Achille Mbembe: Future Knowledges and the Dilemmas of Decolonization

In this talk, philosopher Achille Mbembe considers the possibilities of a new planetary configuration of the human and the humanities, in light of what he calls the injunction to decolonize knowledge. Achille Mbembe (b. 1957) 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. He has also held appointments at Columbia, Berkeley, Yale, Harvard, and for many years here at Duke University, in the Romance Studies Department and Franklin Humanities Institute. Achille Mbembe’s research interests lie in 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. Mbembe’s most important 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. In 2015, it was republished in an African edition by Wits University Press, with a new preface by the author. Critique of Black Reason, translated by Laurent Dubois, was published by Duke University Press in 2017.