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The Mudimbe Reader

V. Y. Mudimbe. Edited by Pierre-Philippe Fraiture and Daniel Orrells

BUY Cloth · 280 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939100 · $75.00 · Oct 2016
BUY Paper · 280 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939117 · $35.00 · Oct 2016
BUY Ebook · 280 pp. · ISBN 9780813939124 · $35.00 · Oct 2016

A prominent francophone thinker and writer from sub-Saharan Africa, V. Y. Mudimbe is known for his efforts to bridge Western and African modes of knowledge and for his critiques of a range of disciplines, from classics and philosophy to anthropology and comparative literature. The Mudimbe Reader offers for the first time a ground-breaking work of modern intellectual African history from this essential postcolonial thinker, including new translations of essays previously unavailable in English.

Constituting an intellectual history of the humanities in the late twentieth century from an African intellectual’s point of view, The Mudimbe Reader provides an introduction and a comprehensive bibliography that frame four thematic gatherings of Mudimbe’s writings. Part 1 bears witness to Mudimbe’s attempts, as a university professor in the new nation-state of Zaire, to balance the postindependence discourse of authenticity with his training in Western philosophy and philology. Part 2 focuses on Mudimbe’s exploration of racial, ethnic, and religious discourses to reflect upon postcolonialism in Zaire and in the United States. In the third part, Mudimbe interrogates ancient Greek and Latin texts as a strategy to engage the legacy of antiquity for European and African modernity. Finally, the book concludes by focusing on visual culture and Mudimbe’s recurring attempt to elucidate how African "primitiveness" has been constructed, challenged, dismissed, and reinvented from the Renaissance to the present day.


The Mudimbe Reader presents exhaustively researched, eloquently crafted, and deeply insightful writings by one of the towering figures in francophone African studies. Mudimbe’s work is extraordinarily diverse and wide-ranging in terms of the intellectual and historical questions with which it engages. This collection, which is intelligently organized and includes a number of previously hard-to-find texts, represents a major contribution to a broad spectrum of disciplines in African studies.

Michael Syrotinski, University of Glasgow, author of Deconstruction and the Postcolonial: At the Limits of Theory

Valentin Mudimbe is an expansive thinker whose work, always inflected with a touch of audacity and generosity, ranges across a host of disciplines and theoretical modalities. The Mudimbe Reader captures the spirit of this remarkable intellectual's oeuvre by bringing us much of his vast corpus. There are newly translated essays and a knowledgeable introduction that provides a superb overview of Mudimbe's trajectory. The Mudimbe Reader traces his thinking from its origins in the Congo through his stay in Europe to his current standing as one of the most erudite critics in the United States.

Grant Farred, Cornell University, author of What's My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals

The Mudimbe Reader offers an excellent primer on the influential work of V Y Mudimbe.... Mudimbe’s style is at times exploratory and erudite, at others dense and abstruse. Yet, as this book reaffirms,he is rightly positioned as one of the foremost ‘undisciplined’ thinkers of the African continent and as a formidable critic of Africa’s discursive formation in the global imagination.


About the Author(s): 

V. Y. Mudimbe is a Congolese philosopher, professor, and author of poems and novels as well as numerous books and articles on African culture and intellectual history, including his landmark book The Invention of Africa. Pierre-Philippe Fraiture is Professor of French at the University of Warwick. Daniel Orrells is Associate Professor in Ancient Greek Language and Literature at King's College London.

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