Despite its difficulty, Achille Mbembe's careful study illuminates many aspects of 'postcoloniality', especially in regards to Africa. While many postcolonial theorists have focused almost exclusively on South Asia and Britain, basing their work on such diasphoric writers as Salman Rushdie and Michael Ondaatje, Mbembe takes a different stance, using philosophers such as Foucault to show the repercussions of the colonial endeavour. He then applies the traces of colonialism onto the emergent and now pseudo-independent postcolonial states, showing how power is exercised through the control of both the individual and collective body. Mbembe creates a theory of violence that applies to many newly emergent states around the world, illuminating how populations are controlled and abused by those who are supposed to be leading them. While writing this review, I end up falling into many of the pitfalls of postcolonial theory: long sentences, archaic terminology, etc. I assure you that Mbembe, despite the inevitable difficulties brought by the subject matter, is much easier to read than other theorists such as Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak. Additionally, his differing approach--unlike Spivak and Bhabha, he does not devote himself to deconstruction--is a breath of fresh air for those of us who look for readable, informative theory. As noted above, his focus on Africa is also greatly refreshing.
For “lovers” of hollow, post-modern clap-trap1, this is yet another fine “example” [I've punctuated this in the pointless style of the work itself, although Amazon doesn't allow italics, so the complete pretentiousness of the punctuation of the original cannot be shown in its full glory]. A sample: “More than any other region, Africa thus stands out as the supreme receptacle of the West’s obsession with, and circular discourse about, the facts of “absence,” “lack,” and “non-being” of identity and difference, of negativeness—in short, of “nothingness.”13 And, contrary to M. de Certeau’s view, the problem is not that Western thought posits the self (self-identity) as other than the other.14...’ And so on, endlessly and meaninglessly. I’m from the West, and I am not obsessed with nothingness, nor do I engage in circular discourses about it, or anything else (unless I’ve been drinking heavily, of course, which the M. Mbembe may well also have been while writing this nonsense). Indeed, I am so unobsessed with it that, finding this book to be full of it (great postmodern paradox: full of nothingness!243) my other than the other could not bear to read much more than the first few boring, convoluted pages. I posit that any potential readers do not spend money on it. I have certainly de-posited it in a receptacle—a waste receptacle.