Achille Mbembe: Celebrating Black Excellence In Academics, African History, And Culture

by Duke Magazine

Achille Mbembe is a philosopher, political scientist, and public intellectual. He obtained his doctoral degree at the Université Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne) in 1989 and subsequently obtained the D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d’études politiques, Paris. Mbembe is currently Research Professor of History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in Johannesburg, South Africa. Prior to his current office, he has also held appointments at Columbia, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, and Duke Universities for many years. However, Mbembe’s research interests predicate on the social sciences and African history and politics. He is especially interested in the emergence of “Afro-cosmopolitan culture,” together with the artistic practices that are associated with it. He has also critically explored the notion of Johannesburg as a metropolitan city and the work of Frantz Fanon. Notable of Mbembe’s works are: Les jeunes et l’ordre politique en Afrique noire (1985); La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (1920-1960); Histoire des usages de la raison en colonie (1996); De la postcolonie. Essai sur l’imagination politique dans l’Afrique contemporaine (2000); Sortir de la grande nuit : Essai sur l’Afrique décolonisée (2003); “Necropolitics” (2003); and Critique de la raison nègre (2013). His seminal work De la postcolonie. Essai sur l’imagination politique dans l’Afrique contemporaine (On the Postcolony) was translated into English in 2001 and published by the University of California Press.

The South Africa-based Cameroonian academic is a revered voice across the African continent, and not only influential in academia, but also in other public bodies. His ideas on post-colonialism, gathered in a collection of critical essays continue to shape the thinking on democracy. He explained: “Postcolonial thinking stresses humanity-in-the-making, the humanity that will emerge once the colonial figures of the inhuman and of racial difference have been swept away.”

The 63-year-old scholar is decorated with awards and honors like, Gerda Henkel Prize (2018) and Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (2015), for his work Critique de la raison nègre.

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