Midterm #1 Review 24 page review of all articles studied, and major terms defined in the course. Very thorough set of notes, will be extremely useful to anyone taking a course on African Politics.
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POL301Y: MID TERM TEST
Date: December 1, 20010
Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes
Start Time: 10h15 TO: 12h00
No aids allowed
In your answers, I will be looking for evidence that you have considered the
core concepts presented in lectures and that you have read and understood
the assigned readings for the class.
You should aim to engage with relevant theory and analytical tools, provide
evidence for your assertions and make judicious use of examples and cases.
The questions will be deliberately broad. This is to allow you sufficient
flexibility to construct an argument based on what you consider to be the
critical issues, rather than just regurgitating facts or summarizing arguments
from different sources.
The Term Test will have TWO sections. Section 1 will be worth 80% of the
final grade, while section 2 will be worth 20% of the final grade.
You will be required to answer TWO essays questions, from a choice of
FOUR possible questions.
Below are seven questions, which should guide your review of the readings and
lectures on the relevant themes/issues. The final wording of the test questions may
vary slightly from the present version. This should matter little if you have
command of the relevant information.
1) COLONIAL STATE FORMATION AND RULE
Which of these characterizations capture best the nature of the colonial state and
governance in Africa:
i) Decentralized despotism (Mamdani)
ii) Bula Mutari (Young)
iii) Hegemony on the cheap (Herbst)
Explain your choice, basing your answer on the key factors that shaped the
evolution of the colonial state between the moment of formal colonization through
1940. Pay particular attention to the nature and significance of indirect rule.
The colonial state evolved by way of elitism, centralism and absolutism. To be able
to secure law and order, the colonial state adopted a system of “indirect rule”,
whereby local chiefs were transformed into local potentates with absolutist powers
similar to those of the colonial governors. Following this method of thought, and by
way of studying the three articles, it comes to light that Decentralized Despotism
by Mamdani is the most encompassing characterization of the nature of
colonial rule in Africa. While the other articles provide accurate overviews of the
African period of colonization, Decentralized Despotism is most thorough in
characterizing and explaining the nature of colonialism in Africa.
DECENTRALIZED DESPOTISM (MAMDANI)
•Main Argument Proposed by Mamdani: Throughout colonial Africa majority
rural populations were governed through indigenous chiefs and
“customary law” under a regime of “decentralized despotism.” As a result
they were ill prepared to participate as citizens in the modern states that
have succeeded colonialism. The canonical version of such colonialism is
the British system of indirect rule, formally employed only in tropical
Africa it echoed segregationist policies of rural South. Because such
colonialism was both despotic and decentralized, Mamdani argues that it
was “decentralized despotism”.
•Logic of indirect rule.
oIndirect Rule was implemented by the British, it focused on
oLocal authority would rule largely on an autonomous basis. There
would be a shared goal of achieving economic growth; there was no
granting of citizenship to Africans in British colonies.
oBritain said it was a less interventionist approach, where we insist
on colonization but we will not insist on Africans to assimilate to our
culture, but this was just a cover-up
oDecentralize government power to local (native) authorities,
granting significant autonomy while enforcing basis requirements
for maintenance of order and tax revenues; makes it seem like the
colonizers are absent, but they are merely using another vehicle to
enforce their power.
They framed this approach as respect for existing culture and
traditions, but largely a practical response to need for social
•How were African populations organized before colonial rule and how was
oLow population, so extending power is expensive
oEurope’s mentality is to control more land and therefore control
more people (because high population density), create borders &
must continue to have a presence on that land to hold the benefits
of that land. Africa’s mentality differs, land is worthless in the sense
that there is plenty of open-land and people can move away. Their
aim is to control people (get crops, collect slaves, build armies,
collect taxes) – can I pose a threat to these people so that they will
Power organized in concentric circles
•This means states either don’t interfere with each
other or they overlap.
•Living in the periphery of one of these states, you live
beyond the reach of central government and thus are
more or less independent (extending power over
•How did the colonial state function, to what extent did it impose itself on
African populations and what kind of power did it wield?
oPrior to the onset of colonialism, in Africa there was no discrepancy
between male and female.
Gender barriers were not predominant, but lines were drawn
during this period of colonialism.
oGiven the low population density, and the frequent migration
patterns, tradition and custom was never built in Africa. Colonial
powers took advantage of this, and appointed chiefs to rule over
If chief-worthy individuals could not be appointed from the
area, they would be brought in from elsewhere.
oThe decentralized method of rule was a form of extra-economic
coercion. Free peasants would be conscripted and forced into
This illustrates the scope of the power the colonizers had
over the colonized.
•Colonial rule sees chief primarily responsible to colonial government
rather than traditional community; meaning that if chief violates
preferences, he can be disposed, but colonial government guarantees
security of position of chief if they bring revenue, which means they have
absolute power, constraint free.
•Customary law is unwritten, reflect traditions of individual communities
oOn the surface sounds compassionate, but in practice it just means
law according to chief; dynamic of power between chief and
community has changed, can exercise power arbitrarily if he
o3rdsystems; arbitrary law by colonial officers, according to their
judgment i.e. European can impose fines/forced labour based on
their own judgment for any offence on the spot (for something like
•The chief acted as the law of the land, only subject to the rule of those
above him, the colonizers.
oThe chiefs were paid out of the taxes collected from the citizens,
which allowed them to add personal demands to the systemic ones
on the peasantry.
These downfalls of corruption led to expansion of abuse and
segregation; prior, there were no grounds for ethnic squall
but the Europeans united the Africans based on tribes, these
divisions deepened and led to separate laws for people in the
rural, and urban areas.
In your answers, i will be looking for evidence that you have considered the core concepts presented in lectures and that you have read and understood the assigned readings for the class. You should aim to engage with relevant theory and analytical tools, provide evidence for your assertions and make judicious use of examples and cases. This is to allow you sufficient flexibility to construct an argument based on what you consider to be the critical issues, rather than just regurgitating facts or summarizing arguments from different sources. Section 1 will be worth 80% of the final grade, while section 2 will be worth 20% of the final grade. You will be required to answer two essays questions, from a choice of. Below are seven questions, which should guide your review of the readings and lectures on the relevant themes/issues. The final wording of the test questions may vary slightly from the present version.