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The Invisible Hand of the Royal Family in the Political Dynamics of Swaziland

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Why does Swaziland remain authoritarian despite the democratic political changes that have occurred in the other parts of the African continent since the 1990s? Does it mean that Swaziland is immune to political change? The answers to these questions are diverse and wide-ranging from the international relations view to the radical perspectives and to the functionalist view. But the tendency of these views is to analyse Swazi politics according to historically constructed and particularised contexts and dynamics without fusing the wide-ranging factors that play various roles in the politics of the country. One of the major assumptions by these views is that the state (royal family) and the nation (subjects) are the same as was the case in the pre-colonial period and that the state has a sole privilege to cultural instrumentalism. These views therefore have a tendency to explain political change in terms of class structure and capital relations without taking the multifunctional dimensions of culture into consideration. This paper brings together the various views to explain political resistance in the country in terms of a cleavage between the state and the nation. It provides a historical overview of the political transformation in the country within a framework of cultural nationalism. The thrust of the paper is to look at how the royal family has survived between a primordial and constructivist perspective to political change from the colonial to the post-colonial period. It subjects both the incumbent and the opposition onto a critical analysis and points out a possible direction for political resolve.


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