Mahmood Mamdani: Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities

May 7

9:00 am - 11:00 am


Join us for a keynote address by Mahmood Mamdani, the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University, who will speak about his book, Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities (Harvard University Press, 2020).

Part of the virtual conference Religion and Democracy on the African Continent: Colonial Legacies and Postcolonial Possibilities.

About the Book

In this genealogy of political modernity, Mahmood Mamdani argues that the nation-state and the colonial state created each other. In case after case around the globe—from the New World to South Africa, Israel to Germany to Sudan—the colonial state and the nation-state have been mutually constructed through the politicization of a religious or ethnic majority at the expense of an equally manufactured minority.

Neither Settler nor Native offers a vision for arresting this historical process. Mamdani rejects the ‘criminal’ solution attempted at Nuremberg, which held individual perpetrators responsible without questioning Nazism as a political project and thus the violence of the nation-state itself. Instead, political violence demands political solutions: not criminal justice for perpetrators but a rethinking of the political community for all survivors—victims, perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries—based on common residence and the commitment to build a common future without the permanent political identities of settler and native. Mamdani points to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as an unfinished project, seeking a state without a nation.

About the Speaker

Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University. He was also professor and executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research (2010-2022) in Kampala, where he established an inter-disciplinary doctoral program in Social Studies. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1974 and specializes in the study of colonialism, anti-colonialism and decolonisation. 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, the history and theory of human rights, and the politics of knowledge production. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, Mamdani was a professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (1973–1979), Makerere University in Uganda (1980–1993), and the University of Cape Town (1996–1999).

He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including being listed as one of the “Top 20 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazine in 2008. In 2021, he was nominated Among ‘The World’s Top 50 Thinkers’ by Prospect Magazine, UK.

His latest work, Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities, Harvard University Press, 2020, was shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, 2021, and as “World History Finalist” by Association of American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Awards).

From 1998 to 2002, he served as President of CODESRIA (Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa). His essays have appeared in the New Left Review and the London Review of books, among other journals.

He teaches courses on: Major Debates in the Study of Africa; the Modern State and the Colonial Subject; the Cold War and the Third World; the Theory, History, and Practice of Human Rights; and Civil Wars and the State in Africa.

Mamdani’s books include Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009); Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Roots of Terror (2004); When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and Genocide in Rwanda (2001); Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996), which was awarded the Herskovitz Prize of the African Studies Association; Politics and Class Formation in Uganda (1976); From Citizen to Refugee(1973); and The Myth of Population Control: Family, Class and Caste in an Indian Village (1972).

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