Ali Al’Amin Mazrui died Oct. 12 of natural causes at his home in Vestal, New York. A political scientist, he was the A.D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and senior scholar in Africana studies at Cornell and the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at Binghamton University until his retirement on Sept. 1. He was 81.
Mazrui was a renowned scholar, teacher and public intellectual with expertise in African politics, international political culture and political Islam. His prolific writing over the past half century has shaped ideas about Africa and Islam among scholars and the general public, earning him international acclaim and controversy. He authored over 40 books and hundreds of scholarly articles and book chapters.
He held a B.A. from Manchester University, England (1960), an M.A. from Columbia University (1961) and his doctorate from the University Oxford in England (1966). He launched his academic career at Makerere University, Uganda, but went into exile in the United States when dictator Idi Amin became increasingly repressive toward critics.
Mazrui’s career in the U.S. began at Stanford University (1972-74). He then joined the political science department at the University of Michigan (1974-91) and in 1989 joined Binghamton, where he founded the Institute of Global Cultural Studies.
Mazrui won the University of Michigan’s Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award in 1988 and the Distinguished Africanist Award of the African Studies Association of the U.S. in 1995. In 2005, the American journal Foreign Policy and the British journal Prospect ranked Mazrui among the top 100 public intellectuals in the world.
A principal theme of his work was to identify and criticize abuses of political, economic and military power, whether by colonial or imperial nations, including the United States, or by leaders of developing countries, including African nations. His ideas generated passionate debate on African and Islamic issues.
Mazrui will be buried in the Mazrui Cemetery near Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya. The family requests that expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.