Achille Mbembe, is a Cameroonian political theorist, author, and educator based in South Africa. Achille Mbembe, who’s currently a research professor in history and politics working with Harvard University’s W.E.B. Dubois Research Institute has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris, Karthala, 1996) with an A1 rating from the National Research Foundation. He received most of his academic training in Paris, first at the prestigious University of Sorbonne and later at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques.
Achille Mbembe is this year’s winner of the prestigious German award for outstanding research, the Gerda Henkel Prize. The 100,000 euro ($116,100) prize is awarded to those conducted outstanding research in science and the humanities. The selection committee for the Gerda Henkel Prize receives hundreds of nominations from universities and research institutions the world over. Achille Mbembe is the first African scholar to win the German foundation bi-annual prize, his work in philosophy, history, and political science made an incredible impact to broaden the history of politics in Africa’s modern era.
Okay, first of all, one thing that excites me about the state of the continent today is the extent to which it has leapfrogged a series of steps other societies have had to follow in terms of their technological development. Most regions of the continent today—with the rapid expansion of mobile telephony—are moving freely from the age of iron to the digital age. This goes hand in hand with an explosion of forms of knowledge, some of which borrow from traditional knowledge, and others, from high-end technologies found in the rest of the world. That acceleration seems to me to be the main philosophical and political question, as well as the economic question, that we have to put at the center of any discussion on knowledge production today. – Achille Mbemb speaking to OkayAfrica in 2015 on what excites him about Africa’s future.
His last book, titled Critique of Black Reason, was published in 2013 (English translation in 2017). The book 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, dismantling representations of blackness in European philosophical and cultural discourses to the centuries-long exploitation of black lives by global economic interests.