Amina Mama

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Amina Mama
Amina Mama, the poet
Mama in 2019
Born (1958-09-19) 19 September 1958 (age 62)
Schoolfeminism, postcolonialism
InstitutionsMills College, University of California, Davis, Global Fund for Women, Feminist Africa
Main interests
women, militarism, police, neoliberalism, Africa

Amina Mama (born 19 September 1958) is a Nigerian-British writer, feminist and academic.[2] Her main areas of focus have been post-colonial, militarist and gender issues. She has lived in Africa, Europe, and North America, and worked to build relationships between feminist intellectuals across the globe.


Mama was born in northern Nigeria[3] in 1958 in a mixed household. Her father is Nigerian and her mother is English.[4] According to Mama, her eclectic family background and upbringing has shaped her worldview.[5] In 1992 she married Nuruddin Farah,[6] with whom she has two children.[7]

She grew up in Kaduna, an ethnically and religiously diverse town in northern Nigeria. Her ancestral roots on her paternal side trace back to Bida.[5] Several members of Mama's family were involved in the development of the post-colonial local educational system.[8] In 1966, she left her community in Nigeria due to anti-Muslim riots.[9]


Mama moved from Nigeria to the UK and pursued further education at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland (1980, Bachelor of Science, with Honours, in Psychology), at the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London (1981, Master of Science in Social Psychology) and at Birkbeck College, University of London, where in 1987 she received her doctorate in organizational psychology with her thesis entitled "Race and Subjectivity: A Study of Black Women".[10] Some of her early work involves comparing the situations of British and Nigerian women.[11] She moved to the Netherlands and then back to Nigeria, only to encounter more upheaval in 2000.[12] Then she moved to South Africa, where she began to work at the historically white University of Cape Town (UCT). At UCT, she became the director of the African Gender Institute (AGI) and helped to found its journal Feminist Africa.[12] Mama remains the editor of Feminist Africa.[10]

In 2008, Mama accepted a position at Mills College in Oakland, California, United States. After moving, she commented: "I have learned America isn't just a big, bad source of imperialism."[13] Professor Mama became Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women's Leadership at Mills—the first person to hold this position.[10] She co-taught a class called "Real Policy, Real Politics" with Congresswoman Lee on topics concerning African and African-American women, including gender roles, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and militarism.[14] She was also Chair of the Department of Gender and Women Studies at the University of California, Davis.[15]

Mama is the Chair of the board of directors for the Global Fund for Women, and advises several other international organisations. She has sat on the board of directors of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.[10]

Mama serves on the advisory board for the feminist academic journals Meridians and Signs.[16][17]

One of her best known works is Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity. She is also involved in film work. In 2010, she co-produced the movie The Witches of Gambaga with Yaba Badoe.[18][19]


Mama describes herself as a feminist and not a womanist, arguing that feminism originates in Africa and that white feminism "has never been strong enough to be 'enemy'—in the way that say, global capitalism can be viewed as an enemy".[8] She has criticised discourses of women in development for stripping gender studies of politically meaningful feminism.[20] She has also argued that African universities continue to show entrenched patriarchy, in terms of both interpersonal sexism and institutional gender gaps.[21]

A primary area of interest for Mama has been gender identity as it relates to global militarism. She is an outspoken critic of AFRICOM, which she describes as part of violent neocolonial resource extraction.[22][23]


  • The Hidden Struggle: Statutory and Voluntary Sector Responses to Violence Against Black Women in the Home. Runnymede, 1989; republished by Whiting and Birch, 1996. ISBN 9781861770059
  • Black Women and the Police: A Place Where the Law is Not Upheld, in Inside Babylon: The Caribbean Diaspora in Britain, ed. Winston James and Clive Harris. London: Verso, 1993. ISBN 9780860914716.
  • Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender, and Subjectivity. New York: Routledge, 1995. ISBN 9780415035446.
  • National Machinery for Women in Africa: Towards an analysis. Third World Network, 2000. ISBN 9789988602017.
  • "Is It Ethical to Study Africa? Preliminary Thoughts on Scholarship and Freedom". African Studies Review 50 (1), April 2007.


  1. ^ Amina Mama", GWS Africa, 5 August 2008.
  2. ^ Correspondent, Local (19 September 2020). "Amina Mama Celebrates Her 62nd Birthday Today". ABTC. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  3. ^ "One-way ticket just isn't an option", Times Higher Education, 13 January 2006.
  4. ^ Mama, Amina (1995). Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender and Subjectivity. Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 0415035449.
  5. ^ a b Mama, Amina. "GWS Africa – Amina Mama". GWS Africa. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Farah, Nuruddin",
  7. ^ Dinitia Smith, "A Somali Author as Guide to a Dantean Inferno", New York Times, 19 May 2004.
  8. ^ a b Amina Mama interviewed by Elaine Salo, "Talking about Feminism in Africa", reproduced in Women's World from Agenda, "African Feminisms I", no. 50 (2001).
  9. ^ "Amina Mama Archived 9 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine", The Women's Building, accessed 24 October 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d Amina Mama Archived 10 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine" faculty page at Mills College.
  11. ^ See editor's preface to Mama's "Black Women, the Economic Crisis, and the British State", reprinted in Modern Feminisms (1992), ed. Maggie Humm, p. 150.
  12. ^ a b Karen MacGregor, "One-way ticket just isn't an option", Times Higher Education, 13 January 2006. Accessed 16 November 2012.
  13. ^ Andrea Wolf, "Scholar describes issues facing African women", Contra Costa Times, 22 May 2008.
  14. ^ Quynh Tran, "International Feminist Scholar Teams with U.S. Congresswoman Lee to Teach Real Politics at Mills College Archived 9 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine ", Mills College Newsroom, 5 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Amina Mama" on SSRC (Social Science Research Council), accessed 24 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Indiana University Press - Meridians - IU Press Journals". Indiana University Press. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  17. ^ "Masthead". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2017.
  18. ^ Yaba Badoe interviewed by Paul Boakye: "Women in Film: Yaba Badoe on The Witches of Gambaga", Colorful Times, 1 October 2010.
  19. ^ "The Witches of Gambaga: About", accessed 24 October 2010.
  20. ^ Thandika Mkandawire (ed.), "Introduction" to African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development, London: Zed Books and CODESRIA, 2006.
  21. ^ Candes Keating, "Universities riddled with gender bias, says UCT prof", Cape Argus, 9 August 2007.
  22. ^ Amina Mama, "Where we must stand: African women in an age of war", opendemocracy, 15 April 2012 (originally published September 2011).
  23. ^ Amina Mama and Margo Okazawa-Rey, "Editorial: Militarism, Conflict and Women’s Activism Archived 19 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine", Feminist Africa 10, 2008.

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