I quoted the line below by him in my Phd and to date I continue to try to ensure that I work towards changing this irony.
“A major irony of African development history is that the theories and models employed have largely come from outside the continent. No other region of the world has been so dominated by external ideas and models.” Mkandawire and Soludo (1999)
As many others, especially my colleagues in CODESRIA, I have been greatly influenced by Thandika, both directly as an individual, and indirectly as a member of the fourth generation of post-colonial academics nurtured by CODESRIA. I have cited his work - my very first publication on "nurturing the fourth generation" was indeed built on his own thinking, cited in this official tribute by CODESRIA's Executive Secretary, Godwin Murunga. I cannot remember how many times I have quoted his pithy, profound, memorable one-liners, especially to my peers and students, whether it be reminding us that we must be careful in negotiating the "networks" of relationships we enter into as African intellectuals, or in understanding what it means to "run as others walk" as we figure out how to meet our historical mission as the different generations engaged in intellectual work. I have used the "confession" he made with regard to his conversion to embracing feminist theories as an introduction to students on epistemic communities, as thinking, debating, engaging communities where the emphasis is not so much to defend positions but to grow together in thinking together. I have returned to his reflections on development and on SAPs to bolster my understanding of the contexts in which I work.
But perhaps my favourite memory of Thandika dates back to my first "real" encounter with him at my very first CODESRIA General Assembly. I have to admit that I was somewhat awed to be in that space with so many of intellectual giants whose names were familiar in bibliographies I was then reading as a graduate student. I was waiting for some friends in the lobby of the hotel, I think the plan was to go out for dinner. Thandika was "presiding" over a group sitting at some chairs in the lobby, engaged in some happy debate on something I can no longer remember. He spotted me standing by myself, called me to join them, mentioning a comment I had made in a session and saying he thought I had made a good point, and seamlessly integrated me into the group. If I remember correctly, when the friend I was waiting for came to the lobby, he insisted that she join us for a while before we went on our way. I learned an important thing about mentoring as a way of life and not an assigned task that day that I have carried through my own understanding and practice of nurturing and being nurtured by colleagues who share a space that I am in.
Farewell Mwalimu. You will be greatly missed - but oh, how so richly blessed we were as a community to have you!
Deaths of Professors; Harry Garuba, Thandika Mkandawire, Euphrase Kezilahabi and Ken Walibora Waliaula: Cruel Impeachment to Africa’s Course of Self-Determination by Alexander Opicho
Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conveys condolences on the passing of Professor Thandika Mkandawire
Thandika Mkandawire : An Intellectual Giant, an Incorrigible Pan-Africanist, An Obituary By Ibbo Mandaza
Prof. Thandika Mkandawire’s Remarks at the 15th CODESRIA General Assembly
Thandika Mkandawire has passed on!
It is with great sadness and a deep sense of loss that the Council for the Development of Social Science in Africa, CODESRIA, announces the passing away of Professor Thandika Mkandawire on March 27, 2020. Thandika as he was fondly known was a brilliant economist and prodigious scholar whose works on African political economy challenged dominant ways of seeing the African continent on a wide range of issues that included structural adjustment and economic reform, democratic politics, neopatrimonialism and insurgent violence. Thandika was a very dedicated member of CODESRIA. He led the Council as its Executive Secretary from 1985 to 1996 and continued to play important roles in the life of the organization after moving on to head UNRISD and later taking on a distinguished professorship at the London School of Economics. From 2015-2016, he led the internal review of CODESRIA’s governance and membership whose recommendations underpin an ambitious process of reform that the Council is undertaking. On April 11-13, 2016 CODESRIA organized a conference in Lilongwe, Malawi with the theme “Thinking African, Epistemological Issues: Celebrating the Life and Work of Thandika Mkandawire” in his honor. Thandika will be sorely missed by the CODESRIA community and the entire African social science community. His brilliance was matched by his humility, wit and willingness to mentor new generations of scholars. CODESRIA extends its sincere condolences to Thandika’s family. CODESRIA will announce its plans for celebrating the life and ideas of Thandika in the days ahead. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Below is a link to an interview that our colleague Kate Meagher conducted with the late Prof. Thandika Mkandawire. The interview was published under the title “Reflections of an Engaged Economist: An Interview with Thandika Mkandawire,” in Development and Change, vol. 50 no. 2, 2019, pp. 511-541. More…
Je n’aime pas les oraisons funèbres. Elles annoncent, avec brutalité et désespoir, la disparition d’un être cher qui a marqué son temps et laissé une marque. Elles s’évertuent à tracer une histoire, exhumer une contribution remarquable, pour attester de sa clôture, même si l’on clame la continuité. Nonobstant nos efforts, l’oraison funèbre signale la mort ; elle enterre la personne pour n’en laisser qu’une trace et obturer une vie. More…
I do not like funeral orations. They announce, with brutality and despair, the disappearance of a loved one who has marked his time and left a mark. They strive to tell a story, to unearth a remarkable contribution, to bear witness to its closure, even if we claim continuity. Notwithstanding our efforts, funeral orations signal death; they bury a person and leave only a trace and seal a life. More…