The Association for African Studies in Germany (VAD) is deeply concerned about the increasingly polemic debate that has resulted from the invitation of Achille Mbembe as a guest speaker at the Ruhr-Triennale 2020. We are committed to equal, unprejudiced international cooperation, especially with academics in and from the African continent, in accordance with the VAD statutes. We firmly believe that German society needs more exchange with African intellectuals and see these goals being endangered by the climate of the current debate.
Achille Mbembe is – regrettably – one of the few voices from Africa that is widely recognised in Germany. Of course, this does not mean that his statements on Israel, which have now come under criticism, are beyond scrutiny. However, we are calling for an objective and nuanced debate, and are firmly opposed to bans on his appearances and unjustified sweeping accusations being levelled against him. The defamatory tone used towards Mbembe and his work is also being noted by intellectuals throughout Africa, who regard this debate as provincialism and navel-gazing at best.
– We plead for an objective approach to this debate. This applies in particular to the discussion on the relationship between post-colonialism and criticism of Israeli politics, as well as to the foundations of comparative genocide research.
– We call for a serious examination of the writings, arguments and theoretical positions of Achille Mbembe.
– We are committed to freedom of scholarship in Germany, Africa and worldwide. This must include making voices from the Global South heard in Germany. We expect the same commitment from decision-makers in Germany.
The chairman of the VAD
Prof. Hans Peter Hahn