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In analyzing the obstacles to democratization in post- independence Africa, Mahmood Mamdani offers a bold, insightful account of colonialism's legacy--a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects. Many writers have understood colonial rule as either "direct" (French) or "indirect" (British), with a third variant--apartheid--as exceptional. This benign terminology, Mamdani shows, masks the fact that these were actually variants of a despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a "customary" mode of rule, with state-appointed Native Authorities defining custom. By tapping authoritarian possibilities in culture, and by giving culture an authoritarian bent, indirect rule (decentralized despotism) set the pace for Africa; the French followed suit by changing from direct to indirect administration, while apartheid emerged relatively later. Apartheid, Mamdani shows, was actually the generic form of the colonial state in Africa.
Through case studies of rural (Uganda) and urban (South Africa) resistance movements, we learn how these institutional features fragment resistance and how states tend to play off reform in one sector against repression in the other. Reforming a power that institutionally enforces tension between town and country, and between ethnicities, is the key challenge for anyone interested in democratic reform in Africa.
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"A compelling historical reconstruction.... [A]n analysis distinguished by its utter respect for the specificity of historical experience."--Irene Grendzier,The Nation
"Mahmood Mamdani's powerful new volume challenges the established wisdom of Africanists concerning the European colonial impact on Africa and Africa's postcolonial settlement.... [I]mpressive."--Robert L. Tignor,American Historical Review
"This book explores a provocative and original thesis about African politics, with the vigor and rigor that readers of Professor Mamdani's earlier work will expect. Anyone who cares to understand the state in contemporary Africa--anyone who wants to understand the current situation on the continent at all—would do well to read this new book. Whether you agree or disagree, this is a book to learn from."--Kwame Anthony Appiah
"Mahmood Mamdani is one of the most original thinkers writing about Africa today. His skills in comparative analysis and conceptual refinement are strikingly illustrated in this volume."--Ali A. Mazrui, Institute for Global Studies, SUNY–Binghamton
"Citizen and Subjectis going to be a verynecessarybook. Mamdani's exposition, of a rare clarity, offers us a broadness of vision based upon experience and knowledge always informed by his profound perceptiveness."--Breyten Breytenbach, South African writerAbout the Author:
Mahmood Mamdani received his Ph.D. in Government from Harvard University and is the founding Director of the Centre for Basic Research in Kampala. A Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, he is the author of The Myth of Population Control and Politics and Class Formation in Uganda.
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