Articles on the Debate The Achille Mbembe Controversy

Achille Mbembe
Achille Mbembe | Photo (detail): Daniel Bockwoldt © dpa

Achille Mbembe was to give the opening speech of the now cancelled Ruhrtriennale in summer 2020, but there were protests against this invitation. Mbembe is accused of anti-Semitism, among other things. The accusations have sparked a virulent debate about the renowned thinker, German culture of remembrance and postcolonial studies.

Among those who protested against the African philosopher's invitation to speak at the opening of the Ruhrtriennale was Felix Klein, the German government's anti-Semitism commissioner. He accuses Achille Mbembe of relativising the Holocaust. In his academic writings, according to Klein, Mbembe also equated the state of Israel with the apartheid system in South Africa, which corresponds to “a familiar anti-Semitic pattern“.

Even though the art festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, Achille Mbembe has been the subject of a fierce controversy in the German media ever since. The dispute has now also met with a tremendous response abroad. In this section we present some of the key contributions that have already appeared in the German media and add to them other previously unpublished perspectives. In this debate, the online magazine Latitude also provides a platform for different opinions and perspectives.

More on the topic:

Jürgen Kaube: Lumping everything together
(Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.04.2020)

Achille Mbembe: Letter to the Germans
(Tageszeitung taz, 11.05.2020)

Ijoma Mangold: How Racist Is the West?
(DIE ZEIT No. 19/2020, 28.04.2020)

Michael Rothberg: The Specters of Comparison
(Latitude,, 15.05.2020)

Saba-Nur Cheema and Meron Mendel: Antisemitism as white space
(Tageszeitung taz, 25.04.2020)

Jörg Häntzschel: A brilliant thinker 
(Südeutsche Zeitung, 25.04.2020)

Sonja Zekri: Interpreting Trauma
(Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15.05.2020)

Peter Ullrich: A quest for clarity
(Tageszeitung taz, 05.05.2020)

Mark Terkessidis: Critique of Mbembian Reason
(Latitude,, 05.06.2020)

Ralf Michaels: Thought control in the name of remembrance culture
(Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 08.06.2020)