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Achille Mbembe on Language - Dictionary of Arguments
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Language/Mbembe/Herb: Mbembe is looking for a new "vocabulary" (Mbembe 2016(1), 66) that frees African discourse from the hegemony of Western categories and designs new forms of thought for the African subject. "Postcolony" is the main word of the new vocabulary. Mbembe gives a first definition of this.
Def Postcolony/Mbembe: appears here as "epoch", "peculiarity" or "zeitgeist". "As an epoch, the postcolony in fact comprises manifold periods of time, consisting of overlapping, nested and enclosing discontinuities, overturns, inertia, fluctuations" (66). It goes without saying for Mbembe that such an undertaking cannot be mastered with the linear concepts of time of traditional African studies and ethnological field studies.
"Commandement." [is] the new basic word of colonial and post-colonial domination. For Mbembe - following Derrida - colonial sovereignty can be defined in three ways: as founding, meaningful and ratifying violence. (2016, 73-125).
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Postcolonialism/Mbembe: The colonial language is anything but understanding and consensus-oriented. "Its main purpose is to transmit orders, enforce silence, prescribe, censor and intimidate" (2016, 257). Language turns out to be an instrument of rule, it becomes a "guillotine" (260). The colonial vocabulary is used to dress and prepare the victims of the colony. In practice, violence and sex go hand in hand. For Mbembe, colonial rule is phallocracy in the literal sense.
Hegel/Mbembe: In the Africa picture in Hegel's The Reason in History (Mbembe 2016(1), 252) he discovers the archetypes of the colonial language. Hegel sees Africa as a continent of drives, its inhabitant, the Negro, as an animalistic driving force. In his character there is "nothing to be found that reminds one of humanity" (253). Admittedly, Hegel with his anticipation of the verbal economy is from the view of Mbembe
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not only an accomplice, but also a commentator on colonialism. With his theory of self-consciousness, Hegel provides the keywords for the postcolonial debate on alterity. (Cf. Fanon 1981(2); Spivak 2013(3)).
1. Achille Mbembe, De la postcolonie. Essai sur l’imagination politique dans l’Afrique contemporaine, Paris 2000. Dt.: Achille Mbembe, Postkolonie. Zur politischen Vorstellungskraft im Afrika der Gegenwart, Wien/Berlin 2016
2. Fanon, Frantz, Die Verdammten dieser Erde, Frankfurt/M. 1981.
3. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, Kritik der postkolonialen Vernunft. Hin zu einer Geschichte der verrinnenden Gegenwart, Stuttgart 2013.
Karlfriedrich Herb, „Achille Mbembe, Postkolonie (2000)“. in: Manfred Brocker (Hg.) Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M. 2018_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Geschichte des politischen Denkens. Das 20. Jahrhundert Frankfurt/M. 2018
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