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Colonial Legacies and Postcolonial Authoritarianism in Tanzania: Connects and Disconnects

  • Leander Schneider

Through an examination of the Tanzanian experience, this article takes up a challenge forcefully posed by Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject to examine connections between late colonial and postindependence state power on the African continent. The discussion is critical of Mamdani's argument that postindependence authoritarianism in Africa can be understood as an institutional legacy of late colonialism. However, connections to colonial times did exist in the frames of legitimation that underpinned the frequently authoritarian actions of the postindependence Tanzanian state. One such connection was the persistent paternalism vis-à-vis their “subjects” that characterized the political imagination of state elites; another was the fact that “the colonial past” served as an important reference point in the construction of a deeply Manichean discourse and practice of politics after independence.


A travers une étude de l'expérience tanzanienne, cet article aborde le défi posé par l'œuvre de Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject, afin d'examiner les similarités entre le pouvoir de l'état à la fin de la période coloniale et aprés l'indépendance sur le continent africain. La discussion est une critique de l'argument de Mamdani indiquant que l'autoritarisme post-indépendance en Afrique peut être envisagé comme un héritage institutionnel de la fin de la période coloniale. Cependant, il faut considérer les réminiscences de la période coloniale dans les tentatives de légitimation sous-jacentes aux fréquentes actions autoritaristes du gouvernement tanzanien après l'indépendance. Un exemple d'une telle réminiscence est le paternalisme persistent de l'imaginaire politique des élites du gouvernement vis-à-vis de leurs “sujets”; on trouve un autre exemple dans le fait que le “passé colonial” a servi de point de référence important dans la construction d'un discours et d'une pratique politique profondément manichéens après l'indépendance.

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