This thesis provides a new examination of modern Somali nationalism. Using an interpretative historical approach, the thesis argues that modern Somali nationalism was a process instigated by religious Somali intellectuals in the late nineteenth-century and advanced by secular Somali intellectuals in the mid-twentieth-century. Both drew on ideological trends of the day to imagine various visions and pursue plural paths of nationalism adaptable to the context. The thesis proposes that the ideological instrument of Somali nationalism was inherently linked with multi-faceted local, regional and global dynamics. The adoption of a local, regional and global lens reveals a previously unknown history of the rise of Somali nationalism in the late nineteenth-century. To unravel these hidden histories, the thesis traces the role (or roles) of secular and religious individuals and institutions and their efforts to create a collective national Somali consciousness under imperialism and colonialism. The religious and secular Somali individuals and institutions navigated creative ways of choosing and working with regional and global colonial regimes seeking to rule all or parts of the Somali Peninsula. Each individual or institution (forces, movements and organisations) had their unique contributions to the rise and development Somali nationalism. By exploring the notion of nationalism and its contribution to theoretical and global historical scholarship, the thesis addresses key questions of the politics and power behind the regional and global dynamics of Somali nationalism. The thesis finds Somali nationalism encompassed a variety of local and non-local Somali individuals and institutions that were isolated from regional and global changes. To cast the politics of Somali nationalism in a new light, the thesis interrogates Somali nationalism in a trans-national context. By framing Somali nationalism within the larger framework of regional and global history, the thesis establishes a debate over the effects and impacts of the various colonial state-building projects as well as the recurring intertwined issues of the emergence of nationalist movements seeking to create an environment free of imperialism and colonialism. The thesis also connects the emerging re-examination of nationalism in African and Arab studies with Somali studies by using a comparative and thematic approach. For historians mostly concerned with the emergence and development of African and Arab nationalist movements, the history of Somali nationalism would form an integral part of global nationalist re-assessments.
Based on previously unused religious and secular sources, the thesis determines that, even though Somali nationalism began as a reaction to colonialism, Somali nationalists were mostly realistic in their approach to the imperial and colonial question. In interrogating Somali nationalism through cultural, diplomatic, military/warfare, social and political history, the thesis establishes how Somali nationalism interconnected with imperialism and colonialism and how this influenced ideas and activities of Somali nationalists. To distinguish the different types of Somali nationalism, while underscoring the connections and disconnections between various forms of nationalisms, the thesis incorporates the Islamic religion and the Somali clan system into the political entity of nationalism among Somalis. The thesis contends that the intersection between nationalism and clannism was not as strict as previously depicted, insofar as they peacefully clashed and competed but also calmly co-existed and cooperated. Framed within the broader question of who first midwifed nationalism, the thesis charts new avenues for investigation in the emergence of Somali nationalism. It challenges the established position that modern Somali nationalism in the Somali Peninsula arose as a result of post-World War II politics. This does not intend to displace previous works on Somali nationalism, but rather complements them by broadening the scope of the historical analysis. By giving due attention to the plurality of pre-War Somali nationalism shaped by countless cooperating and competing religious and secular nationalist movements, the thesis establishes that Somali nationalism pre-dates World War II by several decades. This finding unsettles the dominant historiographic narratives of the post-war politics concerning the synchronic aspects of Somali nationalism. Although there are religious and secular dimensions to the earlier nationalist discourse about the uses of nationalism, the thesis finds that returning to the genesis and genealogies of Somali nationalism awakened and inspired the post-war Somali nationalists who came to contest over the politics of nationalism on the basis of secular and religious lines. By questioning the dominant forces of secular nationalism, the thesis presents a distinctive perspective of Somali nationalism radically at odds with the singular nationalistic narrative of a hegemonic, overarching post-colonial power. Rather than depict Somali nationalism as one singular politic, the thesis argues for a pluralistic politic of Somali nationalism whose players were both religious and secular in orientation. By giving due attention to the plurality of Somali nationalism, the thesis provides an important contribution to the few existing historiographies of Somali nationalism. Such findings also contribute to pluralising the history of nationalisms in general. The thesis concludes that the enduring legacies derived from Somali nationalist debates and discourses cannot be understood without deep historical exploration.