Mahmood Mamdani. Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 2020. 416 pages. Hardcover, $29.95.
Mahmood Mamdani, Columbia University distinguished professor of government, raises fundamental existential questions as to why many postcolonial nations seek to exclude some groups within their borders from genuine membership of their communities. Why, Mamdani asks, is there increasing violence and bloodletting in new independent nation-states? His thought-provoking analyses contribute to our understanding of various dimensions of colonial legacy, including postcolonial politics, population transfers and genocide against targeted ethnic groups and increasing violence through civil wars. Neither Settler Nor Native focuses on the implications for the shaping of political community in postcolonial societies.
In retracing the lineage of political modernity, Mamdani persuasively illustrates that the nation-state was a product of European colonialism. Using relevant case studies from North America, Germany, Israel/Palestine, South Africa to Sudan/South Sudan, Mamdani argues that the colonial state and the nation-state have been reciprocally set up through the politicization of ethnic/religious national majorities at the cost of contrived 'permanent minorities.' Mamdani's illustrations go back to the establishment of the Spanish state through ethnic cleansing and the 1492 deportations of Jews and Moors by the Castilian monarchy. The objective was nation-building, designed purposefully to change the people within the territory and to create a cultural homogeneity, in terms of a homogenous population, religion and country. Mamdani notes that the Castilian model did not spread in Europe quickly, but was suppressed by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia in which European nation-states offered, insofar as minorities did not revolt, to end the persecution of internal minorities.
The book has six chapters, titled thus: "The Indian Question in the United States;" "Nuremberg: The Failure of Denazification;" "Settlers and Natives in Apartheid South Africa;" "Sudan: Colonialism, Independence, and Secession;" "The Israel/Palestine Question;" and "Decolonizing the Political Community." Mamdani's analyses begin with the European settler colonization of the Americas, especially the dispossession and displacement of native populations and their near genocidal extermination. He contends that the United States served as a template for settler-colonialism, which was adopted not only by the Nazi regime, but also by Apartheid South Africa and the state of Israel. He...
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