Journal article

'A white Man Will Never be a Zambian': Racialised Nationalism, the Rule of Law, and Competing Visions of Independent Zambia in the case of Justice James Skinner, 1964-1969

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Sishuwa S

Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge): SSH Titles

Publication year: 2019

Journal: Journal of Southern African Studies

Volume number: 45

Issue number: 3

Start page: 503

End page: 523

Total number of pages: 21

ISSN: 0305-7070

eISSN: 1465-3893



Much of the existing historical work on politics in independent Zambia stresses the
country’s comparative lack of racial tension. However, this article argues that, as
elsewhere in Africa, racial ideas were deployed in the early years after the achievement of
independence in 1964 and found expression in the competing forms of nationalism that
manifested themselves within the governing United National Independence Party. The
article considers the case of James Skinner, a white Zambian of Irish descent and head of
the country’s judiciary, who in July 1969 was forced to resign after he supported the
decision of a white High Court judge to acquit two white Portuguese soldiers who had
illegally crossed into Zambia from Angola. Drawing on archival, newspaper and oral
sources, I argue that the Skinner case was a touchstone for divergent intra-party visions
of Zambia as an independent nation: visions that played out through racial and regional
security considerations. Slogans deployed during the campaign to oust Skinner, most
notably ‘A white man will never be a Zambian’, shed light on how the construction of
Zambian political attitudes, national identity and citizenship became closely aligned with
racial identities. Zambia was not the exception within southern Africa that it has
commonly been assumed to be.


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Last updated on 2020-15-07 at 15:00