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1 - Knowing the Postcolony

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2015

Gregory Mann
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

The Republic of Mali became an independent nation in 1960 with the break-up of the Mali Federation and the socialist option of September 22nd. And again in 1961, with the expulsion of French troops from military bases on its territory. And again in 1962, with the creation of the Malian franc. These at least were the perceptions of the ruling party, the Union Soudanaise-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (US-RDA). But when did Mali become a society? This chapter asks how party leaders understood what they sought to govern and what the effects of that understanding were. It asks what it meant in Bamako in the 1960s for the US-RDA leadership to perceive of Mali as a society and to attempt to govern it as such.

One place to begin to think about these questions is on a quay in Conakry, in the neighboring territory of Guinea, where two young men met in 1946. One, waiting dockside, was Mamadou Madeira Keita, a low-level civil servant and archivist. Years later, when he was a political prisoner in the Malian Sahara, some would argue (with a good deal of exaggeration) that he was “the first francophone African ethnographer.” The other, descending the gangplank, was the Frenchman Keita had come to meet. Georges Balandier was unknown then, but his name is familiar now. Conakry was his second African port of call. The work with which he would make his name remained literally over the horizon, in Brazzaville. Yet the encounter between Keita and Balandier was foundational for both men. For the young Frenchman, Guinea, like postwar French Africa, was more than a laboratory. It was a workshop; he was one of its creations. Conakry, and Guinea at large, was also the crucible in which a powerful anticolonial politics would be forged by Madeira Keita and his allies. In this particular corner of West Africa, that politics and an emergent, engaged social science conditioned each other, like the two strands of a double helix, each a necessary yet ultimately contingent element of the other’s structure.

Type
Chapter
Information
From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
The Road to Nongovernmentality
, pp. 15 - 41
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

References

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  • Knowing the Postcolony
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.005
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  • Knowing the Postcolony
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.005
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Knowing the Postcolony
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.005
Available formats
×