A prominent francophone thinker and writer from sub-Saharan Africa, V. Y. Mudimbe is known for his interdisciplinary spirit in bridging Western and African modes of knowledge and in critiquing a range of disciplines, from the classics and philosophy to anthropology and comparative literature. Though Mudimbe has been regarded as an essential postcolonial thinker—on par with more canonized figures such as Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, and Homi Bhabha— The Mudimbe Reader offers for the first time a ground-breaking work of modern intellectual African history that includes new translations of essays which had previously been in French and out of print.
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.