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Ethnic cleansing, racism and building the nation-state: MEMO in Conversation with Mahmood Mamdani

Deep-rooted historical and political forces have shaped the current genocide in Gaza, and this exposes the inherent violence at the heart of nation-building endeavours, Mamdani says.

March 20, 2024 at 4:00 pm



In this week’s conversation, renowned historian and political theorist Professor Mahmood Mamdani joins us to discuss racism and the genocidal nature of nation-state building projects, focusing on the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. Drawing upon his extensive research on colonialism, anti-colonialism, and decolonisation, Mamdani explains the deep-rooted historical and political forces that have shaped the current genocide in Gaza, exposing the inherent violence at the heart of nation-building endeavours.

We discuss the ideological genealogy of nationalism and its inextricable link to the execution of political programmes that perpetuate racism and genocide. Mamdani shares his insights on the concept of “de-Zionisation” as a prerequisite for peace in Palestine. By exploring alternative forms of social and political organisation, this conversation aims to shed light on potential paths towards a more inclusive and pluralistic future.

Mamdani is the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University. He was also professor and executive director of Makerere Institute of Social Research (2010-2022) in Kampala, where he established an inter-disciplinary doctoral programme in Social Studies. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1974 and specialises in the study of colonialism, anti-colonialism and decolonisation. His works explore the intersection between politics and culture, a comparative study of colonialism since 1452, the history of civil war and genocide in Africa, the Cold War and the War on Terror, the history and theory of human rights, and the politics of knowledge production. Prior to joining the Columbia faculty, Mamdani was a professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania (1973–1979), Makerere University in Uganda (1980–1993), and the University of Cape Town (1996–1999).

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