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Critique de la Raison Négre: A Review

By Elaine Coburn

This piece was originally published at It is re-published here with permission from both the author and editor

Elaine Coburn is a researcher at the CADIS-EHESS and assistant professor at the American University of Paris, in Paris, France. She was the Editor of the interdisciplinary online journal Socialist Studies for five years, ending in the summer 2014. She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Book review:
In 1959, a young Jewish student named Marshall Berman (2000) hazarded upon Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscript of 1844. He was so amazed by what he read, he immediately went out to the nearest Soviet-subsidized bookstore and bought copies for everyone he knew. Re-reading his original copy, years later, he discovered that he had underlined virtually every line in the book. Reading Achille Mbembe’s Critique de la Raison Nègre inspires the same kind of enthusiasm. Currently only available in French, it’s a book that you want to shout about from the rooftops, so that all of your colleagues and friends will read it. My copy, only a few months old, is stuffed with paper markers at many intervals, suggesting the richness of analysis and description on nearly every page. It is not a perfect book. For instance, Mbembe is almost relentlessly masculinist in standpoint and language, so that you can already imagine a Black feminist re-telling that challenges this “malestream” account, so building new, necessary layers to his analysis. He does not explicitly consider how the liberation struggles of the “Nègre” might act in concert and in tension with other liberatory movements, for instance, by still-colonized Indigenous peoples. He emphasizes literary, artistic and intellectual figures, although not exclusively, so that it is possible to imagine another re-telling, this time centering the everyday struggles of many ordinary people designated as “Nègre” over the last centuries. Notwithstanding these important limitations, this is certainly one of the outstanding intellectual contributions to studies of empire, colonialism, racism and human liberation in the last decade, perhaps decades. Indeed, I fear I can hardly do Mbembe’s book justice in this brief review. With that preface...

Friends of Hezekiah ben Habakkuk, bar mitzvah boy, in Abuja, Nigeria. (by William F.S. Miles)

Judaism Added to the African Studies Agenda

IMAGE: Friends of Hezekiah ben Habakkuk, bar mitzvah boy, in Abuja, Nigeria. (by William F.S. Miles)

by Len Lyons

This article was originally published in Tablet Magazine on December 30th, 2014

For the first time in its 57-year history, the African Studies Association’s annual conference this year offered panels discussing the rising tide of Black Judaism—communities in sub-Saharan Africa and in the African Diaspora identifying themselves as descendants of Jews or practicing some form of Judaism. I attended the November conference along with 1,600 participants from 30 countries, and presented new research on Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Five other researchers and authors in the field of Black Judaism also contributed to the panels.

ASA launches the First Time Attendee Breakfast at the 57th Annual Meeting

by Kathryn Salucka

The African Studies Association launched the First Time Attendee Breakfast in November 2014 at the 57th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN. This event was an initiative designed to assist new attendees as they navigate their way through the ASA Annual Meeting. More than 60 first time members attended the breakfast, which featured a welcome from ASA President James Pritchett. First time attendees benefitted from the insight of several ASA members, including Ousseina Alidou, Abena Busia, Odile Cazenave, Clifton Crais, Peter Limb, Pearl Robinson, and Ahmed Samatar. The ASA is grateful for these volunteers, and for the generous support of Mary Beth Riner and the Indiana University School of Nursing, without whom the breakfast could not take place. First time Annual Meeting attendee Madoda Ntaka of the South Africa Business Centre, Argentina, noted the importance of this event, saying the breakfast was “a great opportunity to interact with other participants and gain experience and knowledge,” and “[ASA President James Pritchett] furnished us with valuable tips to take into account when attending the panels or roundtables, in particular how to handle and manage the program.” If you were a first time member and attendee in 2014 and missed the breakfast, we encourage you to attend in 2015. If you have any feedback or suggestions stemming from your participation in the 2014 event, please share them with the Secretariat and email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

The ASA is excited to continue the First Time Attendee Breakfast at the 58th Annual Meeting in San Diego, and welcome any members who wish to participate and provide guidance to new attendees. If you would like to volunteer for this event, or if your institution would be interested in sponsoring the breakfast in San Diego, please contact ASA Program Manager Kathryn Salucka at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


Film Screenings at ASA 2014

By Ken Harrow

Professor Ken Harrow organizes the ASA conference film screenings, and also coordinates the video marketplace in the exhibit hall

In November of 2014 we screened two films for the ASA conference. In addition to providing dozens of dvds for attendees to view at the Exhibit hall, we determined that projecting two important films, one on Friday and another on Saturday, might best fit the schedules of people attending the conference, what with all the other obligations and panels competing for people’s time.

Indianapolis 2014: Thank you

by Kathryn Salucka

We can’t believe that it’s been almost two months since the 57th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis! We had a blast meeting new members, attending keynote lectures, and seeing the cutting-edge research that was presented. We enjoyed following the conversation and getting your feedback through our app, through #ASA2014, and through our surveys. The ASA greatly appreciates your participation in these surveys, as we use your responses to learn what we did right, and where we still need to improve. We’re already starting to plan for the 2015 Annual Meeting in sunny San Diego, and we hope we see you there.

In the meantime, we’ve loved reading recaps of the Annual Meeting by attendees. You can see some of them here:

Literary Studies at the African Studies Association 2014: Review
Africa Meets the (mid)West
Oromo Studies Scholars Bring Important Topics to the Table at ASA Meeting in Indianapolis

If you wrote a recap you’d like us to include in this post, please email us the link at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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