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Raw, naked and masculine

Forfatter: Achille Mbembe
Forlag: La Découverte (Paris)
RACISM?: Before it was the Baroque that seduced Mbembe, now it is brutalism – used as an analytical breaking point to understand Africa and its relationship with Europe.

I am very fond of Achille Mbembe, but as I strive through his new book brutalism, it strikes me that I can hardly put into words the cause of this love.

I fell in love with him in 1992 when I read his article "The banality of power and the aesthetics of vulgarity in the postcolony" in the journal Public Culture. The essay was so controversial that the magazine devoted its entire next issue to the reactions it caused. Some praised Mbembe, believing that he analyzed the post-colonial state of Africa with the irony of everyday language and great intellectual capacity. Others wrote he had misunderstood what power and dominance meant in the post-colonial Africa, and that he was only preoccupied with his own seductive but content-less language.

Mbembe himself was very clear that he used the language in a way that could be seen as ambiguous, open and dynamic, but claimed that the language used to protect people in the postal colonies: “What defines the postcolonial subject is the ability to engage in Baroque Practices that are fundamentally ambiguous, fluid and modifiable even in instances where there are clear, written and precise rules. ”

So it was Baroque who seduced Mbembe. Now it is brutal ism, another artistic style, he uses as analytical breakthrough to understand Africa and its relationship to Europe. Brutalism is understood as raw, naked, masculine, the essence of which is to "transform humanity into matter and energy" (p.15).

Brutalism and virilism

I was still an Mbembe enthusiast when he published the essay "Sex, bouffe et obscénité politique" in 1995. In French, the title has a number of subtle interpretive possibilities, since "sex" can mean both sex and gender, "bouffe" is slang for food, but also for corruption, and "obscénité politique" can be translated either with obscene politics. . .

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Ketil Fred Hansen
Hansen is a professor of social sciences at UiS and a regular reviewer at Ny Tid.

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