May 17, 2013


Mahmood Mamdani – An intellectual leader in African Higher Education | Original Article | by Josh Kron

The role of senior academics in leading higher education is more difficult to define than that of vice-chancellors. But some intellectuals are arguably so prominent that they inspire change and development – and such is the case with Professor Mahmood Mamdani, internationally renowned commentator on African history, politics and society.

Once voted the world’s ninth most important public intellectual by the US’s Foreign Policy and the UK’s Prospect magazines, he is today director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Uganda’s capital Kampala. He is also Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University in New York.

Mamdani spoke to University World News in his office at Makarere, where he has headed up the social research institute since 2010 and is currently working with its first batch of PhD candidates.

When we met, Mamdani was almost hidden in his office – which is situated inside a maze of parking lots between decrepit buildings amid an oasis of cool hibiscus and banana palms – in a room full of books and thrumming computers.

Despite its modest location, the institute is influential in Uganda and beyond. Mamdani’s presence there is particularly important, given that African higher education has afforded the humanities declining weight in recent years.

He focuses on the study of African history and politics, with research exploring intersections between politics and culture and ranging from studies of colonialism and the history of civil war and genocide in Africa to human rights, the Cold War and the War on Terror.

Mamdani aims to help cement Makerere’s position as a moderator of discourse in Uganda and to develop a think-tank combining “research with training researchers”.

He wants to re-inject a tradition of ‘anti-discipline’ education and citizenship into Makarere’s scholastic culture where, he said, ethics among educators are weak and a reliance on rote learning is widespread. Read More...

Image Courtsey of Mahmood Mamdani

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