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Citizen and Subject: Decentralized Despotism and the Legacy of Late Colonialism

Mahmood Mamdani (Author)
Synopsis This book analyses the legacy of late colonialism and the obstacles to democratization in post-colonial societies.  Professor Mamdani examines contemporary Africa to argue that the legacy created a bifurcated world inhabited by subjects on the one hand and citizens on the other, their lives regulated simulateneously by customary and modern law, their beliefs dismissed as pagan but bearing the status of religion, in sum, the world of the 'savage' barricaded from the world of the 'civilized'.  In a provocative thesis, the book argues that this divided world - one the one hand, free peasants ethnically divided and guarded by Native Authority, and on the other, a civil society bound by the laws of the modern state- reflects the general contours of apartheid.  The deracialization of the state structures through independence has failed to come to terms with this institutional legacy of colonialism.  In attempting a creative theoretical synthesis, Professor Mamdani transcends modernist and communitarian positions by studying two related phenomena - how power is organized and how it tends to fragment resistance.  Through detailed case studies of rural and urban resistance movements, the author shows how the institutional features mentioned above fragment resistance and how states tend to play off reform in one sector against repression in another.  In this sense, independent Africa reveals one possible outcome of a reformed state structure - a deracialized but decentralized despotism.  This has enormous relevance for all developing countries - how to reform a power that institutionally enforces tension between town and country, and between ethnicities, is a challenge for all democracies and for anyone interested in democratic reforms.
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About the author

Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is Professor, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa, and a member of the African Academy of Sciences.

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Bibliographic information

Title Citizen and Subject: Decentralized Despotism and the Legacy of Late Colonialism
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1997
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9780195643329
length xii+353p., Notes; Index; 23cm.