By Eddie Ssemakula
A research paper presented by a Witswatersrand Univeristy Postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Edgar Taylor, caused a spirited discussion within the Makerere Institute of social research community. The paper titled, “Surveillance, anonymity and disciplinary violence in the Buganda anti-Asian Boycott of 1959/1960” reexamines colonial history with particular focus on Buganda protests against Asians in that period. It revisits party politics and ethnic nationalism of Colonial Buganda, with parties like Kabaka Yekka (KY) trending.
In his response, main discussant, and former MISR Research fellow, Fred Guweddeko, led the spirited contest against the purported oversimplification of colonial history by the day’s presenter and highlighted the narrowing down of a crisis so huge to a Buganda Kingdom matter.
“This we know was rather an anti-colonialist boycott.” Mr. Guweddeko emphasized. “Dr. Taylor didn’t tell us that there are other perspectives apart from this being anti-Asian, it was also very colonial.” He added.
In a continued critique, Guwedekko noted how this boycott could never have been against Asians since some of its leaders were Asian. “One of them was actually called Mamdani” Guweddeko quipped, as the room broke out in laughter perhaps because MISR’s current Director shares the same name.
“Our inability to carefully dissect history is probably the reason we can’t carefully dissect contemporary issues, this is an important historical event and to convey it as a boycott of Asians is to do injustice to history.” Guweddeko continued.
The main discussant also pointed out the weakness of the deductive methodology used, noting how “a small incident cannot become the objective. “
Dr Taylor eventually defended his presentation citing the historical event as “just one form of colonial protest”. “We need to incorporate this strand with others, no I am not totalizing the history of colonial struggle, this is a neglected form of anti-colonialism that needs to be addressed” Dr. Taylor remarked.
Other respondents like MISR PHD Student Jonathan Mugenyi noted how they expected to hear a good history of race and also emphasized the need to clarify the distinction between Buganda and Uganda, at the time.
Another MISR PHD student Diana Kamara, also questioned the use of infrastructure by the researcher and called upon Dr. Taylor to endeavor to tell the story of the people involved.
Dr. Taylor’s paper featured as fifth in the series for recruiting research fellows at MISR, it can be downloaded here.