Critique of Black Reason by Achille Mbembe
11 Apr 2017
Translated and with an introduction by Laurent Dubois
With Critique of Black Reason, Achille Mbembe reaffirms his position as one of the most original and significant thinkers of our times working out of Francophone traditions of anti-imperial and postcolonial criticism. His voyages in this book through a painstakingly assembled archive of empire, race, slavery, blackness, and liberation—an archive that Mbembe both reconfigures and interrogates at the same time—produce profound moments of reflection on the origin and nature of modernity and its mutations in the contemporary phase of global capital. A tour de force that will renew debates on capital, race, and freedom in today’s world.
— Dipesh Chakrabarty, author of Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference
Achille Mbembe speaks authoritatively for black life, addressing the whole world in an increasingly distinctive tone of voice. This long anticipated book resounds with the embattled, southern predicament from which its precious shards of wisdom originate. There is nothing provincial about the philosopher’s history it articulates. Mbembe sketches the entangled genealogies of racism and black thought on their worldly travels from the barracoons and the slave ships, through countless insurgencies into the vexed mechanisms of decolonization and then beyond them, into our own bleak and desperate circumstances.
— Paul Gilroy, author of There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation
In Critique of Black Reason eminent critic Achille Mbembe offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness – from the Atlantic slave trade to the present – to critically reevaluate history, racism, and the future of humanity. Mbembe teases out the intellectual consequences of the reality that Europe is no longer the world’s center of gravity while mapping the relations between colonialism, slavery, and contemporary financial and extractive capital. Tracing the conjunction of Blackness with the biological fiction of race, he theorizes Black reason as the collection of discourses and practices that equated Blackness with the nonhuman in order to uphold forms of oppression. Mbembe powerfully argues that this equation of Blackness with the nonhuman will serve as the template for all new forms of exclusion. With Critique of Black Reason, Mbembe offers nothing less than a map of the world as it has been constituted through colonialism and racial thinking while providing the first glimpses of a more just future.
About the author
Achille Mbembe Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is coeditor of Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of On the Postcolony as well as several books in French.
Translator: Laurent Dubois is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History and Director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.
Date of Publication: April 2017
Publisher: Wits University Press