Archibald (also known as Archie) Mafeje was born in Ngcobo in South Africa on 30 March 1936. Both of his parents were involved in education. His father was a headmaster of a primary school, and his mother was involved in teaching. Archie was sent to Healdtown, and a significant influence in his life at the time was Livingstone Mqotsi, a history teacher. After completing high school, Archie enrolled for tertiary education at Fort Hare University, where he studied Zoology for one year. Then in 1956, he moved to pursue his studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT), where took a different field of study, choosing to major in Social Anthropology. Once he completed his undergraduate studies, he followed an Honours degree and then pursued a Masters (MA) degree.

It was during his time at UCT that Mafeje became aware of politics. He was drawn by the ideas of the Non-European Unity Movement (NEUM). Later, Mafeje belonged to the Society of Young Africans (SOYA), which was an organization associated with the All African Convention (AAC). In August 1963, he addressed a crowd that was ‘illegally gathered’, and for this reason, he was arrested. He was, then, taken to Flagstaff to be tried. However, instead of being tried, he was fined and sent back to Cape Town. Archie was known as an ‘intellectual pathfinder’. He contributed plenty to the people of Africa’s knowledge and self-worth, especially since they had to fight against injustices and marginalization. Not only was Mafeje an influential academic, but he was a person of brilliance, intellect, and a man of insight.

For almost forty years, Mafeje wrote various texts. In 1963, he wrote a book on Langa with Monica Wilson, his supervisor at UCT and also a former student of Bronislaw Malinowski. During this same year, he submitted his MA thesis. However, one of the biggest disappointments in Mafeje’s life involved UCT. While he was at UCT, he was appointed senior lecturer. However, his appointment was reversed because of apartheid law. His removal sparked a protest by UCT student leaders and some academic staff members. In August 1968, an estimated 600 students began a nine-day occupation of the Bremner Building, demanding the reinstatement of Mafeje by the UCT Council. Instead of acceding to the demands, the institution established an Academic Freedom Research Award in honor of Mafeje. UCT put a disclaimer noting that the government had taken away its right to appoint lecturers. As a result, Mafeje left UCT and enrolled at Cambridge University in England, where he succeeded in obtaining a PhD. in Anthropology in 1966. He was also an assistant lecturer at this university.

After many years in exile, Mafeje moved back to South Africa in 2000 to take up a post as a Research Fellow by the National Research Foundation (NRF), working at the African Renaissance Centre at the University of South Africa.

Excerpt from "Archie Mafeje", in South African History. Online

Further reading:

AMSELLE, J.-L. (2007). Archie Mafeje (1937-2007). Cahiers d'études africaines, vol. 47, no. 3-4, College de France, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), pp. 445–47. Online

NYOKA, B. (2020). The Social and Political Thought of Archie Mafeje. New York: NYU Press. Online

NYOKA, B. (2017). Archie Mafeje: an intellectual biography. University of South Africa, Pretoria. Online

SHARAWY, H. (2008). The End of Anthropology: To the Late Archie Mafeje. CODESRIA Bulletin, no. 3-4, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, pp. 15–19. PDF

Main publications:

1963. A chief visits town. Journal of Local Administration Overseas, 2(2):88– 99. Online

1967. The role of the bard in a contemporary African community. Journal of African Languages, 6(3):193–223.

1969. Large-scale farming in Buganda. In M. Pearsall (ed.), The anthropology of development in sub-Saharan Africa. (pp.22-30). Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.

1971. The ideology of tribalism. Journal of Modern African Studies, 9(1): 252- 261. Online

1972. The fallacy of dual economies revisited: a case of East, Central, and Southern Africa. East Africa Journal, 9(2): 30-34.

1973. Agrarian revolution and the land question in Buganda. The Hague: Institute of Social Studies Occasional.

1973. The farmers: economic and social differentiation. In A. I. Richards, F. Sturrock & J.M. Fortt (eds.), Subsistence to commercial farming in present-day Buganda: an economic and anthropological survey. (pp.198-231). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1973. Mafeje, A. & Richards, A.I. The commercial farmer and his labor supply. In A. I. Richards, F. Sturrock & J.M. Fortt (eds.), Subsistence to commercial farming in present-day Buganda: an economic and anthropological survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1975. Religion, class, and ideology in South Africa. In M.G. Whisson & M. West (ed.), Religion and social change in southern Africa: anthropological essays in honor of Monica Wilson. (pp.164-184). Cape Town: David Philip.

1976. The problem of anthropology in historical perspective: an inquiry into the growth of the social sciences. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 10(2): 307-333. Online

1976. Agrarian revolution and the land question in Buganda. In W. Arens (ed.), A century of change in eastern Africa. (pp.23-46). The Hague: Mouton Publishers. PDF

1977. Review: Mahmood Mamdani’s Politics and class formation in Uganda. Canadian Journal of African Studies, 11(1): 171-174.

1977. The legitimacy of the Uganda government in Buganda. In L. Cliffe, J.S. Coleman & M.R. Doornbos (eds.), Government and rural development in east Africa: essays on political penetration. (pp.99-116). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. Online

1977. Neo-colonialism, state capitalism, or revolution? In P.C.W. Gutkind & P. Waterman (eds.), African social studies: a radical reader. (pp.412-422). London: Heinemann.

1978. Science, ideology, and development: three essays on development theory. Uppsala: The Scandinavian Institute of African Studies. PDF

1978. Soweto and its aftermath. Review of African Political Economy, 5(11): 17-30. Online

1980. On technology and organization of agriculture. Current Anthropology, 21(4): 566-567. Online

1981. On the articulation of modes of production. Journal of Southern African Studies, 8(1): 123-138. Online

1984. The new sociology: strictly for Europeans. Africa Development, 9(4): 16- 32. Online

1985. Development literature and writers from underdeveloped countries: a comment on Ayse Trak. Current Anthropology, 26(1): 97-98. Online

1985. Peasants in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa Development, 10(3): 28-39. Online

1986. Studies in imperialism: a discourse in methodology, research methods, and techniques. Harare: University of Zimbabwe Department of Economics, Law and Political & Administrative Studies Discussion Paper Series.

1986. The development of the African social science community and the state of the arts. African Association of Political Science Newsletter, Oct-Dec: 5-19.

1986. South Africa: the dynamics of a beleaguered state. African Journal of Political Economy, 1(1): 95-119. PDF

1987. African agriculture: the next 25 years. Africa Development, 12(2): 5-34. Online

1987. Food for security and peace in the SADCC region. In E. Hansen (ed.), Africa: perspectives on peace and development. (pp.183-211). London: Zed Books.

1988. The agrarian question and food production in southern Africa. In K.K. Prah (ed.), Food security issues in southern Africa. (pp.92-124). Maseru: Institute of Southern African Studies Series No.4.

1988. Culture and development in Africa: the missing link. CODESRIA Bulletin, 1: 7-9.

1990. African alternative framework to structural adjustment programs: an African recovery in thought. CODESRIA Bulletin, 2: 11-14.

1990. The ‘Africanist’ heritage and its antinomies. Africa Development, 15(3/4): 157-183. Online

1991. The theory and ethnography of African social formations: the case of the Interlacustrine Kingdoms. Dakar: CODESRIA Book Series. PDF

1991. African households and prospects for an agricultural revival in sub-Saharan Africa. Dakar: CODESRIA Working Paper no.22/91.

1992. In search of an alternative: a collection of essays on revolutionary theory and politics. Harare: SAPES Books.

1993. Tribalism. In J. Krieger (ed.), The Oxford companion to politics of the world. (pp.918-920). New York: Oxford University Press. PDF

1993. Peasant organizations in Africa: a potential dialogue between economists and sociologists – some theoretical/methodological observations. CODESRIA Bulletin, 1: 14- 17.

1993. On ‘icons’ and African perspectives on democracy: a commentary on Jibrin Ibrahim’s views. CODESRIA Bulletin, 2: 19-21.

1994. Beyond academic freedom: the struggle for authenticity in African social science discourse. In M. Diouf & M. Mamdani (eds.), Academic freedom in Africa. (pp.59- 71). Dakar: CODESRIA Book Series.

1994. African intellectuals: an inquiry into their genesis and social options. In M. Diouf & M. Mamdani (eds.), Academic freedom in Africa. (pp.195-211). Dakar: CODESRIA Book Series.

1995. ‘Benign’ recolonization and malignant minds in the services of imperialism. CODESRIA Bulletin, 2: 17-20.

1995. ‘Recolonisation’ or ‘self-colonization’ in pursuit of ‘Pax African’: another response to a reactionary thesis. CODESRIA Bulletin, 3: 16-19.

1995. Mafeje, A. & Radwan, S. (eds.). Economic and demographic change in Africa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

1995. African socio-cultural formations in the 21st century. African Development Review, 7(2): 154-172. Online

1995. Theory of democracy and the African discourse: breaking bread with my fellow travelers. In E. Chole & J. Ibrahim (eds.), Democratisation processes in Africa: problems and prospects. (pp.5-28). Dakar: CODESRIA Book Series.

1996. Anthropology and independent Africans: suicide or end of an era? Dakar: CODESRIA Monograph Series No.4/96. Online

1997. Who are the makers and objects of anthropology? a critical comment on Sally Falk Moore’s Anthropology and Africa. African Sociological Review, 1(1): 1-15. Online

1997. The anthropology and ethnophilosophy of African literature. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 17: 6-21. Online

1997. The national question in southern African settler societies. Harare: SAPES Monograph Series No.6.

1997. Democracy and development in Africa: a tribute to Claude Ake. African Journal of International Affairs, 1(1): 79-92. PDF

1998. The beast and the icon: no end to Ali Mazrui’s Pax Africana muddles. CODESRIA Bulletin, 2: 9-11.

1998. Conversations and confrontations with my reviewers. African Sociological Review, 2(2): 95-107. Online

1998. White liberals and black nationalists: strange bedfellows. Southern Africa Political & Economic Monthly (SAPEM), 11(13): 45-48.

1998. Economic models and practice in Africa. Diogenes, 46/4(184): 117-127. Online

2000. Africanity: a combative ontology. CODESRIA Bulletin, 1: 66-71. Online

2000. Apropos ‘African modes of self-writing: adieu Mbembe. Southern Africa Political & Economic Monthly (SAPEM), 13(12): 33-36.

2001. Anthropology in post-independence Africa: end of an era or the problem self-redefinition. Nairobi: Heinrich Boll Foundation.

2001. Conceptual and philosophical predispositions. In F. Wilson, N. Kanji & E. Braathen (eds.), Poverty reduction: what role for the state in today’s globalized economy? (pp.15-32). London: Zed Books.

2001. Africanity: a commentary by way of conclusion. CODESRIA Bulletin, 3/4: 14-16.

2002. Multi-party democracy and ethnic divisions in Africa: are they compatible? In A.S. Bujra & S. Adejumobi (eds.), Breaking barriers, creating new hopes: democracy, civil society and good governance in Africa. (pp.53-87). Trenton, NJ. Africa World Press.

2002. Democratic governance and new democracy in Africa: agenda for the future. In P. Anyang’ Nyong’o, A. Ghirmazion & D. Lamba (eds.), NEPAD: a new path? (pp.72-87). Nairobi: Heinrich Boll Foundation. PDF

2003. The agrarian question, access to land, and peasant responses in sub-Saharan Africa. Geneva: UNRISD Civil Society and Social Movements Programme Paper No.6. PDF

2008. The disenfranchised: perspectives on the history of elections in South Africa. Pretoria: Unisa Press.