project.
The first section demonstrates the influence of biblical fundamentalism on the
evolution of Southern and Afrikaner identity. Through an increasingly profound
identification with the ancient Hebrews of the Old Testament, both communities came to
regard themselves as chosen peoples. In each case, the self-conception of "chosenness"
electrified the struggle for ethno-political independence; and, it was indeed during
wartime that the myth of divine election was most conspicuously manifested.
The second part of the thesis explores the ways Confederates and Republican
Boers defined themselves against white and black others - Northerners and African
bondsmen in the American context, and the British and the indigenous peoples in the
South African case. Both Confederates and Boers betrayed marked tendencies towards
ethnocentrism and xenophobia and foreigners were held in particularly low esteem by
the dominant groups in each society. Yet, Southerners and Afrikaners also often defined
themselves against their own ethnic kinsmen.
The final section considers the enthusiasm with which Southern and Afrikaans
women subscribed to the nationalist project and the varied ways in which they
established themselves as the uncompromising champions of radical ethno-political
activism. Particular attention is paid to vigorous female support for the war-effort.