Mahmood Mamdani – USA & Uganda

Linked with Making Sense of Political Violence in Postcolonial Africa, and with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Jalal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding ACMCU.

He says: ”It is not the first time that the USA has used the mass media to present an entire population as an enemy. It happened with the Native Americans, with the Black Americans, with the Japanese Americans. Ann Norton, who has just written a book on the Neo-Cons, believes that the techniques of Islamophobia is very similar to the anti-Semitism before the Second World War”. (Read the whole interview on

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Mahmood Mamdani – USA & Uganda

Mahmood Mamdani is of a third generation East African of Indian origin. He was born in Kampala, Uganda. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1974. Since 1999 he has been the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government in the Departments of Anthropology and International Affairs, and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University. In 2001 he presented one of the nine papers that were delivered at the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium.

He says (excerpt): … “We have learnt through experience that political decolonization cannot be complete without an intellectual paradigm shift, which is what I mean by intellectual decolonization. In other words, by “intellectual decolonization” what I have in mind is thinking the present in the context of a past. Unlike radical political economy, though, the past needs to be thought through deeper than simply the colonial period. One unfortunate tendency of radical political economy was that it tended to reduce the usable past to the colonial period. We should recognize that the various forms of nativism around the postcolonial world – from racialized Black nationalism to ethnicized nationalisms to religious Muslim and Hindu nationalism, what we tend to call “fundamentalisms” these days – have been the first to raise this question. They are the ones who have accused self-declared modernist intellectuals of being nothing but a pale reflection of their colonial masters. They have emphasized the necessity to link up with the historicity of their respective societies. The only problem is that they rule out the colonial period as an artificial imposition, as a departure from an authentic history. Preoccupied with a search for and a return to origins, they tend to freeze the past in the pre-colonial period. This search also determines their notion of the colonial period: the Hutu nationalists think of the colonial period as the period prior to Tutsi migration, and the Hindu nationalists tend to think of it as the period prior to the Turkish invasions and the Islamic conversions. As a result, they underestimate – or sometimes fail to understand fully – the present by ignoring how the institutional and intellectual legacy of colonialism tends to be reproduced in the present”. (Read the whole Interviw on Asia Source, Mai 5, 2004).

In Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, Mamdani argues that the spread of terrorism owes more to U.S. anti-Communist intervention than to anything Osama bin Laden ever did. Especially culpable in Mamdani’s eyes is former President Ronald Reagan. As Pantheon, the book’s publisher, states: “Mamdani writes with great insight about the Reagan years, showing America’s embrace of the highly ideological politics of ‘good’ against ‘evil.’” “Identifying militant nationalist governments as Soviet proxies in countries such as Nicaragua and Afghanistan, the Reagan administration readily backed terrorist movements, hailing them as the ‘moral equivalents’ of America’s Founding Fathers,” the publisher explains. (Read all on campus report

He says (exerpt): … Even when Bush speaks of “good” Muslims and “bad” Muslims, what he means by “good” Muslims is really pro-American Muslims and by “bad” Muslims he means anti-American Muslims. Once you recognize that, then it is no longer puzzling why good Muslims are becoming bad Muslims at such a rapid rate. You can actually begin to think through that development. If, however, you think of “good” and “bad” Muslims in cultural terms, it is mind-boggling that in one week, you can have a whole crop of “bad” Muslims – cultural changes do not usually happen with such rapidity! But if you have the aerial bombing of Falluja and the targeting of civilian populations accused of hosting “bad” Muslims, then you harvest an entire yield of bad Muslims at the end of the day, and the whole phenomenon becomes slightly less puzzling. This is connected to my claim that political identities are not reducible to cultural identities. Political Islam, especially radical political Islam, and even more so, the terrorist wing in radical political Islam, did not emerge from conservative, religious currents, but on the contrary, from a secular intelligentsia. In other words, its preoccupation is this-worldly, it is about power in this world. To take only the most obvious example: I am not aware of anyone who thinks of bin Laden as a theologian; he is a political strategist and is conceived of in precisely such terms. Of course, part of his strategy is employing a particular language through which he addresses specific audiences. (Read the whole interview on

Books: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2004).
Professor Mamdani’s previous books include ‘When Victims Become Killers’, Colonialism, Nativism; and ‘the Genocide in Rwanda’ (2002), and ‘Citizen and Subject’ (1996), both published by Princeton University Press.


Leadership Directories;

Campus Report, April 2005;

The Village;

Campus Watch;

African studies in social movements and democracy.

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