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 among 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.
Translator's Introduction ix
Introduction. The Becoming Black of the World 1
1. The Subject of Race 10
2. The Well of Fantasies 38
3. Difference and Self-Determination 78
4. The Little Secret 103
5. Requiem for the Slave 129
6. The Clinic of the Subject 131
Epilogue. There Is Only One World 179
"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."
"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."
"Achille Mbembe has placed the discourse of ‘Africa’ squarely in the center of both postmodernism and continental philosophy. Every page of this signifying riff on Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is a delight to read. African philosophy is currently enjoying a renaissance, and Mbembe is to its continental pole what Kwame Anthony Appiah is to its analytical pole. Every student of postmodernist theory should read this book."
Henry Louis Gates, Jr
"A very demanding yet incredibly powerful book."
“Achille Mbembe’s Critique de la Raison Nègre . . . [is] a book that you want to shout about from the rooftops, so that all your colleagues and friends will read it. My copy, only a few months old, is stuffed with paper markers at many intervals, suggesting the richness of analysis and description on nearly every page. . . . This is certainly one of the outstanding intellectual contributions to studies of empire, colonialism, racism, and human liberation in the last decade, perhaps decades. . . . A brilliant book.”
Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society
"Achille Mbembe is one of the paradoxical optimists who predict the worst without ever losing their faith in the future. . . . Admittedly, slavery has been abolished and colonialism is a thing of the past. But today new forms of alienation have arisen, the Other continues to be stigmatized, and the monster of capitalism reaches for its dream of an limitless horizon. An inevitability? Not necessarily, shoots back this thinker, who invites us to reimagine the geography of the world."
"A lucid, thoughtful and sometimes poetic work, with phrases you want to underline on every page. Mbembe is a voice that needs to be heard, in the current discussion about racism and immigration in Europe."
"For me the most important African thinker today, Achille Mbembe has published the Critique of Black Reason. A very great book, encompassing the perspectives of the African continent as well as the political challenges facing the whole world."
"Achille Mbembe has returned with a work that will surely prove provocative: Critique of Black Reason. This nod to Kant’s philosophic classic is, however, devilishly well-chosen since this work speaks to the never-ending tendency to place Europe at the world’s 'center of gravity.' Achille Mbembe . . . fights against established ideas and lazy thinking."
"A captivating and simultaneously vexing mixture of historical lecture and political-philosophical manifesto."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"[I]ncontrovertible reading on the complex dynamic between race and belonging in twenty-first century societies. Though global in reach, the work is primarily infused with insightful analysis and perspectives on the United States, South Africa, and France, spaces in which the historical legacies of slavery, apartheid, and colonialism remain of pertinence to this day, while also being locations in and from which, the author himself has gained particular familiarity as integral components of his intellectual journey and trajectory. . . . [B]rilliant and pioneering. . . ."
“Critique of Black Reason constitutes an important move in bringing together francophone and anglophone postcolonial thought and is a timely demonstration of the re-invigorating potential of both critical thought and translation.”
“Critique of Black Reason is an illuminating and brilliant addition to Mbembe’s corpus. It is the kind of book, I suspect, that will become compulsory reading for undergraduate and graduate classes worldwide."
The African Independent
"An outstanding intellectual contribution to the state of the art of race scholarship. It is a beautifully written work that begs for every sentence to be quoted. . . . Critique of Black Reason is an inescapable and vital work of race scholarship that animates the reader to imagine new radical possibilities for humanity. As such, the book is the must-read for scholars interested in critical race studies, colonial and postcolonial studies."
Mante Vertelyte & Morten Stinus Kristensen
Ethnic and Racial Studies
"The book is a must for neoliberal and postmodern theory enthusiasts looking for insights on social constructs and perceptions of race relations. . . . The book is a challenge for the world to shift its thought pattern towards what has been disconnected traditionally as black history, to an incorporated collective human history bearing its roots in black history."
Journal of Contemporary African Studies
"With characteristic elocution Achille Mbembe in Critique of Black Reason attends to the challenge . . . to write Africa/Blackness in all its manifestations."
Lwazi Lushaba and Ziyana Lategan
South African Historical Journal