Short and Not Too Sweet: Rethinking Mwalimu through Paul Bjerk’s Julius Nyerere Public Deposited

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  • Peeples, Alexander
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • Writing academically, and particularly historically, about Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president, is a fraught endeavor. He is one of a few figures whose impact is generally understood as foundational to modern post-independence African history, and the explicitly intellectual approach he took in justifying Tanzania’s heterodox socialist politics helped ingratiate him to the Western academy. However, the coercive impact of his resettlement projects and Tanzania’s economic collapse have undermined his previously sterling reputation. As a result, most modern scholarship attempts to decenter Nyerere from Tanzania’s history. This shift has helped to create a deeper body of scholarship around postcolonial Tanzania that is better able to understand the experiences of marginalized communities, such as women and urban populations (Callaci 2017; Geiger 1996). Historian Paul Bjerk seems to have missed this trend, and wrote his first book, Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960-1964, on Nyerere’s role in guiding Tanzania during early independence. He has continued that project in a brief biography titled Julius Nyerere, which came out in 2017. Fortunately, Bjerk is not interested in hagiography or condemnation, and he creates a compelling narrative by leaning in to the apparent contradictions of Nyerere’s legacy. As both a quick read and a nuanced portrait of a sometimes divisive figure, this is a good introduction or reintroduction to Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, despite sagging in places under the weight of its subject matter
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Journal Item
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  • In Copyright
Journal title
  • Global Africana Review
Journal volume
  • 2
Journal issue
  • 1
Page start
  • 52
Page end
  • 54
  • English
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  • Global Africana Review
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