Author Archives: Gregory Mann

About Gregory Mann

is a historian of francophone West Africa and professor of history at Columbia University. He recently published his second book, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Drawing on research conducted primarily in Mali, the book analyzes the rise of novel forms of political rationality among governments and non-governmental organizations in the Sahel from 1946 to the late 1970s. Following his award-winning first book, Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the 20th Century (Duke University Press, 2006), Mann’s writing on history and politics in West Africa has appeared in outlets ranging from Comparative Studies in Society and History to Foreign Policy and Africasacountry.com.

From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: An Introduction

Gregory Mann’s new book, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), is excerpted here, as a prelude to an interview with the author.* Frantz Fanon was growing angry. It was 1960, and he was deep in Mali, a vast country, “fervent and brutal,” a place where there was “no need of great speeches.” The country had just gained independence from France weeks before, and its new president, Modibo Keita, “ever militant,” had assured him Continue reading → Continue reading →

An Interview with Gregory Mann

The Humanity editorial collective asked Kenneth Harrow and Janet Roitman to join us in posing some questions to Gregory Mann on the publication of his new book From Empire to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (Cambridge, 2015). The transcript of the discussion follows. Humanity: Could you briefly lay out the topic of the book? Gregory Mann: The book asks what “government” has meant in a part of the world where its meaning was particularly dynamic, slippery, and contentious in the period from the 1940s through the Continue reading → Continue reading →

France in Mali: the end of the fairytale

Whew, Mali. French air raids against Islamist positions in Mali began Thursday night, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The news is changing fast, but three things emerge from the haze. First, fierce fighting in the North and the East, with French forces in the lead, will open up a whole new set of dangers. With Islamist forces on the attack, foreign intervention was necessary, and many Malians at home and abroad welcomed it enthusiastically. Still, this remains a dangerous moment all around.

Timbuktu: whatever happened to the African Renaissance?

Mali in the rainy season has its own rhythm, especially in the South: long days under heavy skies anticipating rain; moments when it comes so powerfully the world seems ready to end. Afterwards, a peculiar freshness and coolness, and new brown streams gurgling everywhere. With Ramadan coming soon, that rhythm will be syncopated, the regular beat of fasting, praying, and feasting punctuated by the shifting rhythm of the storms.

Mali’s rebels and their fans, suffering and smiling

Strange bedfellows in the Malian Sahara of late. The Tuareg rebel movements that took control of northern Mali last month looked to have struck a deal over the weekend, only to have it come into question since. The supposedly secular, progressive, and multi-ethnic MNLA shook hands with the Ansar Dine, the Salafist movement that has been more or less playing host to sundry terrorists, criminals and hostage-takers like AQMI, MUJAO, or Boko Haram. It’s tough to say just what this deal means, or how long it will last, but it ought to have put some of the MNLA’s foreign fans in a bind.