Difference and Repetition: Reflections on the Current Political Moment

The European game having finally ended, at least so he thought, Frantz Fanon argued in The Wretched of the Earth that “we today can do everything”. In this lecture Mbembe reflects on the dialectics of the end/closure and boundless possibility evoked by Fanon and the ways it is played out under contemporary conditions. Using South Africa as a starting point, he will also assess the place contemporary struggles for emancipation assign to the key Fanonian concepts of time, creation and reconstitution and the extent to which they truly transcend the law of repetition, which he foresaw as the biggest threat to difference and newness.

Achille Mbembe is a Research Professor in History and Politics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, and a Visiting Professor in the Romance Studies Department and the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. He is a co-Convenor of The Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC) and the Editor of The Johannesburg Salon. He is the author of numerous books in French and is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his classic, On the Postcolony. His latest book, Sortir de la grande nuit (Editions La Decouverte, Paris, 2010) will be published in 2013 by Columbia University Press. Professors Wendy Brown (Political Science) and Donna Jones (English), and Critical Theory DE Milad Odabae (Anthropology) will provide remarks in an afternoon session following Professor Mbembe’s lecture.

Co-sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities.

Introduction: Introduction: Judith Butler, Professor of Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley