Pre-eminent Africana scholar Mahmood Mamdani discusses the history and politics of crisis in Darfur, September 21, 2009.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-Pre-eminent Africana scholar, Mahmood Mamdani, the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and director of the Institute of African Studies at Columbia University, will give a lecture on Monday, September 21, on the topic of his most recent book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror. Presented by the Department of Political Science and co-sponsored by Africana Studies Program, the talk will begin at 5:30pm in Rockefeller Hall, room 300, and is free and open to the public.

Of Saviors and Survivors, Howard French noted in the New York Times Book Review, that Mamdani "has written a learned book that reintroduces history into the discussion of the Darfur crisis and questions the logic and even the good faith of those who seek to place it at the pinnacle of Africa's recent troubles . . . [His] constant refrain is that the virtuous indignation he thinks he detects in those who shout loudest about Darfur is no substitute for greater understanding, without which outsiders have little hope of achieving real good in Africa's shattered lands."

Contrary to the general information about the crisis in Darfur, Mamdani maintains that although outside observers have framed this as a racially driven genocide of Muslims against Africans, he feels that the crisis was actually a fight for land that was triggered by drought. A great deal of Mamdani's indignation in Saviors and Survivors is directed towards the global Save Darfur campaign.

In a March 22 interview with Ann Mundow in the Boston Globe, Mamdani elucidated why he focused on Save Darfur: "In a context where African tragedies seem never to be noticed, I wondered why Darfur was an obsession with the global media. The reason, I realized, was that Darfur had become a domestic issue here, thanks to the Save Darfur movement. . . . I learned that this self-confessedly political group whose level of organization is phenomenal spends its annual budget of $15 million not on assisting victims but on spreading the message."

He noted that he feels the success of the Save Darfur campaign can be traced to: "the fact that [they] Save Darfur presented the conflict as a tragedy, stripped of politics and context. There were simply ‘African' victims and ‘Arab' perpetrators motivated by race-intoxicated hatred."

Professor Mamdani, a native of Kampala, Uganda, has taught at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, Makerere University, and University of Cape Town and was the founding director of Centre for Basic Research in Kampala, Uganda. In addition, he is a former president of the Council for Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA / Dakar, Senegal). In 2001, he was one of nine scholars to present at the Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium.

In addition to Saviors and Survivors, Mamdani is the author of Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, which was named one of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century and is the winner of the 1997 Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association.

His other books include Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War and the Origins of Terror, which Noam Chomsky noted that it "is a valuable contribution to the understanding of some of the most important developments in the contemporary era"; When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and Genocide in Rwanda; Beyond Rights Talk and Culture Talk: Comparative Essays on the Politics of Rights and Culture; Crises and Reconstruction - African Perspectives: Two Lectures; and Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda, among others.

The Department of Political Science at Vassar offers a major in political science and correlate sequences (minors) in each of the four principal subfields of the discipline: American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. Graduates with degrees in political science pursue careers in numerous areas, including politics, government, public administration, law, journalism, education, filmmaking, business, and finance. Many work for nongovernmental organizations concerned with particular social, political, and economic issues.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Africana Studies is Vassar's longest-running multidisciplinary program.  It has been at the heart of transforming the curriculum and broadening the intellectual and social experience of students, faculty, and administrators for four decades.  Its educational mission is to promote a focused and critical study of the people, cultures, and institutions of Africa and the African Diaspora drawing from nearly all of the disciplines at Vassar College.

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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, August 31, 2009