By Neil Davidson
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Additional resources for Nation-States: Consciousness and Competition
Susan Reynolds has rightly criticized the tendency of medieval historians to describe the barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire as biologically distinct “tribal” entities, based merely on the continued use of their original group names. “This must be wrong,” she points out. ”6 The main constituent nations of Britain are a case in point. Early in the eighteenth century Daniel Defoe mocked the pretensions of his countrymen to ethnic purity in his satirical poem “The True-Born Englishman”: In eager rapes, and furious lust begot, Between a painted Briton and a Scot.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that some Hutus were members of that section of the ruling class who owned large farms, without becoming Tutsi. ”14 It did, however, become an ethnic distinction, with the arrival first of the German and then of the Belgian colonial administrations. Under these regimes, real occupational stratification that designated people as being Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa transformed into a set of imaginary ethnic distinctions among separate “tribal” groups, one of which (the Tutsi) was privileged over the others in the colonial hierarchy and in the immediately postcolonial state.
Is this an example of the “kinship” ethnicity that I earlier consigned to prehistory? In fact, although group membership at birth was determined based on that of the male parent, it was possible to move from Tutsi to Hutu in the course of your own life. All three groups spoke the same language, and the distinctions between them were principally based on the fact that they performed different social roles: the Hutu farmed, the Tutsi reared cattle, and the Twa hunted. A 7 NationStates_Text_5_Layout 1 3/9/16 5:15 PM Page 8 Ļ Neil Davidson ļ cattle owner was a Tutsi by definition, which meant that Hutus and Twas could “become” Tutsis if they were able to accumulate sufficient wealth to become cattle owners themselves, a transition that was marked ceremonially.