Achille Mbembe : “Ignorance too, is a form of power”


achille mbembe, brutalism, negropolitic
Achille Mbembe : “Ignorance too, is a form of power”

Picture : Achille Mbembe young

He talks and talks, you are on the verge of falling asleep, until suddenly, out of the blue, a word or a concept slaps you in the face. You listen again. He adds another violent metaphor to his argument and there you are, disarmed by a truth he just unveiled. I presume part of Cameroonian historian and philosopher Achille Mbembe’s brilliance stems from his ability to coin ideas that were as yet framed. Not that they didn’t exist before, but they were lacking the proper notes to be heard. For instance, his book De la Postcolonie, published in 2000, contributed to a massive rise of interest in post-colonial studies by revealing how colonial forms of domination continue to operate on and within the African continent. His Critique de la raison nègre, published in 2013, shed light on the function of the “Black” figure in the construction of Western identity. He later developed the concept of necropolitics, widely used today in academia, to illustrate the production of superfluous and unwanted populations. More recently, he introduced the notion of brutalism, which describes capitalism’s constant process of extraction and waste production. A process that generates growth: walls, clean streets, prescribed drugs, cars, banks – and trash. A trash made of human and non-human residues that we bury, send abroad, or incarcerate. Combustion, islands of plastic, or "migrants" who have no value in our economic system are examples of this exponential "trashisation" of the world. This side effect of brutalism is also defined by Mbembe as the tendential universalization of the Black condition: "The way we used to tread exclusively black people, is now extended to people with a different skin color," he told me recently. " The black person is by definition the one who can be humiliated, whose dignity is not recognized, whose rights can be violated with impunity, including his right to breath. He or she therefore represents the accomplished figure of the superfluous person. And nowadays, the number of superfluous people is constantly growing."



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