Citizen and Subject

Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism - Second edition, with a new preface by the author
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Dimensions and Pages: 344 pages; Paperback; 15.7 x 23.2cm
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-171-5
  • Rights: Southern Africa
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 350.00

Citizen and Subject is unparalleled in its ability to re-frame the polarized and reductive debates that are still the substance of Africanist political science, just as they were 20 years ago – debates over concepts like clientelism, corruption, democratization, ethnic violence, or civil society.
Adam Branch in Africa Is a Country

Mahmood Mamdani’s book simultaneously aims to theorize a specifically African form of state, to account for its colonial origins and post-colonial trajectories (and their contributions to Africa’s crisis), and to derive from this analysis some key ideas about – and for – democratic politics in Africa today. His original argument is the most potent given the relative sterility of debate since the collapse of the post-independence project of national development.
Henry Bernstein in Development & Change

In analyzing the obstacles to democratization in post- independence Africa, Mahmood Mamdani offers a bold, insightful account of colonialism’s legacy–a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects.

Many writers have understood colonial rule as either “direct” (French) or “indirect” (British), with a third variant–apartheid–as exceptional. This benign terminology, Mamdani shows, masks the fact that these were actually variants of a despotism. While direct rule denied rights to subjects on racial grounds, indirect rule incorporated them into a “customary” mode of rule, with state-appointed Native Authorities defining custom. By tapping authoritarian possibilities in culture, and by giving culture an authoritarian bent, indirect rule (decentralized despotism) set the pace for Africa; the French followed suit by changing from direct to indirect administration, while apartheid emerged relatively later. Apartheid, Mamdani shows, was actually the generic form of the colonial state in Africa.

Through case studies of rural (Uganda) and urban (South Africa) resistance movements, we learn how these institutional features fragment resistance and how states tend to play off reform in one sector against repression in the other. Reforming a power that institutionally enforces tension between town and country, and between ethnicities, is the key challenge for anyone interested in democratic reform in Africa.

Key points
• This classic of African political science literature, first published in 1995, is now available for the first time in a South African edition, with a new preface by the author.
• One of Africa’s 100 Best Books of the 20th Century.
• This theoretically adventurous work by a prominent Ugandan academic calls for the reform of the study of African politics, endeavoring to establish the historical legitimacy of Africa as a subject of analysis.
• An important book for the debate on the decolonizing of civil society, including decolonizing universities and the curriculum.
• Contains case studies of rural (Uganda) and urban (South Africa) resistance movements.

Preface 2017
I Introduction: Thinking through Africa’s Impasse

PART. I The Structure of Power
II Decentralized Despotism
III Indirect Rule: The Politics of Decentralized Despotism
IV Customary Law: The Theory of Decentralized Despotism
V The Native Authority and the Free Peasantry

PART II The Anatomy of Resistance
VI The Other Face of Tribalism: Peasant Movements in Equatorial Africa
VII The Rural in the Urban: Migrant Workers in South Africa
VIII Conclusion: Linking the Urban and the Rural


Mahmood Mamdani is Director of Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University.

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