Between the public intellectual and the scholar: decolonization and some post-independence initiatives in African higher education
ABSTRACT Focusing on epistemological decolonization, including knowledge production, and its institutional locus, the university, the article begin by problematizing both the concept and the institutional history of the university, in its European and African contexts, to underline the specifically modern character of the university as we know it and its genesis in post-Renaissance Europe. Against this background, the article traces post-independence reform of universities in Africa, unfolding in two waves: the first on access, Africanization, generating a debate between rights and justice; and the second on institutional reform, epitomized by the debate around disciplinarity. At the same time, the notions of excellence and relevance have functioned as code words, each signaling a different trajectory in the historical development of the university. Lastly, the article explores the role and tension between the public intellectual and the scholar from the perspective of decolonization.
Keywords: decolonization, university, disciplinarity and inter-disciplinarity, relevance and excellence, public intellectual and the scholar
Notes on contributor
Mahmood Mamdani is Professor and Director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (Uganda), and Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. In 2008, Mamdani was voted as the 9th “top public intellectual” in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (US). Mamdani specializes in the study of African and international politics, colonialism and post-colonialism, extreme violence in civil wars, the politicization of culture, and the politics of knowledge production. He is the author of many books, including Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity (2012); Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009); Scholars in the Marketplace: The Dilemmas of Neo-liberal Reforms at Makerere University, 1989-2005 (2007); When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and Genocide in Rwanda (2001); Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996); Politics and Class Formation in Uganda (1976).