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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: James Wilson
Interviewee: Goran Hyden
UF 300 AB
W: Today is March 8, 1996. It is a Friday. My name is James
Wilson and I am speaking this morning with Dr. Goran Hyden.
Dr. Hyden I am going to ask you to state your full name.
H: My name is Goran Hyden.
W: Okay, Dr. Hyden and you are currently at what position here
at the University of Florida?
H: I am a professor of political science here at the University
of Florida since 1986 and I am also for the last sixteen to
seventeen months the interim Director of the Center for
W: Before we discuss your tenure here at the University of
Florida, I would like for you to begin with your career as a
political scientist leading to your appointment here in
1996. Just briefly tell us how you became a political
scientist? I know that is expanding some years, but if you
could maybe highlight how you became interested in political
structures? What were some of your first appointments?
Just kind of an overview.
H: My political interests started when I interned as a
journalist in Swedish newspapers during the period I was a
student at the University of Lund. During that time which
was from 1959 to 1963, a lot of things happened around the
world, not the least the coming of African independence.
While I was doing some reporting of politics back in Sweden
I also took an interest and was encouraged by my senior
colleagues to try to help them to understand Africa. My
original interest in Africa and in politics started when I
was a journalist. That is how I eventually got into
studying political science at the graduate level, because my
department, political science at the University of Lund,
invited me back in 1962 to actually do first a master's and
then a doctorate degree at the University of Lund. That is
how I continued.
W: Any part of Africa in particular?
H: I was not at that time interested in any one country because
being involved on a long distance basis Africa was just one
big place. I tried to follow several countries because
things happen not only in one place but in many.
W: The University of Lund is in Sweden?
H: It is in Sweden, yes.
W: How involved was Sweden at that time with the affairs of
H: Very limited. Most of the people who had been in Africa,
worked in Africa, and had contacts in Africa were
missionaries. I was one of the first Africanists in Sweden.
In fact, I was one of the first to receive a research
fellowship in 1963 to go to, as it turned out in the end,
Tanzania to do my field work in 1964.
W: This was ripe, newly independence era.
H: Just the first few years after independence, correct.
W: What were some of your first impressions of Africa as a
young journalist/Africanist? Did you have any Swahili
background? At that time you were not a missionary, you
were not a part of the government, how were you perceived
when you were there?
H: First of all I had studied Swahili while I was at UCLA as a
graduate student in 1962-1963, so I had limited knowledge of
Swahili when I went to Tanzania in 1964. I do not know if I
should say my impressions of Africa and Tanzania, east
Africa with Tanzania in particular at that time. It was
exciting to be out in the field and to me it was something
that turned me on in a sense that I felt that Africa was the
place that I could relate to both at the personal level and
at the professional level. Eventually I was to find my wife
in that very area where I was working. Melania, who was at
that time just back from England where she had been trained
as a registered nurse and myself began our relationship
during the period I was in Bukoba on the western side of
Lake Victoria where I did my field work and where Melania
W: I have heard a lot of that story because as you know Melania
is my Swahili professor. I am wondering, after how many
years were you in Tanzania in that position?
H: One year, my field work was essentially a one year
assignment. I had a grant for that period.
W: Then you returned back to Sweden?
H: No, while I was in Bukoba I was in touch with people at
Makerere University in Kampala which was about four hours
drive away. When I needed academic advice I was actually
often in touch with people up there. The Department of
Political Science at Makerere invited me in 1965 to stay on
for awhile teaching at Makerere in order to fill a gap for
someone in Uganda. In fact, Kenyan, but somebody coming
back to teach. That person was supposed to finish his Ph.D.
in six months I was told when I was first hired so I should
be there for only six months. As it turned out he stayed on
or had to take longer time to finish his Ph.D. so my stay
there became fifteen months rather than six. I stayed in
Uganda and Melania and I had our first child, Michael during
W: So you really have an East African experience here because
your field research is in Tanzania, but it is very close
across the border from Uganda.
H: That is right.
W: Then after your fifteen months teaching experience in Uganda
can you tell me how that was at first? You were completing
your dissertation and teaching at the same time?
H: Yes, so I was a very young lecturer and uncertain of myself
partly because I had never taught really except when I had
been assisting as a teacher while I was still in Sweden. I
had never taught on my own. So that was a challenge, but
also the language. English is not my mother tongue.
Although by that time I felt I handled the English language
reasonably well. After all I had been both to Oxford in
England and I had been to UCLA. I had been one year at that
time in East Africa where in addition to Swahili you speak a
lot of English. It was not that I was all that
uncomfortable using the English language, but it was still a
little bit of a challenge. I had my own doubts how well I
would do but at least I know from that experience that I
could do it. I had no big major problem. My students at
least never complained about my language.[laughter] Even
the political science I taught seem to have gone down well.
W: What courses particularly did you teach? An introduction of
political science, of political theory? At this time Uganda
as well as, Kenya and Tanzania are going through a major
political change. What type of political theory were you
teaching at this time?
H: I was told or asked to teach public administration which was
an area I did not really know all that much about but I at
least had some sense of. It was a baptism you might say,
which was slightly outside of my own area of comparative
politics. I managed to do that and it is interesting in my
own career since then I have always retained an interest in
public administration or development administration. In
some respects that first assignment and the need to really
read up and be conversant with public administration
literature was something that I now look back at as a plus
or as a bonus.
W: You also said that this was a comparative policy and
development and I know from reading your resume that you
have done a lot of development work. At that time in your
career did you see yourself not just as a politician, but
also as a developer in terms of you were creating the next
generation of leaders in Uganda and coming in contact with
some of the rising stars in Tanzania? Were you involved in
any development work at the same time as you were teaching
at the University as well as working on your dissertation?
H: No, let me say first of all, I do not think that we had the
sense, at least I did not have a sense at that time in the
early years when I was in East Africa that I was teaching
the next generation. For better or for worse that did not
dawn on me until eventually in the 1970s. I realized that
some of the people I had taught and even after that, were
becoming as you indicated, important peoples in their own
right in government or in business and so on, so that in
politics generally. At that time I did not have the sense
of it, nor did I actually engage in any develop work though
I thought from the very beginning that development was an
issue that I was interested in. My own dissertation focused
on political development. I was interested particularly in
the context of that area, which was very far from the
capital of Dar es Salaam, how much people in that distant
area really knew about politics and what was going on. I
did a survey of people in that area which provided the data
for my dissertation. I tested their knowledge to see if for
instance, people lived far away from the regional capital in
this case Bukoba, whether they were educated or less
educated. Whether there was commercial activity or less
commercial activity in the area where they lived. Whether
that made a difference in terms of their political outlook,
political attitude and political knowledge. The interesting
thing with my dissertation was that all of these so called
modernization variables did not really make a difference.
In fact, you found that even poor people, people who were
not educated, people who lived far away from the regional
capital, had as a good a political knowledge [and] had
pretty much the same political attitudes as people who were
closer to this particular city. I found as an explanation
to this the fact that the political organization of the
ruling party that in those days TAN or Tandaneka African
National Union. I hope you can spell that.
W: I can.
H: That party in itself had mobilized people and raised their
consciousness so that even in the distant corners of this
part, even in the more distant corners of that particular
region, there was not really any difference in terms of what
people knew about what was going on and their attitude was
pretty much the same as people who live close to Bukoba.
W: Did you use a lot of oral history in your dissertation?
H: No, I did not do much oral history, although I did a little
bit of it. Not being a historian [and] perhaps not being
sensitive enough at that time to historical legacy.
Although, I did have a chapter on the historical background
of the area. I cannot say that I went out of my way to
speak to people other than a couple of older men whom I met
who were providing me with some information. I cannot say
it was an oral history project, no.
W: For the next five or six years you have a combination of
going back to Sweden, going to Kenya, and going to Tanzania
and it goes from I think two years, one year, two year
H: Yes, I went back to finish my degree in early 1967 and I
remember my wife and our son, and Melania's niece was also
with us at that time, we arrived I think it was the 31st of
January 1967, on a day that was both cold and snowy. My
wife had been to England and knew what snow was but it was
still not the kind of warm reception that you had. The
warmth of the reception fortunately was that not only was my
family there to welcome my family, but also some of my
friends were there. It was like coming home in that since.
That was good. We stayed in Sweden while I finished my
doctorate. We stayed in Lund for about eighteen months. We
left in late July 1968, to go to Kenya this time. I had
never worked in Kenya before, before I went back to East
Africa. I took up a job as lecturing government or in
political science at the University of Nairobi in 1968 and
was there until 1971. At that time I had been promoted to
what they called senior lecturer and I moved as senior
lecturer in political science to the University of Dar es
Salaam where I then taught for six years from 1971 to 1977.
Again in a period during which in 1974 I was promoted to
professor of political science.
W: In the University of Dar es Salaam?
H: Yes, at the University of Dar es Salaam. That was a very
exciting period in Dar es Salaam because shall we say, Dar
es Salaam was in a way both an intellectual and a political
capital particularly for those people who were in there
supporting the liberation movements in Southern Africa. Dar
es Salaam was the sight of the OAU Liberation Committee
headquarters. There were a lot of people but at the
University itself there were a lot of interesting people
like Walter Rodney for instance who was teaching at the
University of Dar es Salaam at that time. Several other
prominent historians and social scientists and others who
have moved on in some cases to other countries in Africa or
moved on to other places in the world depending on where
they came from. It was really an exciting environment.
Some people may have complained that it was
ideological if you were comparing with you your average
American campus. Certainly what was going on in Dar es
Salaam was much more embedded in an ideological sort of
context for not only Socialists, but generally you might say
principles of justice and equity or equality were very
important. It was in that kind of a climate that I taught.
I must say being not convinced myself about Marxism, I was
not a part of the inner core of some of the people who made
up much of the left at that time. I did have not only good
relations at the personal level with many of these people
but I did also have a chance to understand and better
appreciate the importance of that particular ideological
perspective. I had as to learn if I may say so,
the conceptual structure of Marxism, as well as the language
of Marxism without necessarily digesting in the sense of
saying that I am a believer. I never became a believer and
when I wrote my book on Tanzania which actually I did in
1977-1978 when I had sabbatical leave in Berkeley. Much of
my concern at that time was to show not only the inadequacy
of modernization, but also the inadequacy of Marxism as a
general theory and the problems of applying that which is
both intuitively but more specifically on the basis of the
work I did during those years in Tanzania, the inadequacy of
this broad, general explanations of what was going on in
Africa. I felt that for instance, class analysis, among
other things was really taken too far or used in a way that
suggested that the people were not interested in really
doing what you might call the field work to get the support
for what they were trying to argue.
W: If I understand this, your career as a political scientist
has been both theoretical but grounded in the reality of the
experience. You use the time that it was an exciting time
during the time that you were actually seeing the political
structure form with political actors that were coming better
now in various parts of the world. The way political
scientists learn what you know now is very different. They
learn it mainly from people like you. Is there an open
period now in the world where political scientists would be
able to see the practicality of political structures right
before them as you did in Africa?
H: I think that anyone who wants to become a serious scholar in
the comparative field, in my case comparative politics, I
think has to have his or her feet on the ground in one or
two places so that they know what they are talking about.
In other words they need to be able to have a relatively
detailed area knowledge in order to be effective either as
researchers or as teachers. You might say I was fortunate
enough to have not only my field year in Bukoba, but I also
had on top of that another, whatever it became, eleven or
twelve years of teaching. That allowed me to get a much
better sense of what Africa is all about and what Africans
are all about both as colleagues and as human beings. I
would say that the extended stay of mine in Africa which
eventually was extended further by my work with the Ford
Foundation, but all those years certainly have shaped my own
outlook on both Africa and on political science. Do
political scientists today get that experience? Well in
some respects the answer is most people today do not get
those teaching experiences because even if you get the
fulbright to go out you may be able to go out to an African
country for at best a year. The exchange programs that
exist at the faculty level provide some similar kind of
experiences, but by and large the long and extended period
that people could get in 1960s and early 1970s because there
were there were gaps to fill. Those are much
more difficult these days. Although I think it is possible
that one of the things that Africanist on this side of the
Atlantic could possible do if there only were funds, would
be to go out and help or in other words assist in the
teaching and in that process also learn something more about
Africa. I would see that as a benefit, but I realize that
funding for that kind of a program in the 1990s is almost
out of the question.
W: I think I take your point because as a former Peace Corps
volunteer, studying African history is very different
because I lived with people, I speak the language, but I
understood the culture and it is very different from doing
field research where you are the main person gathering
information and not necessarily receiving all the things
that helped shape your perspectives. When you live among
people and speak the language, eat the food, understand the
customs, you become a little different in the outlet. Let
me get an update, from Tanzania you have a sabbatical at the
University of California-Berkeley, and at that sabbatical
you are writing primarily a book on Tanzania...
H: No, called Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania. I do not know if you
need that to be spelled, who are you to remember.
W: How was the book received during that time?
H: There were two kinds of reactions, mainly critical although
I think that maybe I had two critical reactions and one
positive. I am not sure, I think on the whole the positives
probably in the long run were more than the negatives.
There were two negative critiques not surprisingly at all
one was from the Marxist side who complained about the fact
that I was doing away or not realizing the importance of
class. The other one was from the emerging or the re-
emerging neoclassical economists who believed that I was not
acknowledging enough the rationality of the farming peasant
in Tanzania and suggesting that he was not responsive to
market forces which is what everyone wanted to believe in
the early 1980s. I think some people who criticized me for
either of those things probably today would say something
different. In those days that is what was said. The
positive reaction which I had was largely that this was
something that provided a new perspective on what was going
on in Africa in Tanzania in particular. It was, if I may
use a word which I think was used by some of my reviewers, a
refreshing analysis or refreshingly original analysis of
what was going on. That is why people who were positive in
their reviews tended to write about this as an important
contribution. I think on the whole that book probably
stands out as the most important one I have written.
Although I did write one called No Shortcuts to Progress in
1983 that has also been fairly often cited but in a way more
often by people in the development of communities rather
than in academia. Although I know people in certain areas,
of certain schools where they teach public administration or
development administration, or development have often used
W: After that you returned back to Sweden to do your free lance
advance brief. Were you a free lance consultant?
H: Yes, we stopped there because my father had died while we
were in Berkeley and my mother had come over to visit us in
the Bay Area where we lived. It was just at that the loss
of her husband at that time was still quite deep so we
decided that on our way to Kenya where I had taken up a job
with the Ford Foundation in 1977, actually taken it up for
1978 in August. I asked for permission to postpone my
arrival in Kenya until the end of the year so that I had a
chance to stay with my mother for awhile which the
foundation was graciously agreeing to. We stayed on for
about five or six months, I think from June to December of
1978, before we went to Kenya. I did not do anything as I
have indicated in my CV. I did a little bit of teaching at
my old department and I did a little bit of independent
consulting for SIDA the Swedish International
Development Authority as it was called in those days.
W: You have two children at this time?
W: Three children at this time and they have to be trilingual.
They must be divergent in English, Swahili and
H: Yes, the two elder children went to school in Sweden that
fall semester and learned Swedish and had acquired enough
Swedish at that time to be conversant. We never spoke
Swedish in the family otherwise. When we were in Africa it
was English and Swahili. The youngest one who was only two
or three when we went to Sweden never picked up Swedish. He
never learned Swedish and to this day although he is a
Swedish citizen, at least formally speaking, he has a
Swedish passport, he still does not speak Swedish very well.
He understands it but he feels hesitant to speak it because
it does not come naturally to him. My wife and the two
other children learned a bit of Swedish during that period
W: I have had the pleasure of seeing the in
yourself mix Swahili and English in one sentence. [laughter]
Did Swedish ever get mixed in it as well?
H: To tell you the truth we speak Swedish occasionally. The
time when we use it between ourselves, Melania and I for
instance, is when we need to say something that we do not
want other people to understand. [laughter] If we are in
Africa or in the US, but especially in Africa, we use
Swedish to say something that might not be understood by
others. When we are in Sweden we use Swahili so we can get
away. [laughter] We do not do that to embarrass people.
The occasion to be able to say something assuming that
people could listen in those cases call for a language that
is not necessarily understood by everyone in the immediate
W: That is a good switch. I do not know too many Swedes that
will be speaking Swahili and vice versa not too
many Tanzanians speaking Swedish.
H: That is true.
W: 1979 to 1980 were you working as a Ford...
H: Become the social science research advisor. I replaced an
anthropologist from the University of Washington called
Edgar "Bud" Winans, who in turn had succeeded two years
before that in African American political scientist called
Clem Cottingham. Clem I believe was and may still be at
Rutgers, or at least he was teaching at Rutgers after he
returned from Kenya. I was essentially there responsible
for running a research competition, providing support for
fellowship in the field of population studies and doing a
few other things including eventually getting involved with
some limited support to NGO's that did community development
work in Kenya.
W: What was Kenya like during that time?
H: This was just after had taken over from the
Kenyata. If I may call that a honeymoon period.
Politically things were both stable and relatively exciting
and people were relieved for sure that the transition from
Kenyata to had gone that smoothly. I think
politically these were not difficult years. I experienced
more political turbulence in 1969 when I was in Kenya the
first time because that is when they assassinated Thoman
Boyle and it was also the time when Kenyata went to Quesumu
and they had a major confrontation with Kenya People Union
supporters. The KPU was banned and people were killed at
the political rally in Quesumu. That was a much more
turbulent year. Those first two years in Kenya, 1978-1980
when I was a social science research advisor, were very
pleasant years and good years on the whole for both Kenya
and for anyone staying there.
W: Where did you live in Nairobi?
H: We lived on something called Cambera Road which was called
the lower hill which was between Kenyata National Hospital
and the railway, or highway I should say. We overlooked the
railway was going right by the bottom of our yard. Maybe
another 200 yards beyond that was the Highway
going out to the airport. So we faced in a way I think a
southerly direction. It was on something called lower hill.
W: After that you stayed on for five years?
H: Yes, I was asked to become the director or the
representative as it is called of the foundations office for
Eastern and Southern Africa in 1980. I took that up and I
was in that job for five years.
W: Kenya is changing during this time.
H: That was a more difficult time politically. I tell you
particularly because during those years in 1982, our office
hosted the Ford Foundation Board in Nairobi, meeting there
late August to early September. That was bringing in a
number of big shots like Robert MacNamara and Don McHenry
and others who had been visible particularly during the
Carter Administration in the case of McHenry. There were a
number of big people coming out. The problem was that I had
to write political reports to the Foundation headquarters in
New York, keeping them posted about what was going on
because this was a time when in June of 1982, Moy detained a
number of prominent politicians and constitutionalized in an
arbitrary fashion the one partisan state. The same day as
Melania and I went on leave to Sweden which was the thirty-
first of July, there was an attempted coup which took place
only three hours after we left the airport. We were in
Greece on our way to Sweden and suddenly the next day, in
fact it was Monday, we left on a Saturday evening, I bought
the International Herald Tribune and the main headline was
Attempted Coup In Kenya Fails. Fortunately I did not have
to cut my vacation short but that added to my worries. The
board meeting went very well, but what I did not realize was
that my political reporting to the New York headquarters had
actually been picked up by special branch people and had
been given to them, we suspect by one of my local employees.
By 1983 out of the blue came a letter from immigration
saying we give you one week to leave the country. No
W: Did you say anything in the reports that were...
H: Yes, I had said a number of things that were maybe you could
say to some extent speculative, but they were clearly either
indicating that I knew too much or that I had offended
somebody in power. I was in a situation as you can
understand it was not very easy to just accept that. The
foundation was on my side through out this and so was some
of my friends in the Kenyan government including the late
Robert Woco who was eventually killed. At that time [he]
was the person who helped me to finally get out of this by
telling Moy that the Ford Foundation and I are important
people, we need to do something. Eventually the message was
conveyed to the Foundation and to myself, but that was
almost a year later. During that time my stay had been
extended and there was no problem that I never had any
difficulty working with either the government people our
others. It took sometime before this was resolved, but once
it was resolved it was resolved in a way that the president
himself expressed as forgive and forget, were the two words
W: You met him personally?
H: Yes, I met Moy myself but I was not somebody who was close
to him nor did I have any particular desire to [be].
W: Did you like working for the Ford Foundation?
H: Yes, it was exciting for the first few years but what I
realized when I got closer to the end of my term was that it
is very difficult to renew yourself in that kind of job.
You become the manager and you loose track of much of what
you want to do, especially since I still felt that I was not
academic. In 1985 when my term came to an end I was at that
time able to spend a sabbatical year at Dartmouth College in
New Hampshire. During that period I was looking for a job
and although there were a couple of offers including from
the World Bank to work for them in the UNICEF. I decided in
the end to go back to academia and I had two offers at that
time. One was from Brown and one was from the University of
Florida. Florida in the end prevailed for two strong
reasons. One was they could offer tenure, and that became
not automatic but it was a formality because I had enough
credibility that I could be hired at the professorial level.
The other one was the growing African Studies interest on
campus at that time. It had always been there but it was
crystallizing in new ways which was making it more
interesting for me to come here. Brown did not have much of
a Africanist orientation. Although you might say that Brown
would have been a very nice place to be at for the purposes
W: You were there for a number of years from 1986 to 1993
W: As a part time...
H: Well you see what happened was Brown could not come up with
a package for me but there were some people on campus who
still wanted me. What we agreed was that during the summer
when I am not employed by the University of Florida I would
be employed by Brown. I was serving as associate director
of what they call there the Allen Schoem Feinstein World
Hunger Program which focused on not only Africa. I became
the linkman to Africa. I used to work either in Providence
during part of the summer or doing my work in Africa for the
World Hunger Program. That is why I had that relation for
seven years until 1993.
W: That is nice.
H: Yes, that was a nice way of keeping myself busy during the
summer and it fell in line with what I was interested in.
W: Tell me about your first years here at the University of
Florida. You came in 1996. Just give me an overview of
what political science department was like? What the
growing African Studies department was like? What the
University on a whole was like ten years ago?
H: First of all, when I was hired I was surprised by the extent
to which there was not only money but genuine interest in
African Studies here. I think the then Dean, Sittman, was
really very anxious to build up African Studies and earn the
University of Florida more visibility with what it already
had as a good African Studies Center. At that time the now
late Gwendolyn Carter had retired, the second retirement in
her case to Florida and although she did not live in
Gainesville she was still up here quite often in the early
years of 1986-1987. She was often part of the group that I
met with here and certainly she was an attraction for me to
come here at that time. What else can I say? Hunt Davis
was the director of the center at that time and I thought he
did an excellent job here in terms of both administrating
the center and being an advocate for more positions. We
were able to do that and when I came here I became part of
the group of people who wanted to strengthen African Studies
particularly in history. We were able to do that although
it was more by chance perhaps because when Hunt Davis
stepped down in 1988 and we were looking for a successor I
chaired the search committee. We got some very good
candidates, Randall Packard, from at that time Tufts
University, historian on Zaire and Southern Africa. We got
Steven Firemen from Wisconsin. We had Peter Schmidt from
Brown and I have forgotten, there were two more candidates
whose names now escape me. The relevant thing here was not
only did we hire Peter eventually as the director, but we
also hired Steve Firemen because there were enough interests
in hiring him for the history department. David Coalburn
served on the search committee, he was chair of history and
really was interested in having a star like Steve Firemen
come here. So again with Charles Sidman's, I think that is
his first name, approval we were able to get two people out
of one search which was very gratifying especially for
W: It is too bad we cannot do that today.
H: Hopefully that could be done, but it is true the chances of
doing it this time are very, very slim I agree. Political
science in those days was a very strange place to get into
because it was very factionalized at that time.
W: What does that mean?
H: There was a group of people who really ran the department
and then there was the rest. It was interesting that the
rest referred to the group in charge as the central
committee. Although it was not formally constituted as the
central committee everyone talked about the leadership in
political science under the then chair Al Cluebach as the
central committee. It was a legacy of that old regime that
prevailed because I came in at the same time as the new
chair of political science which was professor Wayne
Francis. Wayne Francis was like myself in a position to
really try to get the department to move beyond those
divisions of polarization that had existed. I think Wayne
paved the way and laid the foundation for a more collegial
and hospitable environment in the department. I believe
that one of the things that helped was that perhaps the most
contentious person in the department at that time actually
decided to move partly because he claimed that he was not
appreciated enough by the new chair. He moved on to
Louisiana State. As a result of him leaving and then
eventually another person retiring, and one moving on to the
honors program, there was essentially sort of almost a
totally new field of people and a new generation began to
emerge. It was that new generation that took over in 1989
when Ken Wald became the chair of political science and
served in that capacity for five years. Maybe it was 1990.
He was the new chair and I think that was to me a new
generation because before that Wayne and Cluebach and most
of the other people had been older than me, but Ken Wald and
subsequently Steve Sanderson who is now the chair of the
department are younger than me. I look at them as a new
generation and a younger generation.
W: How many African political scientists were a part of the
department at this time?
H: There was only Renella Mashon and myself. Renee had been
alone in the department as an Africanist for a long time so
he was please to see me come. Although he and I had a
couple of intellectual scuffles, but most of them fun, we
remain on good terms throughout. Nevertheless, the main
point was that we were able to attract a much bigger number
of better graduate students to come to work in the
department on Africa or on development which was the
dimension that I brought to the department in a way that had
not been there before. I share now with several others
including Steven Sanderson and I do not know, I have a lot
of friends. At that time it was not as pronounced. Steve
was at the time I came here on leave working for the Ford
Foundation in Brazil. Even though he had already
established himself as a development scholar, he was not
here. He was out of the country.
W: You are housed here in Grinter in the African Center. How
did the construction with Steve Firemen and Peter Schmidt
coming here [and] how did the formulation of Grinter, the
African Center start? Were you always housed here or were
you housed with the political scientists?
H: No, I was one of those who were given the office on this
floor and my former colleague Renella Mashon also had his
office here so the idea was to keep the senior Africanists
in Grinter Hall. I think that was a deliberate policy to
make sure that there was not a distinct presence of
Africanists in the building on the floor. Steve Firemen had
his office up here and Hunt Davis. Eventually others who
had been working here like John Mason who came in I think a
couple of years after that also had an office on this floor.
Art Hanson has an office here. Bernadete Kiere who is
french and literature is also here. There have
been a number of people. I think the policy will continue
to keep a few senior Africanists, if not all of us, on this
W: That was a policy stated by the University?
H: I think so, even from the beginning when this building first
came into existence.
W: How has the African Center changed in the ten years that you
have been here? Right now you are acting as the Acting
Director until we have a replacement which you have in my
opinion done an excellent job. How have you seen the Center
grow and change? In 1985-1986 when you first came here
there was a growing spurt and now ten years later there is
still a growing spurt.
H: What I would say is that there was more growth in the 1980s
than there has been in the 1990s. What I am pleased about
is that the University of Florida has not cut down on
Africanist lines as many other schools have. I think the
University of Florida and our college in particular and I
credit the deans and the heads of departments for having
been respectful of the significance of area studies in
African studies included. What we are faced with now is a
more generally difficult climate for hiring which means that
it is not so much the fact that people do not want to hire
Africanists but there simply is not the money. That is the
big difference between the mid-1980's and mid-1990s, the ten
years that I have been here. The Center is still holding
out as the Africanist community here is still holding out.
Compared to other places we are fairly strong. The only
other places I can think of that might compete with us would
be UCLA and possibly Wisconsin. Maybe Michigan State and
possibly Boston University also have something to show for
themselves. I doubt whether they could really compete with
us. I would say we are competitive with them without any
question but that is in terms of both numbers and quality
and students. Talking about students, that is a big
difference, James. When I came here I remember first of all
there was no political science graduate students. There was
not a single one in African studies. The students I met
were essentially in anthropology. That was the department
that had graduate students working on Africa, but no other.
Anthropology was the only one. History as I recall maybe
there was one and political science none. What has happened
since is as you have probably seen yourself a little bit is
the growth in the number of graduate students studying
Africa here. They come to not only anthropology any longer
but they come also to political science and they come to
history. We have one or two in geography as well and some
of the other departments. Wildlife ecology and zoology and
forestry where we have also done well in recruiting good
students who are committed in their own way to Africa and
not just treating Africa as a piece of international real
W: The exchange programs with Universities in Tanzania, have
they been in existence for a long time?
H: Most of these exchange programs, all of them I think, came
about after Peter Schmidt came here. Peter has been very
instrumental in building up those programs including the one
in Dar es Salaam which I think he has particularly nurtured.
It is true that we have not been able to get as many
undergraduate students from the University of Florida campus
to go there but we have had some and we have had others
from other schools. On the whole the whole program has
allowed the University of Florida to send students to Dar es
Salaam. Because of the agreement that was originally signed
between the two universities the money that our students pay
to the Dar es Salaam University is actually set aside in a
separate fund for what are essentially professional
development grants to faculty from Dar es Salaam to visit
the University of Florida. That is one way of trying to
combine both students from here going out to learn about
Tanzania and faculty from there getting a chance to upgrade
themselves at the University of Florida for a semester.
W: How long has that been working?
H: This has been going on now for five years maybe six. It
started off soon after Peter came whether it was 1989 or
1990 we first had some people coming I do not recall but it
was sometime around that time.
W: I am going to ask you just briefly to tell me how do you see
the department in the next ten years? I presume and I hope
for the Universities sake that you will not be keeping with
your tradition of going from Kenya to Sweden, that you may
be here for the next ten years.
H: Yes, I have grown older now. I do not see myself actually
moving unless something very unexpected or very attractive
comes up. That would be attractive not just for me but for
the family, Melania especially. Melania and I have been
quite happy in Gainesville and [at] the University of
Florida. Both of us are small town people rather than big
city people so we had no problem fitting into Gainesville.
For Melania who is coming from a tropical country, having at
least the opportunity to live in a sub-tropical as I call
north central Florida is something that she has found
attractive. I have had offers from places in the north
since I came here both in Northern Europe and in Northern
America. I have not taken them up because I have enjoyed
Florida. I consider Florida to be a good base to work from
if you are an Africanist. Melania has enjoyed it here too.
We have found that if we are going to live outside of
Sweden or if we are going to live outside of Tanzania, we
have decided in a way to organize our life around the three
places we have a connection to. In the sense that we enjoy
being in Florida for the period of time when we work here
but because we have connections, family and professional, in
Africa and in Sweden we spend our summer break in Africa,
Tanzania in particular. We stop over in Sweden for usually
three to four weeks on our way back from Tanzania to
Florida. We get a chance to meet the family on both sides,
friends and others who we interacted with during those
W: Can you say you have become a Gator since you have been
here? Have you been to the football games and partaken in
the whole festivity of being a Florida Gator here?
H: Yes, Melania and I did not have any particular sports
interest together before we came here but we developed a
sports interest in basketball. Melania and I have been
following it and have had season tickets every year we have
been here since 1988. Both of us go to as many of those
games as we can. I have never been able to convince Melania
that American football is something that she would enjoy.
The person that actually introduced football to me and to
the family, although for Melania it is still a nuisance, but
not to me, is Eric our youngest son who has a football
interest and who has grown up here and is a Gator. Although
he was originally a Seminole when he was in high school, he
became a Gator eventually. I have been taking a much more
serious interest in football as well in the last two, three
years in particular. Since Spurrier came here it has been
hard not to do it. I have not bought season tickets. I
prefer to go occasionally and I have enjoyed watching the
games on television. In a way because of the size of the
stadium unless you sit at a reasonable distent from the
actually field you are much better off watching the game on
television. You see much better what is going on.
W: Are there any things about the University of Florida, the
African Center or the political science program that you
would like to say as a closing about the University?
H: First of all a couple of points on each of those things.
The political science department I did not necessarily tell
you the full story. I thought that the new leadership
provided by both Wayne Francis and Ken Wald pushed the
department in a very different direction. I want to say
that I consider the political science department at the
University of Florida to be one of the most collegial work
places that I can think of. There are few political science
departments that can compete with the University of Florida
as a pleasant work place. I think today most people in the
department share this. Visitors and people who come here
for recruitment purposes have always commented on the
collegiality and the good climate or atmosphere that exists
in the department.
W: Why is that?
H: Because people respect each other. We respect the diversity
of each other. We respect that political science is not
just one theory and one approach and one methodology but we
respect that we have to consider the study of politics as
something that requires diversity both in theory and in
W: Is that reflected with the faculty that you have?
H: Yes, we have people working, hard core quantitative
political scientists and we have those who are both
theoretical and [END OF TAPE A]
We were presently talking about the political science
H: I almost forgot what I said before that but I think I did
mention about the respect of diversity, the tolerance of
different approaches and it is reflected in the context of
the department. We do have people with different
backgrounds and I think we take pride in being diverse
rather than being uniform.
W: You have been the director of the African Studies
Association just recently and we are now in the process of
hiring a new director. With that you have seen five
excellent candidates and you have some sense of the
direction of where the African Studies program is going.
Can you just briefly tell me in a statement where you see
this center going?
H: The new director, whoever that person is going to be, will
eventually set the tone for that. Although I expect,
judging from what I have heard from at least most of the
candidates that they would also want to work with the rest
of us so that it is not as if that person is necessarily
going to be all by himself or herself in terms of deciding
where we are going. It is important that the Center
continues to reach out to faculty, not only in the college
but also in the other colleges. I see that as a priority.
I also want myself to see a closer interaction with Afro-
American studies as it is called here in the Institute of
Black Culture. There is something likely to happen although
I do not know what, but I believe that the whole question of
what should be the institutional relation of the
intellectual interaction between these units is going to
come up. There should be an attempt to overcome the
imbalance between African Studies and Afro-American Studies
that has existed on campus which I think has been
unfortunate in terms of there being less contact between the
two of them that should have been there. The time certainly
has come for doing something about that. Beyond that we
should continue to first of all, be sure that we do not lose
the faculty lines. I do not see any immediate risk of that,
but nevertheless we need to push for a few more lines.
People have mentioned the need to have at least one or two
more people in history. People have talked about the need
for someone perhaps in literature. People have talked about
the need for maybe some other people. I would, as a
political scientist, want to have at least one, perhaps two
more Africanists working in my department.
W: Again thank-you Dr. Hyden for allowing me to interview you.
I have gotten a very rich account of your professional
developments as a political scientist in Africa, Sweden and
here in the United States, as well as an overview of the ten
years that you have been here at the University of Florida.
I think your actual anniversary is this coming Fall. It
will be ten years complete. Hopefully there will be an
acknowledgement of those long ten years because you
certainly have done a lot. I hope that in the next ten
years you will continue to be here.
H: As I said the risk of my leaving is relatively small, but
whether I deserve anything beyond retirement at one time,
that is still to be decided. I enjoyed being here and I do
not work to feel that I need to be rewarded at some point in
time in terms of either money or anything else. In fact,
partly because I have done recently well in my professional
career, that has never been an issue. I have usually been
rewarded for various reasons. It has not been a big thing
for me. I never had to fight for it, nor do I feel that I
want to fight for it because I think I am not a good
professional unless I can speak for myself and let myself,
my words and my wisdom, if there is any, speak for itself
rather than having to fight for that and fight for
W: Thank you sir.
H: Thank you.