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Achille Mbembe
Achille Mbembe 2.JPG
Born 1957
Otélé, French Cameroons
Nationality Cameroon
Alma mater Sorbonne, Instituts d'études politiques
Known for Necropolitics
Awards Geschwister-Scholl-Preis
Scientific career
Fields Philosophy, political science
Institutions University of the Witwatersrand, Duke University
Influences Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault

Joseph-Achille Mbembe, known as Achille Mbembe ( born 1957), is a Cameroonian philosopher, political theorist, and public intellectual.

Biography

Mbembe was born near Otélé in Cameroon in 1957. He obtained his Ph.D. in history at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, France, in 1989. He has held appointments at Columbia University in New York, Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Berkeley, Yale University, Duke University and Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal. He was assistant professor of history at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1992, associate professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996, executive director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996 to 2000. Achille was also a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and a visiting professor at Yale University in 2003. He was a research professor in history and politics at Harvard University's W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute.

He has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris: Karthala, 1996). On the Postcolony was published in Paris in 2000 in French and the English translation was published by the University of California Press, Berkeley, in 2001. In 2015, Wits University Press published a new, African edition. He has an A1 rating from the National Research Foundation.

Current appointments

Mbembe is currently a member of the staff at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and also has an annual visiting appointment at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.

He is a contributing editor to the scholarly journal Public Culture.

Work

His main research topics are African history, Postcolonial Studies and politics and social science.

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 (On the Postcolony) (2000); Sortir de la grande nuit: Essai sur l'Afrique décolonisée (2003); Critique de la raison nègre (2013).

Mbembe interprets Africa not as a defined, isolated place but as a strange relation between itself and the rest of the world. He argues that the colonial powers dictated how some people may live and how some must die. He uses the examples of Palestine and South Africa to show how the power of sovereignty now serves the creation of zones of death where death becomes the ultimate exercise of domination and the primary form of resistance.

Awards

  • 2015 Geschwister-Scholl-Preis for his work Critique de la raison nègre
  • 2018 Gerda Henkel Prize

Private life

Achille Mbembe is married to Sarah Nuttall, who is Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies and Director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. They have written several texts together and have two children.

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