Leading Kenyan Academic Ali Mazrui Dies at 81

portrait MazruiThe writer Ali Al’Amin Mazrui died peacefully at his home in Vestal, New York on 12 October 2014. Mazrui was a professor of African and Islamic studies and North-South relations and published extensively in major scholarly journals and the media during his long and distinguished career.

Mazrui is best known for the nine-part television series entitled The Africans: A Triple Heritage that he both wrote and narrated. A joint production by the BBC and PBS that was released in 1986, the series, and the book on which it is based, analyses the complex ways in which African communities exhibit a blend of three cultures: indigenous, Muslim and Western.

Mazrui’s own upbringing reflects this triple heritage. He was born in Mombasa, Kenya to Swafia Suleiman Mazrui and Sheikh Al-Amin Mazrui, an eminent Muslim scholar and the Chief Qadi of Kenya, and grew up speaking Swahili, Arabic and English. He then moved to the West and was awarded a BA at Manchester University, UK in 1960, an MA at Columbia University in New York in 1961 and a DPhil at Oxford University in 1966.

Mazrui then joined Makerere University in Kampala where he was Head of the Department of Political Science, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Law. He was forced into exile in the US in 1973 and worked at Stanford University for two years before moving to the Political Science Department at the University of Michigan, where he stayed for seventeen years. In 1989, he was appointed to the Albert Schweitzer Chair in the Humanities at Binghamton University where he founded the Institute of Global Cultural Studies, of which he was the Director until he retired on 1 September 2014.

In 2005, Ali Mazrui was 73rd on the list of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals in Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (US).

A large number of publications by and about Ali Mazrui can be found in the ASC library. Check our online catalogue.

Katrien Polman, October 2014