Achille Mbembe, Necro-politics. Durham. Duke University Press, 2019. viii + 213 pages. Paperback, $25.95.

AuthorGilliam, Kendall L.
PositionArticle 10

Necro-politics by Achille Mbembe is a work that combines theory, politics, and race. It provides the reader with an opportunity to dive through a depth of knowledge of political, social, and postcolonial theory. Mbembe begins Necro-politics with a short introduction, "The Ordeal of The World," that presents his scholar advocacy borderless writing style, without control points, but with a wealth of knowledge.

Necro-politics is divided into eight sections, six chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion. These sections provide insight into what Mbembe refers to as the dark side of democracy, political violence, post-colonialism, and the history of decolonization. Mbembe's approaches to each section vary throughout the book. The author makes use of Frantz Fanon's political and psychiatric work to form his arguments on war as the religion of today and to question the transformation of politics into business, which he theorizes runs the risk of eliminating the possibility of politics.

In chapter one, "Exit from Democracy," Mbembe begins by stating his aim to contribute from Africa, where he is from, resides, and writes. This chapter introduces his idea of "The Nocturnal Body of Democracy" or the dark side of democracy, which is based on the same fears, desires, and violence that fueled colonialism. Mbembe touches on what he describes as the ideal life in a democracy, which is peaceful and violence-free, but notes the violence of democracies --its necropolitical principle--has been metaphorically "swept under the rug" (p16). The author notes how the United States began with a pro-slavery democracy and now projects ideas of peace in the West which is dependent upon inflicting violence elsewhere. It institutionalizes a pattern of inequality on a global scale to fulfill our desires of today, transformed from yesterday's colonialism. Towards the chapter's end Mbembe touches on terror and counterterror as being "a relation without desire" (p33). Racism, the main driver behind the necropolitical principle, creates a toxic cycle of being a victim to executioner then back to being the victim.

In "The Society of Enmity" Mbembe continues with a critique of the tactic of separation found in societies throughout history. It's first section "The Terrifying Object" focuses on the United States' desire for an enemy, an enemy we objectify, e.g., foreigners, refugees, Arabs, all intruders. Mbembe reminds us of South Africa's apartheid, the Palestine and Israeli...

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