Mahmood Mamdani, born 23 April 1946, is a Ugandan academic, author, and political commentator. He is the director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University and the Professor of Anthropology, Political Science and African Studies at Columbia University.
Mamdani specialises in the study of African and international politics, colonialism and post‐colonialism, and the politics of knowledge production. 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, and the history and theory of human rights.
His current research “takes as its point of departure his 1996 book, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Colonialism“. In Citizen and Subject, Mamdani argues that the colonial state in Africa generally took the form of a bifurcated state, wherein racial domination is mediated through direct rule in urban areas and through tribally organized local authorities elsewhere. Terming this form of rule decentralized despotism, Mamdani analyzes extensive historical case studies in South Africa and Uganda to argue that colonial rule tapped into authoritarian possibilities whose legacies often persist after independence. Challenging conventional perceptions of apartheid in South Africa as exceptional, he argues that apartheid was the generic form of the colonial state in Africa, encompassing both British ‘indirect rule‘ and French ‘association’ strategies.