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Out of the Dark Night: Essays on Decolonization

Achille Mbembe

Achille Mbembe is one of the world’s most profound critics of colonialism and its consequences, a major figure in the emergence of a new wave of French critical theory. His writings examine the complexities of decolonization for African subjectivities and the possibilities emerging in its wake. In Out of the Dark Night, he offers a rich analysis of the paradoxes of the postcolonial moment that points toward new liberatory models of community, humanity, and planetarity.

In a nuanced consideration of the African experience, Mbembe makes sweeping interventions into debates about citizenship, identity, democracy, and modernity. He eruditely ranges across European and African thought to provide a powerful assessment of common ways of writing and thinking about the world. Mbembe criticizes the blinders of European intellectuals, analyzing France’s failure to heed postcolonial critiques of ongoing exclusions masked by pretenses of universalism. He develops a new reading of African modernity that further develops the notion of Afropolitanism, a novel way of being in the world that has arisen in decolonized Africa in the midst of both destruction and the birth of new societies. Out of the Dark Night reconstructs critical theory’s historical and philosophical framework for understanding colonial and postcolonial events and expands our sense of the futures made possible by decolonization.

Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the author of On the Postcolony (2001), Critique of Black Reason (2017), and Necropolitics (2019), and he is the winner of the 2018 Ernst Bloch Award as well as the Gerda Henkel Award.


REVIEWS

“An important, provocative, and powerful intervention into the politics and the production of knowledge after colonialism in France and about the French empire's former colonies after they became independent.”—Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Columbia University

“Achille Mbembe’s work awakens the written word, bursts the limits of language, calls prophetically, warms the flesh. The profane rubs up against the sacred, the incisive mind impels the reaching hand. Mbembe is a brilliant diagnostician, not only of postcolonial space and time but of the world of power and possession, enclosure and sovereignty. He writes from and of and for Africa, and he writes for a more African humanity. Every work of his offers tools to build a new world.”—Anne Norton, Henry and Stacey Jackson President’s Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

“Achille Mbembe declares that Frantz Fanon is one of the few who have tackled the philosophical significance of decolonization, not just as a considerable historic moment of transfer of power but above all as a movement of recreation of humanity and a sense of futurity. That was sixty years ago, at the dawn of African independences. We can declare as well today that with this examination of decolonization as the continuing process of coming out of the dark night and as the manifestation of a will to life, which he shows to be currently at work in the experimentations and innovations taking place on the continent, Mbembe has produced one of the very best works in the spirit of Fanon’s thought.”—Souleymane Bachir Diagne, author of Open to Reason: Muslim Philosophers in Conversation with the Western Tradition

Out of the Dark Night offers a reading of the contemporary world quite unlike any other. Its erudition is breathtaking, its critical acuity singular. Scarcely anything of significance to our troubled age goes unmentioned; race, colonialism/decolonization/decoloniality, globalization, capitalism, democracy, knowledge, history, and much besides are theorized anew from an Afropolitan perspective, leavened by both Francophone and Anglophone critique. This is a foundational exercise in intellectual “disenclosure,” the shattering of old boundaries in pursuit of a visionary grasp of the history of the present.”—John Comaroff, Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Harvard University

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