Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics

December 2020

At the outset of lockdown, some friends and I revived an old reading group we once had when we all lived in Los Angeles, holding weekly meetings over Zoom. Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics (Duke) was our anchor text. The book further defines and mobilizes the neologism of its title, the Cameroonian philosopher’s signature term from his famous 2003 essay of the same name. Mbembe writes that “becoming a subject . . . supposes upholding the work of death,” that politics and sovereignty are linked more to a “right to kill” than to the preservation of life. The language of freedom, democracy, and society are mere specters that mask this reality, the only truth of the subject.

The book is far-reaching in scope: There are long analyses of Frantz Fanon, digressions on the threat of technological singularity, and riffs on the position of the Black amid the various terrors humans bring upon

— Aria Dean

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