Professor Mahmood Mamdani, a global authority on decolonisation, will deliver this year’s TB Davie Memorial Lecture. The lecture takes place on Tuesday, 22 August 2017, at the New Lecture Theatre on University Avenue South, Upper Campus, at 18:00. His lecture, titled “Decolonising the Post-Colonial University”, promises to cut to the heart of debates that are still raging across South Africa’s higher education institutions.
In the lecture, Mamdani will consider what it means to decolonise the post-colonial university, which is an authorised centre of knowledge production. It is a question that has been at the centre of discussions in African universities since independence.
Mamdani has written extensively on colonialism and post-colonialism; on civil wars, political identity and extreme violence in Darfur; the post-9/11 era; and Rwanda. One of his books, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, published in 1996, won the Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association of the US for the best book in English in African studies for that year. It was also acclaimed as one of the 100 best books on Africa written in the 20th century in the scholarship/non-fiction category at the Cape Town Book Fair in 2002.
Mamdani was listed as one of the top 20 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy (US) and Prospect (UK) magazines in 2008, and served as president of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) from 1998 to 2002.
Mamdani is the executive director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. He is also the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and professor of anthropology, African studies and political science at Columbia University, New York.
Mamdani was a professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (1973–79), Makerere University (1980–93) and the University of Cape Town (1996–99), where he was director of the Centre for African Studies. He earned his PhD from Harvard University in 1974 and specialises in the comparative study of colonialism since 1452 and the question of civil war and mass violence.
Drawing on his experiences at Dar-es-Salaam, Makerere and CODESRIA in particular, Mamdani will consider what relevance post-independence discussions about decolonising universities have for contemporary discussions in South Africa.
“In the current context of a national call for free, decolonised education, which has been at the centre of protests in higher education, Professor Mamdani is an ideal speaker to help frame academic freedom and university autonomy through the decolonial lens,” said Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price.
The TB Davie Memorial Lecture is held in recognition of former UCT vice-chancellor Thomas Benjamin Davie who served the university from 1948 to 1955. Davie was an outspoken defender of the principles of academic freedom and university autonomy, defining academic freedom as the university’s right to determine who shall be taught, who shall teach, what shall be taught, and how it should be taught.
The lecture is organised by UCT’s Academic Freedom Committee, whose new chair is Associate Professor Elelwani Ramugondo.