n Africa Insight - Modernity and 'traditionality' in African governance : conceptual and pragmatic issues

Volume 39, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


This paper questions the popular binary conception of 'citizens and subjects' by Mahmood Mamdani (1996) as a legitimate basis of characterizing indigenous governance systems in Africa. Whilst the history of colonial manipulation of local governance systems is acknowledged, together with how this was twisted to serve colonial ends, this paper questions the observed vulnerability of academic discourse to the 'invention theory' which subjects all surviving indigenous forms and systems to colonial invention. This paper is a critical analysis of the intellectualization of political existentialism of African people's history to pronounce on the state of their lives. It argues that scholars have put the cart before the horse in suggesting that the institutionalized segregation of political life in South Africa legitimately created 'citizens with rights' versus 'subjects with custom'.

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