Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman pro­fessor of government at Columbia University and former director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala.

The Asian Question: On Leaving Uganda

Mahmood Mamdani, 6 October 2022

Uganda’s constitution of 1995 entrenched the barrier against citizenship for non-indigenous applicants, who now had to belong to an indigenous group. Schedule 3 of the constitution included a list of ‘indigenous’ tribes. By this criterion, no Ugandan Asian could be a citizen by birth after 1995, no matter how many generations his family had been in the country. President Yoweri Museveni was careful not to refer to Asians as citizens; he explained that they were ‘investors’, with no right to remain in the country, but entitled to certain privileges denied to their local counterparts in the business and investment sectors. This led to a sense of insecurity among Asians and to Ugandan resentment. Museveni was following Obote’s lead in the 1960s, when he looked to an Asian merchant class to provide a counterweight to the old Baganda elite. For those who have arrived since the 1990s, Uganda is a transit station, as it is for their descendants. For the Asians who were thrown out in 1972, Uganda was home.

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

It​ is striking, in the postcolonial era, how little the modern African university has to do with African institutions. It draws its inspiration from the colonial period and takes as its model the discipline based, gated community that maintained a distinction between clearly defined groups: administrators, academics and fee-paying students. The origins of this arrangement lay in...


The Logic of Nuremberg

7 November 2013

R.W. Johnson seeks to naturalise forced movements – specifically, ethnic cleansing in Europe, and later in Israel – as if they were in the main a result of spontaneous flight, obscuring the role of conscious decisions by those in power. I will focus on postwar Europe. First, the figure of those forcibly moved was in the millions – they were mainly Germans. Only the opening phase, triggered by...

The Logic of Nuremberg: Nuremberg’s Logic

Mahmood Mamdani, 7 November 2013

In March, General Bosco Ntaganda, the ‘Terminator’, former chief of military operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, voluntarily surrendered himself at the US embassy in Kigali and was flown to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The chargesheet included accusations of murder, rape,...

What is a tribe?

Mahmood Mamdani, 13 September 2012

A new form of colonialism was born in the second half of the 19th century, largely in response to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Of its many theorists by far the most influential was Henry Maine, a brilliant historian of jurisprudence, barrister, journalist, colonial civil servant and eventually master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Maine made an eloquent case for the historicity and agency of the...

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences