Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss

Christopher Kelen


A key paradox of subalternity for the subject throwing off the colonial yoke is the degree to which the collective emergence from the nation-state is to be in the image of the colonizer; that is, as a modern state, notionally on a par with the mother/father country. With a view to understanding the meaning of such symbolic investments, this paper surveys the lyrics of national anthems from a wide range of postcolonial countries.

Despite the avowals one regularly finds in the lyrics of postcolonial anthems, and despite the expression of sometimes rote resistance to a putative colonial oppressor, those singing songs which imitate European anthems, and the feeling such anthems inspire, invest identity in the mimetic, rather than the unique. On the basis of a range of observations of anthems and their circumstances, this paper dares to ask finally whether the singing of anthems makes for better worlds.


anthem; nation; nationalism; postcoloniality

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