Mahmood Mamdani

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Mahmood Mamdani
Mahmood Mamdani.jpg
20th Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research
Assumed office
June 2010
Preceded byNakanyike Musisi
Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University
In office
Preceded byGeorge Bond
Succeeded byMamadou Diouf
Director of the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town
In office
Personal details
Born (1946-04-23) 23 April 1946 (age 75)
Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India
Spouse(s)Mira Nair (m. 1991)
Children1 (Zohran Mamdani)
ResidenceKampala, Uganda
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Pittsburgh (Bachelor of Arts)
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Master of Arts), (Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy)
Harvard University (Doctor of Philosophy)
ProfessorshipsUniversity of Dar es Salaam (1973–79)
Makerere University (1980–93)
University of Cape Town (1996–99)
Notable work(s)Citizen and Subject
Notable awardsHerskovits Prize (1997)
Lenfest Award (2011)

Mahmood Mamdani, FBA (born 23 April 1946) is a Ugandan academic, author, and political commentator. He currently serves as the Chancellor of Kampala International University, Uganda.[1] He is the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR),[2] the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University[3] and the Professor of Anthropology, Political Science and African Studies at Columbia University.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Mamdani is a third generation Ugandan of Indian ancestry. He was born in Mumbai and grew up in Kampala. Both his parents were born in the neighbouring Tanganyika Territory (present day Tanzania). He was educated at the Government Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Government Primary School in Masaka, K.S.I. Primary School in Kampala, Shimoni and Nakivubo Government Primary Schools in Kampala, and Old Kampala Senior Secondary School.[5]

He received a scholarship along with 26 other Ugandan students to study in the United States. He was part of the 1963 group of the Kennedy Airlift, a scholarship program that brought hundreds of East Africans to universities in the United States and Canada between 1959 and 1963. [6] The scholarships were part of the independence gift that the new nation had received.[7] Mamdani joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1963 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1967.

He was among the many students in the northern US who made the bus journey south to Montgomery, Alabama, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in March 1965, to participate in the civil rights movement. This was in Montgomery, during the time of but distinct from the Selma_to_Montgomery_marches. He was jailed during the march and was allowed to make a phone call. Mamdani called the Ugandan Ambassador in Washington, D.C., for assistance. The ambassador asked him why he was "interfering in the internal affairs of a foreign country", to which he responded by saying that this was not an internal affair but a freedom struggle and that they too had gotten their freedom only last year.[8] Soon after he learnt about Karl Marx's work from an FBI visit.[9]

He then joined The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and graduated in 1968 with a Master of Arts in political science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy in 1969. He attained his Doctor of Philosophy in government from Harvard University in 1974. His thesis was titled Politics and Class Formation in Uganda.[10][11]


Mamdani returned to Uganda in early 1972 and joined Makerere University as a teaching assistant at the same time conducting his doctoral research; only to be expelled later that year by Idi Amin due to his ethnicity. He left Uganda for a refugee camp in the United Kingdom in early November just as the three-month deadline was approaching for people of Asian heritage to leave the country.

He left England in mid-1973 after being recruited to the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.[8] In Dar es Salaam, he completed writing his thesis and was active with anti-Amin groups. In 1979, he attended the Moshi Conference as an observer and returned to Uganda after Amin was overthrown following the Uganda–Tanzania War[12] as a Frontier Interne of the World Council of Churches. He was posted with the Church of Uganda offices in Mengo and was assigned to research the former regime's foreign relations. His report was published as a book: Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda.

In 1984, while attending a conference in Dakar, Senegal, he became stateless after his citizenship was withdrawn by the government under Milton Obote due to his criticism of its policies.[13] He returned to Dar es Salaam and was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for the spring semester in 1986. After Obote was deposed for the second time, Mamdani once again returned to Uganda in June 1986.[7] He was the founding director of the Centre for Basic Research (CBR), Uganda's first research non-governmental organisation from 1987 to 2006.[5]

He was also a visiting professor at the University of Durban-Westville in South Africa (January to June in 1993), at the Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in New Delhi (January to June in 1995) and at Princeton University (1995–96).

In 1996, he was appointed as the inaugural holder of the AC Jordan chair of African studies at the University of Cape Town.[14] He left after having disagreements with the administration on his draft syllabus of a foundation course on Africa called "Problematizing Africa".[15] This was dubbed the "Mamdani Affair". From 1998 to 2002, he served as president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. In December 2001, he gave a speech on "Making Sense of Violence in Postcolonial Africa" at the Nobel Centennial Symposia in Oslo, Norway.[16]

In 2008, in an open online poll, Mamdani was voted as the ninth "top public intellectual" in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (US).[17][18] His essays have appeared in the London Review of Books, among other journals.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]


Mamdani specialises in the study of African and international politics, colonialism and post‐colonialism, and the politics of knowledge production. His works explore the intersection between politics and culture, a comparative study of colonialism since 1452, the history of civil war and genocide in Africa, the Cold War and the War on Terror, and the history and theory of human rights.[31]

His current research "takes as its point of departure his 1996 book, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Colonialism".[32] In Citizen and Subject, Mamdani argues that the post-colonial state cannot be understood without a clear analysis of the institutional colonial state. The nature of the colonial state in Africa was a response to the dilemma of the 'native question' and argued that it took on the form of a 'Bifurcated State'.[33] This was characterised by 'direct rule' on the one hand which was a form of 'urban civil power' and focused on the exclusion of natives from civil freedoms guaranteed to citizens in civil society.[34] Whilst on the other it was characterised by indirect rule which was rural in nature and involved the incorporation of 'natives' into a 'state enforced customary order' enforced by a 'rural tribal authority' which he termed as 'decentralised despotism'.[34] This state was 'Janus faced' and 'contained a duality: two forms of power under a single hegemonic authority'.[34] In the post-colonial realm, the urban sphere was to an extent deracialised but the rural one remained subject to quasi colonial control whether at the hands of conservative rulers for whom it provided their own power base or those of radical ones with centralised authoritarian projects of their own.[35] In this way both experiences reproduced 'one part of the dual legacy of the bifurcated state and created their own distinctive version of despotism'.[36] Mamdani analyses extensive historical case studies in South Africa and Uganda to argue that colonial rule tapped into authoritarian possibilities whose legacies often persist after independence.[37] Challenging conventional perceptions of apartheid in South Africa as exceptional, he argues that apartheid was the generic form of a European colony in Africa, encompassing aspects of indirect rule and association.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Mamdani is married to Mira Nair, an Indian film director and producer. They met in Kampala, Uganda, in 1989 when Nair was conducting research for her film, Mississippi Masala.[7] She had read his book The Myth of Population Control while an undergraduate at university and From Citizen to Refugee just before their meeting.[citation needed] They married in 1991 and have a son, Zohran Mamdani, a current member of the New York State Assembly, representing the 36th District in Queens.[39]

Honours and awards[edit]


In July 2017, Mamdani was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy (FBA), the United Kingdom's national academy for the humanities and social sciences.[45]

Honorary degrees[edit]



  • The Myth of Population Control: Family, Class and Caste in an Indian Village (1972)
  • From Citizen to Refugee: Ugandan Asians Come to Britain (1973)
  • Politics and Class Formation in Uganda (1976)
  • Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda (1984)
  • Academic Freedom in Africa (1994)
  • Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996)
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and Genocide in Rwanda (2001)
  • Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror (2004)
  • Scholars in the Marketplace. The Dilemmas of Neo-Liberal Reform at Makerere University, 1989–2005 (2007)
  • Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009)
  • Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity (The W.E.B. DuBois Lectures) (2012)
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (2014)
  • Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (2020)

Collected essays[edit]

  • Beyond Rights Talk and Culture Talk: Comparative Essays on the Politics of Rights and Culture (2000)

Edited volumes[edit]

  • Uganda Studies in Labour (Codesria Book Series) (1968)

Other works[edit]

  • Studies in Labor Markets (National Bureau of Economic Research Universities-National Bureau Conference Ser)
  • African Studies in Social Movements and Democracy (Actes-Sud Papiers)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Profile: Mahmood Mamdani". Kampala International University. Retrieved 24 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Profile: Mahmood Mamdani". Makerere University. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  3. ^ "SIPA Faculty: Mahmood Mamdani". School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. Archived from the original on 16 May 2006. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  4. ^ "Faculty Bio: Mahmood Mamdani". Columbia University. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "Professor Mahmood Mamdani, Uganda's Leading Political Scholar & recipient Ugandan Diaspora Award 2012". 29 November 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  6. ^ Airlift to America. How Barack Obama Sr, John F. Kennedy, Tom Mboya, and 800 East African Students Changed Their World and Ours by Tom Shachtman. St. Martins Press. 2009
  7. ^ a b c Sen, Manjula (25 January 2009). "She interviewed me, we fell in love almost instantly". The Telegraph. Calcutta. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  8. ^ a b Mamdani, Mahmood (28 April 2007). "The Asian question again: A reflection". New Vision (Uganda) via Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  9. ^ Shringarpure, Bhakti (15 July 2013). "In Conversation with Mahmood Mamdani". Warscapes. Retrieved 6 November 2017. I thought the guy Marx had just died. […] So that was my introduction to Karl Marx.
  10. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (1976). Politics and Class Formation in Uganda. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0-85345-378-0. OCLC 2073894.
  11. ^ Allen, Judith Van; Mamdani, Mahmood; Shivji, Issa G. (November 1977). "Reviewed Works: Politics and Class Formation in Uganda. by Mahmood Mamdani; Class Struggles in Tanzania. by Issa G. Shivji". Contemporary Sociology. American Sociological Association. 6 (6): 702. doi:10.2307/2066367. eISSN 1939-8638. ISSN 0094-3061. JSTOR 2066367.
  12. ^ McCormack, Pete (17 October 2005). "Interview with Mahmood Mamdani". Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  13. ^ Kagolo, Francis (8 February 2012). "Prof. Mamdani to be honoured among Africa's best". New Vision. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  14. ^ "UCT in war over 'bantu education'". Mail & Guardian. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Is African Studies at UCT a New Home for Bantu Education?" (PDF). Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  16. ^ "Speech by Dr. Mahmood Mamdani: "Making Sense of Violence in Postcolonial Africa"". Nobel Prize. 6 December 2001. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  17. ^ "The 2008 List". Prospect Magazine (UK) / Foreign Policy (US). 2008. Archived from the original on 30 September 2009.
  18. ^ "The World's Top 20 Public Intellectuals". Foreign Policy. Slate Group, LLC (167): 54–57. 2008. eISSN 1945-2276. ISSN 0015-7228. JSTOR 25462318.
  19. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (8 March 2007). "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency". London Review of Books. pp. 5–8. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  20. ^ "Letters · LRB 26 April 2007". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  21. ^ role, Mahmood Mamdani writes about the dangers of the UN’s new (6 September 2007). "Blue-Hatting Darfur". London Review of Books. pp. 18–20. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  22. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (4 December 2008). "Lessons of Zimbabwe". London Review of Books. pp. 17–21. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  23. ^ "Letters · LRB 18 December 2008". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  24. ^ "Letters · LRB 1 January 2009". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  25. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (20 January 2011). "The Invention of the Indigène". London Review of Books. pp. 31–33. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  26. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (16 June 2011). "Short Cuts". London Review of Books. p. 24. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  27. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (13 September 2012). "What is a tribe?". London Review of Books. pp. 20–22. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  28. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (7 November 2013). "The Logic of Nuremberg". London Review of Books. pp. 33–34. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  29. ^ "Letters · LRB 19 December 2013". Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  30. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (19 July 2018). "The African University". London Review of Books. pp. 29–32. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  31. ^ Sneh, Itai Nartzizenfield (2008). The Future Almost Arrived: How Jimmy Carter Failed to Change U.S. Foreign Policy. Peter Lang. p. 169. ISBN 9780820481852.
  32. ^ "Mahmood Mamdani | Department of Political Science". Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  33. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (1 January 1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. pp. 15–16. ISBN 9780852553992.
  34. ^ a b c Mamdani, Mahmood (1 January 1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. p. 18. ISBN 9780852553992.
  35. ^ Clapham, Chris (1997). "Review: Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism by Mahmood Mamdani'". Royal Institute of International Affairs. 73: 606.
  36. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (1 January 1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. 27. ISBN 9780852553992.CS1 maint: location (link)
  37. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (1 January 1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. p. 37. ISBN 9780852553992.
  38. ^ Mamdani, Mahmood (1 January 1996). Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. pp. 16–18. ISBN 9780852553992.
  39. ^ "Roti and roses". Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  40. ^ "Mamdani rejoins UCT". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  41. ^ "UCT Book Award". University of Cape Town. Archived from the original on 4 April 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  42. ^ "GDS Eminent Scholar Award Past Recipients". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  43. ^ "Professor Mahmood Mamdani Recognized with Lenfest Award". School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. 15 April 2011. Archived from the original on 21 December 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  44. ^ "Prof. Mamdani Is To Be Honored As "Scholar of the Year" At The Annual African Diaspora Awards NYC". MISR. 19 November 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  45. ^ "Elections to the British Academy celebrate the diversity of UK research". British Academy. 2 July 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  46. ^ "Mahmood Mamdani conferred with an honorary doctorate". University of Johannesburg. May 2010. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  47. ^ "Speech delivered by Professor Prof Mahmood Mamdani at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa" (PDF). CODESRIA. 25 May 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  48. ^ "Remarks on receipt of Honorary Doctorate at Addis Ababa University" (PDF). CODESRIA. 24 July 2010. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  49. ^ "Media Statement: UKZN To honour leading South Africans and women graduates excel". University of KwaZulu-Natal. 12 April 2012. Archived from the original (MS Word) on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  50. ^ "Address on Receiving an Honorary Doctorate at the University of Kwazulu Natal" (PDF). Columbia University. 24 April 2012. Retrieved 21 March 2013.

External links[edit]