Monday, March 23, 2009

Interview with Mahmood Mamdani on "Save Darfur"

Some excerpts from the interview (which appeared here in the Boston Globe):
"[The Save Darfur campaign has] various motives. One part of the group emerged out of solidarity with the struggle in south Sudan and believes that Darfur is another version of south Sudan. Most have no idea of the difference between the two situations. Another wing is what I understand to be neoconservatives who want to incorporate Darfur into the war on terror. Both groups reinforce the racialization of the conflict and the demonization of the Arabs."


"Mamdani: I'm struck by the contrast between the mobilization around Darfur and the lack of mobilization around Iraq. The explanation, I believe, lies in the fact that Save Darfur presented the conflict as a tragedy, stripped of politics and context. There were simply "African" victims and "Arab" perpetrators motivated by race-intoxicated hatred. Unlike Iraq, about which Americans felt guilty or impotent, Darfur presented an opportunity to feel good. It appealed to the philanthropic side of the American character."
It's also worth checking out his excellent piece that appeared in the LRB about a year ago on Darfur, which politically complicates the facile "good versus evil" (i.e. "african" vs. "arab") narrative offered by many "out of Iraq and into Darfur!" people. As always, (Mamdani's recent piece on Mugabe in the LRB is another example) his writings on African politics typically ignite intense controversy among large amounts of people who would rather not see such 'simple' conflicts between good and evil be complicated by global political and economic considerations.

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