Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (xv, 393 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Iris Berger

Committee Members

Susan M Gauss, M. Anne Pitcher


Contingent Sovereignty, FRELIMO, Mozambique, Proto-State, Revolutionary Constituency, Revolutionary Pragmatism

Subject Categories

Africana Studies | African History | History


This dissertation analyzes the early political development of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) during the 1960s. The thesis offers several new theoretical perspectives on the evolution of FRELIMO as a liberation front. While operating from military bases, settlement camps, and urban settings in Tanzania, FRELIMO functioned as a proto-state with authority derived from a contingent sovereignty. At the beginning of the anti-colonial war against Portugal in September 1964, FRELIMO was able to help organize and oversee the lives of thousands of Mozambican refugees who fled into Tanzania to escape the escalating violence. Many of these refugees became FRELIMO's revolutionary constituents who contributed to the eventual success of the liberation front in gaining independence from Portugal. In order to construct and operate its institutions in Tanzania, FRELIMO's leaders sought the help of this revolutionary constituency, as well as from the diplomatic connections and financial assistance it received from foreign organizations and governments. Many of the funds obtained by FRELIMO were utilized to underwrite the creation of liberation front's most important institution in Tanzania: The Mozambique Institute and its secondary school. In overseeing this school and its other institutions in Tanzania during the war, FRELIMO's legitimacy as a liberation front was constantly at stake. This dissertation also addresses how and why the Tanzanian government, the Ford Foundation, and World Council of Churches were instrumental in the political evolution and legitimation of FRELIMO. The governing strategies of FRELIMO as a proto-state were initially based on a revolutionary form of pragmatism, but eventually yielded to a burgeoning authoritarianism preferred by certain members of the liberation front's hierarchy. Jealousy, along with ethnic, regional, and age-related tensions all emerged at the Mozambique Institute secondary school by the late 1960s, signaling that the school had become a flashpoint for FRELIMO's expanding authoritarianism prior to independence. The dissertation relies on an analysis of these theoretical aspects of power and governance, problematizes the notion of sovereignty and jurisdiction in liberation contexts, and explains how gender and generational factors at FRELIMO's Mozambique Institute secondary school deserve to be included in the narrative of Mozambican independence.