Mamdani, Mahmood. 2018. “The African University.” London Review of Books, July 19, 2018.

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Created date

July 16, 2018

Critical Commentary

AO: In this recent piece from the London Review of Books, Mamdani explains two different approaches and orientations towards the African university that emerged at decolonization. He sees these differences as embodied between Ali Mazrui and Walter Rodney: Mazrui believed in the classical model of the university as the home of the scholar fascinated by ideas and Rodney regarding the university as a space of activism. Mamdani appears to be more in line with Mazrui, explaining how Mazrui’s work increasingly pointed out the disconnect between the ideological orientation and the empirical reality of social and political developments in Tanzania. Mamdani quickly covers how the IMF structural adjustment policies changed the model of Makerere (a model which has since been used and taken up elsewhere) and states: "The African univers­ity today is still very much what it was from the start: a colonial project with a monolin­ gual medium of instruction, framed in terms of a European ‘universalism’ from which a large majority of the colonised were excluded.” He closes by thinking about what it might take to “decolonize” the university, suggesting it start with lowering fees, providing education in several non-Western languages, and theorising local realities (not simply applying Western theories).

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English