Critique of Black Reason
Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is coeditor of
Laurent Dubois is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History and Director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.
The Subject of Race
Race and Blackness emerged during European expansion in the Atlantic to justify the exploitation of Africans within the triangular trade and plantation system, just as later laws of racial superiority underwrote colonialism. Yet the concept of race has always been unstable within European discourse, despite the deliberate biologization of race across the nineteenth century. As a psycho-oneiric concept, race has operated by doubling or exceeding reality, while calls to race among Blacks aimed to create identities and preserve community. Black reason, taken as a set of heterogeneous discourses and practices, produced the Black Man as an animal presence, a site of savage exteriority. But Black reason as Black consciousness painted Africa as homeland or strange land, responsibility and opportunity, and found its voice in written histories and revolutionary activity. Today biopolitical warfare, surveillance, and security, alongside advances in genetics, signal a return of the biological as a means of enclosure.
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