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Bound to Violence?: Achille Mbembe's On the Postcolony

Adeleke Adeeko


Achille Mbembe, in this lucid and tightly argued book, first struck me as indeed the afro-pessimist he has been accused by some to be. Mbembe carpets both the theory and practice of politics in Africa, condemning as banal most critical reflections on the excesses of the African state. Literary protests and editorial cartoons that caricature the excesses, eruptions, and excretions of Camerouns Paul Biya are dismissed as gestures that actually confirm the potentates projected self image. Because I am always very wary of social theories that blame hapless citizens for their own social plight, I developed some initial misgiving about Mbembes project. But I had a reason to reread Chinua Achebes Anthills of the Savannah soon after reading On the Postcolony. Then I reconsidered my reflex rejection of Mbembes thesis that modern existence in Africa is one strange carnival in which a pervasive atmosphere of macabre conviviality binds the potentate and the dominated in a drawn out orgy of violence and death. The more I thought of the conditions of the African society depicted in Achebes noveland Achebe has never been pessimistic about African culturesin light of Mbembes claims, and vice-versa, the firmer my conviction grew that Mbembes philosophy may after all be realist, despite its pervasive symbolism and imagism.

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West Africa Review. ISSN: 1525-4488 (online).
Editors: Adeleke Adeeko, Nkiru Nzegwu, and Olufemi Taiwo.

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