FFS 395 - Thinking Africa: Conversations on the Thought of Achille Mbembe
Semester Offered: Spring
(Same as AFRS 395 and POLI 395 ) The Intensive examines a select number of texts by Achille Mbembe, the Cameroonian postcolonial theorist and author of De La Postcolonie: Essai sur l’Imagination Politique dans L’Afrique Contemporaine (2000) [On The Postcolony (2001)], “Necropolitics” (2003), Sortir de la Grande Nuit (2010), Critique de la Raison Nègre (2013) [Critique of Black Reason (2016)]. Charting Mbembe’s intellectual history, the major debates and concepts he engages, and their implication for thinking with and about Africa, we discuss the complexity of an African thinker reflecting on the condition of a continent (and humanity at large).
A goal of this Intensive is to develop a greater critical fluency on what it means to think, read and write the world from Africa. With insights from Mbembe’s corpus and the work of his interlocutors, the Intensive explores the stakes of Mbembe’s thought and relates them to other lines of inquiry, reflection, and creativity. Working individually and collaboratively, the students undertake a large writing, translation, or creative project which engages an element of Mbembe’s work and relates it to an area of their intellectual interest.
This intensive is organized as a peer-to-peer, inter-disciplinary conversation hinging on three main activities: 1. Textual exegesis, translation (from French to English) of interviews, podcasts, and conference presentations, and critique. 2. Participation in two student-organized workshops with Mbembe’s interlocutors from different disciplines, e.g., Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Philosophy/French, Columbia University) and Abdourahman Waberi (Literature and Creative Writing, George Washington University). 3. Ongoing conversation and guided independent studies with the two professors teaching the intensive as they edit a volume on the themes of this intensive.
Working in English and French, this team-taught intensive allows students to collaboratively explore Mbembe’s ideas in ways that might not be possible in a traditional senior seminar. Our discussions will take place in English, with the French and Francophone Studies students reading some of the texts and writing their assignments in French for FFS credit. Patricia-Pia Célérier and Samson Opondo.
One 2-hour period.
Course Format: INT
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