Postcolonial Negotiations of Neoliberalism & Revolution at the State University of Zanzibar

Class Year


Access Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department or Program

Political Science Department

First Advisor

Samson Opondo


Since the entrance of Arab intellectual culture onto Zanzibar, the Indian Ocean archipelago has long been recognized as a generations-deep haven for intellectually revolutionary dialogue and collectivism. Today however, in postcolonial Zanzibar, where revolutionary legacies once ushered in the hope of an emancipatory sociopolitical order characterized by progressive African socialism and egalitarian home rule, the impingement of a neoliberal global regime—the political economic order that supposes that human wellbeing and freedom are best advanced by industrial liberalization, private-market freedoms, unobstructed property rights, and free trade—has thrown revolutionary dreams of governance, independent nationhood, and political identity into flux. While the neoliberal prioritization of “technological rationality” (“the quantification of life based predominantly on market productivity rather than social capability”) has promoted sociopolitical dislocation and alienation, Zanzibar’s genealogical revolutionary ideology has once again come under threat.

Amidst these tensions, this thesis will examine the case of a prominent public institution of neoliberal birth, The State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), and ask whether it can meaningfully serve as a contemporary agent for Zanzibar’s legacy of intellectual revolutionary dialogue. We examine SUZA not because its situation is isolated to the institution itself or even Zanzibar, but because the capacity of Zanzibari educational spaces to mirror broader ideological negotiations fits into a larger, global pattern of university politics. By examining Zanzibar in focus, we can meaningfully address geographically-specific neoliberal developments while also better understanding Zanzibar’s place in this present global political shift. Therefore, this thesis is questioning the capacity of SUZA and the East African university to host revolutionary dialogues in the age of neoliberalism, which allows us to consider implications for the revolutionary futures of Zanzibar and postcolonial East Africa. If this work is to find that a leading, ideology-setting university can no longer serve as a conduit of revolutionary discourse, then one is forced to grapple with the deep permeability of the neoliberal order—which leads us to the question (which will not be answered in this work) of where revolutionary thought may be found and fostered in the crisis era of globalized neoliberalism.