Concepts of Nationhood

A nation, often described as a state, is a group of like minded people get together on the basis of shared culture, language, tradition, history and, in most cases, a certain common heritage. In its most extreme form, a nation may consist of one ethnic group, with all others being considered members of the general public. However, in a more cohesive nation, all citizens are considered equal. This is because the nation’s definition of nationhood is very much based on its ethnic composition rather than its political system or any other criteria. A nation consists of a collective identity of a set of individuals.


Historically, the concept of nation-state has been rejected by many people as being too artificial and distanced from reality. On the other hand, various theories of the formation of nation-states have been proposed. Most such theories relate the evolution of a nation-state to the shift in power towards the center in the last century. According to these theories, a nation-state emerged when there was a change in control at the national level, after the dispersion of the Hutus and the establishment of the Republic of Tanzania.

In Tanzania, this process of nation-formation was facilitated by the gradual accretion of political and economic powers. The creation of the nation was thus facilitated by the gradual movement away from the Christian communities which had governed the country for generations, and towards the Muslim communities which were concentrated in the transitional zone around Dar es Salaam and other southern regions. What this meant was that there were many forces which combined to push the country forward. One could therefore conclude that what led to the formation of nations is nothing other than the movement of the human race in their pursuit of a common cultural identity. The existence of different ethnic groups within the borders of a nation-state provides a unique set of circumstances to the study of nationhood.