Achille Mbembe, the Cameroonian intellectual and leading voice in discussions around “African Futures,” has made Africa proud. This time around, the political theorist, author and educator based in South Africa, is the winner of the 2018 Gerda Henkel Prize. The 100,000 euro ($116,100) prize is for those conducting outstanding research in science and the humanities.

The selection committee for the Gerda Henkel Prize receives hundreds of nominations from research institutions all over the world.  This year, Africa stands tall as Achille Mbembe is the first African scholar to win the German foundation bi-annual prize. His work in philosophy, history, and political science made an incredible impact to broaden the history of politics in Africa’s modern era.

About Achille Mbembe

To begin with, Achille Mbembe was born in Cameroon in 1957. Apart from a Doctorate in History from the Sorbonne University, Paris, Mbembe also holds a DEA in Political Science still from a Paris institution.

Achille Mbembe Wins the €100,000 Gerda Henkel Prize for Research
Achille Mbembe

Recognized as one of the greatest contemporary theorists of post-colonialism, he has worked in many American universities and institutions. Moreover, his main interests revolve around Africa’s history, African politics and social sciences. He is currently a research professor in history and politics, working with Harvard University’s W.E.B. Dubois Research Institute.

Mbembe’s innovative approach to research on African politics and post-colonial theory caught the attention of the foundation. Also, His ability to go beyond typical analysis, to offer refreshing new ways of thinking about the future of the African society, made him the ideal candidate.

Gerda Henkel Institution’s Views on His Works

According to the Gerda Henkel Institution, his books, Critique of Black Reasonand Sortir de la grande nuit” are impressive testimonies of his efforts. These books, also translated into German, reflect Mbembe’s research throughout as a critical piece.

Achille Mbembe Wins the €100,000 Gerda Henkel Prize for Research
Author Achille Mbembe discussing Africa’s future

Besides, his deliberations on Africa’s place in the global order are both controversial and unsettling. This undoubtedly made an enduring mark even far beyond fundamental debates on post-colonialism. His works, thus, highlight links between colonialism, racism and capitalism that still require a more thorough discussion in Germany as well. 

His Other Works

Mbembe is known for his seminal book, On the Postcolony, which was published in 2002. His latest book, Critique of Black Reason, was published in 2013 (English translation in 2017). The book offers a capacious genealogy of the category of Blackness from the Atlantic slave trade to the present. 

Achille Mbembe Wins the €100,000 Gerda Henkel Prize for Research
His book Critique of Black Reason

It critically reevaluates history, racism and the future of humanity, as well as dismantling representations of blackness in Europe.

Certainly, the Cameroonian philosopher and political theorist is an ocean of knowledge. We can envisage a better Africa and a glorious future with rich minds as Mbembe in the continent.


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