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 Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of On the Postcolony as well as several books in French.
Laurent Dubois is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History and Director of the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.
The Clinic of the Subject
“Black,” the color of night and nothingness, is a name given by someone else, an insult, a habit, and a way of being, but also a mechanism for objectification and degradation. For Marcus Garvey, Blackness was not lack but the possibility for redemption within the “African empire.” Aimé Césaire’s race-based critique refigured the world community as a plurality of singularities and differences. Liberation movements are indebted to Fanonian discourse on revolutionary violence, but Frantz Fanon’s politics must be situated within his own experiences of colonial violence during war in Algeria. His call to violence was a call to give death, while the violence endured signaled clinical regeneration, healing in the face of trauma, struggle, and the rise of humanity. Nelson Mandela’s life authored and mirrored the desire for abolition that persists today. His and others’ emancipatory and redemptive strivings for the in-common are visible in classic Black art and Christian traditions.