Author Archives: Gregory Mann

About Gregory Mann

Gregory Mann is Professor of History at Columbia University. His most recent book, From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel: The Road to Nongovernmentality (Cambridge University Press, 2015), analyzes the historical relationship between non-governmental organizations and sovereign power. His previous work, Native Sons: West African Veterans and France in the Twentieth Century (Duke University Press, 2006), won the David Pinkney prize for French history. The author of a score of articles, he is currently writing a book-length synthetic work on Africa and France since the mid-nineteenth century. Mann has conducted research in Mali since 1996.

The World Won’t Listen: The Mande “Hunters’ Oath” and Human Rights in Translation

Abstract: Two texts have recently been hailed as examples of an autochthonous tradition of Human Rights and constitutional government in West Africa. Associated with thirteenth-century Mali empire, both the “Hunters’ Oath” and the better-known “Kurukan Fuga” have been referred to as “the Mande Charter.” Focused on the Hunters’ Oath, this article offers the first full translation of it from the original into English. It recounts the history of the Oath in print, highlighting the work of two late Malian intellectuals, Youssouf Tata Cissé and Wâ Continue reading → Continue reading →

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.