Mahmood Mamdani, Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012

Reviewed by Prashant Narang

In present day India, where we debate rights and access to resources and opportunities through a vocabulary of social justice and also sometimes through citizenship and son-of-soil claims; in “Define and Rule,” Mamdani interrogates the construction of the concept of “native”. He argues that the concept of “nativism” is a political construction of colonial intellectuals during crisis in mid-nineteenth century. Mamdani distinguishes between direct and indirect rule. Initially, the colonial supremacy was direct but post-mutiny in Colonial India, British institutionalized politics of difference which Mamdani calls as “Define and Rule”. This was more indirect by way of managing differences and monopolizing the power to define identities. Mamdani attributes construction of “the native” to the colonial intellectuals at the time of crisis. He identifies Sir Henry Maine as the key intellectual who guides the colonial administrators post-1857 crisis of the British Empire in India. Similar project was undertaken by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje in Dutch East Indies. These colonial historiographers demarcated and carved out the native identity differentiating it from the settler and amongst native based on tribes.

Fulltext PDF