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Mahmood Mamdani (b. 1947 in Kampala, Uganda) is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Departments of Anthropology and Political Science at Columbia University in the United States. He is also the Director of Columbia's Institute of African Studies.[1] He is a former President of the Council for Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA) Dakar, Senegal.

Mamdani's reputation as an expert in African history, politics and international relations has made him an important voice in contemporary debates about Africa. His book Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism won the 1998 Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association of the USA.

In 2001, he was one of nine scholars to present at the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium.[2] He has been named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by the US magazine Foreign Policy in May 2008 [3] and the UK magazine Prospect in July 2008[1].


Early life and background

Mamdani was born a third-generation East African of South Asian origin. [4] Upon Uganda's independence from Britain in 1962, Mamdani was offered a scholarship by the United States government. He attended the University of Pittsburgh, receiving a B.A. in 1967. He went on to get an M.A.L.D. at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University in 1969. Mamdani studied for his Ph.D. at Harvard, where he led graduate students in a strike to protest a tuition hike. He received his doctorate in 1974.


He returned to Uganda, only to be forced to leave the country by dictator Idi Amin.[5] Amin deported Indians and confiscated their property, (see: Expulsion of Asians in Uganda in 1972). Mamdani lived as a refugee in Britain before obtaining a position at the University of Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania.[6]

He returned to Uganda when Amin was overthrown and Milton Obote returned to power.[7] In the following years, Mamdani was involved in adult literacy programs and political activities among railway workers and started working at the Makerere University in Kampala.

Mamdani's political activism continues with his support of Disinvestment from Israel. [8][9]

His wife is the film director Mira Nair. They have a son, Zohran.

Besides English, he speaks French, Gullah, Gujarati, Hindi, Luganda, Punjabi, Swahili, and Urdu. His lecturing experience includes the University of Dar-es-Salaam (1973-79), Makerere University (1980-93), and University of Cape Town (1996-99). Mamdani was also the founding director of Centre for Basic Research in Kampala, Uganda (1987-96).

In recent years he has criticized the Save Darfur Coalition as ahistorical and dishonest, and argues that the conflict in Darfur is more about land, power, and the environment than it is directly about race. .[10] He also wrote an article for the London Review of Books on Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe, that while condemnining his human rights record, criticized the narrow focus on Mugabe as being solely responsible for Zimbabwes economic problems.[11]

Selected published works

  • From Citizen to Refugee (Francis Pinter Ltd., 1973)
  • Myth of Population Control. (Monthly Review Press, 1973)
  • Politics and Class Formation in Uganda. (Monthly Review Press, 1976).
  • Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda. (Africa World Press, Inc., 1983).
  • And Fire Does not Always Beget Ash: Critical Reflections on the NRM. (1996).
  • Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. (Princeton University Press, 1996).
  • Crisis and Reconstruction -- African Perspectives: Two Lectures (with Colin Leys). (Nordiska Afrikainsinstutet, 1998).
  • Beyond Rights Talk and Culture Talk: Comparative essays on Rights and Culture. ed. (St. Martin's Press, 2000).
  • Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. December 14-18, 1998, page 2
  • Report of the CODESRIA Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. September, 1997. Text of report submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations
  • When Does a Settler Become a Native? Reflections of the Colonial Roots of Citizenship in Equatorial and South Africa. Text of Inaugural Lecture as A. C. Jordan Professor of African Studies, University of Cape Town, Lecture Theatre 1, Education Building, Middle Campus, Wednesday 13 May 1998, 8.15 p.m.
  • When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda. (Princeton Univ. Press, 2001).
  • Good Muslim Bad Muslim: America, The Cold War, and the Roots of Terror. (New York: Pantheon/Random House, 2004).
  • Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror. (Pantheon, 2009)

Selected articles

Notes and references

External links





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