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Institute of Advanced Study

Political Violence in Darfur: A Public Lecture

13 February 2008

In this lecture, Professor Mamdani proposed to explore his 'work in progress' on the historical and contemporary causes of the political violence that has plagued Darfur in two cycles, the first starting in 1989, and the second in 2003. He argues that explanations which are normally presented as alternatives - colonial and post-colonial, internal and external, local and global - need to be seen as contributory causes to a single cumulative outcome. The first half of the lecture  explored the internal roots of political violence: first in the colonial project and its ambition to re-tribalize society, economy and polity in Darfur, and the second in the failure of successive nation-building projects to reform the colonial legacy. The second half of the lecture looked at the ways in which civil war in Darfur was inserted into a regional and a global dynamics, at first during the Cold War and then with the contemporary War or Terror. The cumulative effect of this particular globalization has been to increase the scale of local violence and to racialize its meaning, thereby polarizing the conflict.

You can listen to this lecture in full by clicking on the links below.  The lecture is available in either MP3 (real player) or WMA (media player) format.


Mahmood Mamdani is Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. His main research interest is in the intersection between politics and culture, and the politicization of culture in the making of political identities. He pursued this recently in a book on 9/11 that focused on the relationship between American power and political Islam during the Cold War. His core interest, though, has been in colonial and post-colonial Africa, where he has tried to understand the reform/reproduction of colonially-crafted identities through the definition of citizenship in the post-independence period. He has done extended research in South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda, and his current work is in Nigeria and Sudan.

Audio Recording

Professors Amin, Mamdani & Higgins