Define and Rule

Define and Rule

Native as Political Identity

eBook - 2012
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Harvard University Press
When Britain abandoned its attempt to eradicate difference between conqueror and conquered and introduced a new idea of governance as the definition and management of difference, lines of political identity were drawn between settler and native, and between natives according to tribe. Out of this colonial experience arose a language of pluralism.

Define and Rule focuses on the turn in late nineteenth-century colonial statecraft when Britain abandoned the attempt to eradicate difference between conqueror and conquered and introduced a new idea of governance, as the definition and management of difference. Mahmood Mamdani explores how lines were drawn between settler and native as distinct political identities, and between natives according to tribe. Out of that colonial experience issued a modern language of pluralism and difference.

A mid-nineteenth-century crisis of empire attracted the attention of British intellectuals and led to a reconception of the colonial mission, and to reforms in India, British Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies. The new politics, inspired by Sir Henry Maine, established that natives were bound by geography and custom, rather than history and law, and made this the basis of administrative practice.

Maine’s theories were later translated into “native administration” in the African colonies. Mamdani takes the case of Sudan to demonstrate how colonial law established tribal identity as the basis for determining access to land and political power, and follows this law’s legacy to contemporary Darfur. He considers the intellectual and political dimensions of African movements toward decolonization by focusing on two key figures: the Nigerian historian Yusuf Bala Usman, who argued for an alternative to colonial historiography, and Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who realized that colonialism’s political logic was legal and administrative, not military, and could be dismantled through nonviolent reforms.

Book News
Mamdani (government, Columbia U.) presents three lectures in which he theorizes and explains the indirect rule state, "a quintessentially modern form of rule in a colonial setting." He argues that a preoccupation with defining and managing differences in the polity and society became a central characteristic of the indirect rule state, wherein the governance of the native was the prerogative of the native authority and rights to land and to participation in public affairs was divvied up according to constructed native groups defined as belonging to separate homelands. The lectures discuss the inception of indirect rule by the British in 19th-century India, Malaya, and the Dutch East Indies; the elaboration of indirect rule in Africa, particularly in colonial Sudan in the aftermath of the Mahdi uprising; and the intellectual and political dimensions of the decolonization movement, with a focus on the contributions of Algerian historian, Yusuf Bala Usman, and former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2012
ISBN: 9780674067356
Characteristics: 1 online resource (168 pages)


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