Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject

Book Report/Review
Pages 4 (1004 words)
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Since its release, Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject has been at the center of attention and controversy among African academics. In 1997, the African Studies Association selected it as a recipient of the Herskovitz prize, as one of the finest works on African politics during that particular year.


The intended positioning of Mamdani's argument is described in his title; during colonial Africa, the majority of rural populations were governed by indigenous chiefs and "customary law" under an administration of "decentralized despotism". Thus, as a result, they were not prepared to participate as citizens in the modern states that have succeeded colonialism.
A conformed version of this described colonialism is the British system of indirect rule, formally employed only in Northern parts of Africa, which also echoed both in the policies of rural South Africa and in the less overt practices of other European powers in additional parts of Africa. Just as Mamdani states that such colonialism was both tyrannical and decentralized, he argues that it produced only one possibility for postcolonial African regimes; a conventional maintenance of transference through the same chain of command of leaders.
Mamdani's model essentially comes from Central Africa, where tortuous rule was the central theme of political conversation in the colonial era, and where it is also possible to question post-colonial establishments. On the other hand, an equal segment of the book is dedicated to South Africa, and occasionally to its satellite nations such as Swaziland, whose position in the argument is somewhat indistinctive. ...
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