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Achille Mbembe’s Critique of Black Reason offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness

Critique of Black Reason
With Critique of Black Reason, Achille Mbembe reaffirms his position as one of the most original and significant thinkers of our times working out of Francophone traditions of anti-imperial and postcolonial criticism. His voyages in this book through a painstakingly assembled archive of empire, race, slavery, blackness, and liberation – an archive that Mbembe both reconfigures and interrogates at the same time – produce profound moments of reflection on the origin and nature of modernity and its mutations in the contemporary phase of global capital. A tour de force that will renew debates on capital, race, and freedom in today’s world.
— Dipesh Chakrabarty

Achille Mbembe speaks authoritatively for black life, addressing the whole world in an increasingly distinctive tone of voice. This long-anticipated book resounds with the embattled, southern predicament from which its precious shards of wisdom originate. There is nothing provincial about the philosopher’s history it articulates. Mbembe sketches the entangled genealogies of racism and black thought on their worldly travels from the barracoons and the slave ships, through countless insurgencies into the vexed mechanisms of decolonization and then beyond them, into our own bleak and desperate circumstances.
— Paul Gilroy

In Critique of Black Reason eminent critic Achille Mbembe offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness – from the Atlantic slave trade to the present – to critically reevaluate history, racism, and the future of humanity. Mbembe teases out the intellectual consequences of the reality that Europe is no longer the world’s center of gravity while mapping the relations between colonialism, slavery, and contemporary financial and extractive capital. Tracing the conjunction of Blackness with the biological fiction of race, he theorizes Black reason as the collection of discourses and practices that equated Blackness with the nonhuman in order to uphold forms of oppression. Mbembe powerfully argues that this equation of Blackness with the nonhuman will serve as the template for all new forms of exclusion. With Critique of Black Reason, Mbembe offers nothing less than a map of the world as it has been constituted through colonialism and racial thinking while providing the first glimpses of a more just future.

CONTENTS
Translator’s Introduction
Acknowledgments
Introduction. The Becoming Black of the World
1. The Subject of Race
2. The Well of Fantasies
3. Difference and Self-Determination
4. The Little Secret
5. Requiem for the Slave
6. The Clinic of the Subject
Epilogue. There Is Only One World
Notes

Critique of Black Reason

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Read an excerpt from Michael Neocosmos’s Thinking Freedom in Africa

Thinking Freedom in Africa The Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a theory of emancipatory politics by Michael Neocosmos.

The book, published by Wits University Press and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award, explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation.

The excerpt reads:

How are we to begin to think about emancipation in Africa today after the collapse of the Marxist, the Third World nationalist and the neoliberal visions of freedom?

How are we to conceptualise an emancipatory future governed by a fidelity to the idea of a universal humanity in a context where humanity no longer features in our ambit of thought and when previous ways of thinking emancipation have become obsolete?

In the formulation made famous by Frantz Fanon on the last page of The Wretched of the Earth, how are we to “work out new concepts” for a new humanism?

Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a Theory of Emancipatory Politics seeks answers to these questions in the light of what has become apparent, namely the absence of a thought of politics in all three of these conceptions of universal history today.

You can read the coverage of the launch of Thinking Freedom in Africa here.
 
 

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Lauding a “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 
Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South AfricaSol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present, a new book looking at Sol Plaatje’s most famous work, was recently launched at Wits University.

Authored by various South African academics and edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bhekizizwe Peterson, the book is a selection of essays. Khwezi Mkhize and Peter Limb are among the contributors.

Plaatje was a journalist and founding Secretary General of the African National Congress, then the South African Native National Congress.

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 

Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was published during World War I, at a time when the country was under British rule, said Willan, editor and contributor to the current book. Native Life had been written in response to the Natives Land Act passed in 1913, Willan said. In the ensuing years, Plaatje would write the book during a state of emergency and time of duress.

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 
Plaatje had published the book despite many obstacles stacked against him, Willan said. Little money, travelling on horseback to record the impact of the Natives Land Act on black people, and facing critics who didn’t want the book published were just some of the challenges in Plaatje’s way.

Willan called Plaatje’s determination a “superhuman effort”.

“We should think of the story behind the book,” Willan said. “It’s amazing, what Plaatje had to do to publish a book. It could easily not have happened.”

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 

Mkhize said he had at first been disappointed in reading Native Life, finding the book “longwinded” and “weird”. But after getting over the initial disappointment, Mkhize said he believes Native Life could be useful “to figure what other kind of thoughts and imaginaries” are possible.

And while Plaatje’s efforts to convince the British government to repeal the Act failed, Mkhize said they inspired him regardless.

Mkhize’s essay in the book is titled “African Intellectual History, Black Cosmopolitanism and Native Life in South Africa”.

2016 marks Native Life’s first centennial.

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Don’t miss a celebration of the life and work of Solomon T Plaatje with the launch of a new book at Wits

Invitation to the launch of Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present

 
Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South Africa: Past and PresentWits University Press and WiSER invite you to a celebration of the life and work of Solomon T Plaatje with the launch of a new book, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bhekizizwe Peterson.

Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of the South Africa’s most talented early 20th-century black intellectuals and journalists. Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act.

Join us for a discussion on how and why Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today.

Brian Willan, Keith Breckenridge, Khwezi Mkhize and Khumisho Moguerane will speak at the event, which which be chaired by Catherine Burns.

Event Details

  • Date: Wednesday, 16 November 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room
    6th Floor Richard Ward Building
    East Campus
    Wits University | Map
  • Chair: Catherine Burns
  • Refreshments: Drinks and snacks will be served.
  • RSVP: info.witspress@wits.ac.za

Book Details

Don’t miss the launch of Fees Must Fall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South Africa

Invitation to the launch of Fees Must Fall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South Africa

 
Fees Must Fall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South AfricaCity Press and Wits University Press have the pleasure of inviting you to the launch of a new book, Fees Must Fall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South Africa, edited by Susan Booysen.

#FeesMustFall, the student revolt that began in October 2015, was an uprising against lack of access to, and financial exclusion from, higher education in South Africa. More broadly, it radically questioned the sociopolitical dispensation resulting from the 1994 social pact between big business, the ruling elite and the liberation movement.

Join us for a discussion with Booysen and some of the contributors to the book, Darlene Miller, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Vishwas Satgar and Refiloe Lepere.

City Press lifestyle editor and columnist Gugulethu Mhlungu will be moderating the discussion.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 15 November 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Wits School of Governance
    2 St David’s Place,
    Donald Gordon Auditorium,
    Parktown
    Joburg | Map
  • Moderator: Gugulethu Mhlungu
  • RSVP: info.witspress@wits.ac.za

Book Details

Night of the playwrights: John Kani chats to Craig Higginson, Harry Kalmer and Neil Coppen at Love Books

Night of the playwrights: John Kani chats to Craig Higginson, Harry Kalmer and Neil Coppen at Love Books
Nothing But the TruthMissingThree PlaysDie Bram Fischer WalsTin Bucket Drum

 

Wits University Press and Love Books have the pleasure of inviting you to join four award-winning playwrights to celebrate their plays published with Wits University Press.

John Kani, author of much-loved plays Nothing But the Truth and Missing, will be in conversation with Craig Higginson (Three Plays), Harry Kalmer (Die Bram Fischer Wals and The Bram Fischer Waltz), and Neil Coppen (Tin Bucket Drum).

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 08 November 2016
  • Time: 6:00 PM for 6:30 PM
  • Venue: Love Books
    The Bamboo Lifestyle Centre
    53 Rustenburg Road
    Melville
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: John Kani
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: info.witspress@wits.ac.za

Book details

Don’t miss the launch of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present at Clarke’s Bookshop

Invitation to the launch of Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present

 
Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South Africa: Past and PresentWits University Press and Clarke’s Bookshop invite you to the launch of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present, edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bhekizizwe Peterson, this evening.

What were the local and global intellectual and cultural influences on Plaatje when he wrote Native Life? Sean O’Toole, contributor to the book will be in conversation with Bheki Peterson (co-editor), and contributors Khwezi Mkhize and André Odendaal reflecting on how Plaatje’s Native Life came into being and how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today.

Not to be missed!

Event Details

Book Details

Don’t miss the launch of Leon de Kock’s Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing at Love Books

Invitation to the launch of Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing by Leon de Kock

 
Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid WritingWits University Press and Love Books have the pleasure of inviting you to the launch of Leon de Kock’s new book, Losing the Plot: Crime, Reality and Fiction in Postapartheid Writing.

What does South African writing look like in the “post-postapartheid” era, the period in which the high expectations of 1994 and the golden era of the Mandela presidency turned sour? What is a “Postapartheid Writer”?

Poet, novelist and literary critic Leon de Kock will be in conversation with Simon van Schalkwyk, literature scholar and lecturer at Wits University.

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 13 October 2016
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Love Books
    The Bamboo Centre
    53 Rustenburg Road
    Melville
    Johannesburg | Map
  • Interviewer: Simon van Schalkwyk
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: Corina van der Spoel, Corina.vanderspoel@wits.ac.za

Book Details

2016 Mail & Guardian Literary Festival celebrates the life and work of Sol Plaatje

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Lover of His PeopleSol Plaatje's Native Life in South AfricaSol PlaatjeThree PlaysThe Spirit of Marikana

 
The seventh annual Mail & Guardian Literary Festival will take place on 8 and 9 October in Newtown, Johannesburg at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

The festival will mark the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sol Plaatje, novelist, poet, translator, chronicler and founder member of what is now the African National Congress (9 October, 1876).

Find the full programme and all info about the venue and tickets below.

Event Details

Have a look at the programme:

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Book details

Join Mark Sanders, Hlonipha Mokoena and Dilip Menon for the launch of Learning Zulu: A Secret History of Language in South Africa

Invitation to the launch of Learning Zulu: A Secret History of Language in South Africa

 
Learning Zulu: A Secret History of Language in South AfricaWits University Press has the pleasure of inviting you to the launch of Mark Sanders’s new book, Learning Zulu: A Secret History of Language in South Africa.

This book, with its extraordinary mix of linguistics, literary criticism, cultural studies, psychoanalytic theory, and autobiography/memoir analysis will be discussed in conversation with the author, as well as Hlonipha Mokoena (historian and researcher – WiSER) and Dilip Menon (Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa [CISA] at Wits).

Ostensibly about one man’s quest to acquire a language, Learning Zulu is a clever, surprising, and enlightening journey into 150 years of South African history. Nobody has written quite this subtly about race and language in South Africa in a long while.

- Jonny Steinberg, University of Oxford

Sanders is professor of comparative literature at New York University. His books include Complicities: The Intellectual and Apartheid and Ambiguities of Witnessing: Law and Literature in the Time of a Truth Commission.

This event is hosted in association with The Wits City Institute and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS).

Space is limited and RSVP is essential – see details below. See you there!

Event Details

Book Details