Thoughts on the planetary: An interview with Achille Mbembe
October 5, 2019 3:32 AM   Subscribe

Excellent. Than you for posting.
posted by No Robots at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

from a few paragraphs in:

During Rhodes’ times, the exploitation of black labour went hand in hand with a virulent form of racism. Contemporary capitalism still relies on racial subsidies. But the technologies of racialisation have become ever more insidious and ever more encompassing. As the world becomes a huge data emporium, tomorrow’s technologies of racialisation will be more and more generated and instituted through data, calculation and computation. In short, racism is relocating both underneath and at the surface of the skin. It reproduces itself via screens and mirrors of various kinds. It is becoming both spectral and fractal

okay, I'm not doing any skimming.
posted by philip-random at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

... and then, second last paragraph:

We need to develop a broader understanding of “colonisation”. Knowledge systems worldwide are still underpinned by the logic of value extraction. In fact, knowledge as such is increasingly designed as the principal means for value extraction. Colonisation is going on when the world we inhabit is understood as a vast field of data awaiting extraction. Colonisation is going on when we throw out of the window the role of critical reason and theoretical thinking, and we reduce knowledge to the mere collection of data, its analysis and its use by governments, military bureaucracies and corporations. Colonisation is going on when we are surrounded by so-called smart devices that constantly watch us and record us, harvesting vast quantities of data, or when every activity is captured by sensors and cameras embedded within them. This is what colonisation in the 21st century is all about. It is about extraction, capture, the cult of data, the commodification of human capacity for thought and the dismissal of critical reason in favour of programming.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on October 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

Yes, thank you so much for posting. Here's a companion piece to Mbembe's point about "computational capitalism": Nick Couldry and Ulises Mejias's "Data Colonialism: Rethinking Big Data's Relation to the Contemporary Subject" which I think is a chapter from their recent The Costs of Connection.
posted by Hellgirl at 10:14 AM on October 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

This is absolutely outstanding. I might dispute some of Mbembe's points, but my disagreements are in the details rather than the substance. The clarity of thought and language here are wonderful to read, and his synthetic approach to critiquing the intersection of colonialism, capitalism, and computationalism is eye-opening. I was going to pull quote some of my favorite lines but I'd end up copy-pasting most of the interview.

Thanks for finding and sharing this.
posted by biogeo at 11:48 AM on October 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's not often that you read something that makes you re-evaluate your life, your values.
posted by SPrintF at 1:19 PM on October 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

but I'd end up copy-pasting most of the interview.

that was starting to happen to me, so I just opted for the two paragraphs posted above. Please, if you're reading this, don't think they begin to cover everything Achille Mbembe discusses. Not even close.
posted by philip-random at 1:25 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

truly.... this is an incredible critique of the world we find ourselves in.... each paragraph is so rich in itself.... it's going to take me days to really take this in (but in a savoring a fine weekend with a friend/lover kind of way)
posted by kokaku at 3:13 PM on October 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by supermedusa at 4:20 PM on October 5, 2019


I was struck by the ambition and vision here:
A planetary library, archive or, for that matter, curriculum is one whose strategic project is to understand the incalculable and the incomputable. It can only be based on the will to go beyond cognitivism.
posted by doctornemo at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is wonderful! He's going after people who want to quantify everything and ignore the purely qualitative aspects of reality. He's going after people who treat models and algorithms as pure truth instead of models and algorithms which come with some sort of error. He's going after people who actively, or would, make my life miserable as a programmer. Sure, I can code it up, but I would suggest not using it the way you want to, because there's a degree of uncertainty here which you're overlooking.

This is really really good
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:54 PM on October 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

philip-random, just a pedantic correction in case it confuses anyone else reading the entire article, that paragraph you note as 'second last' is actually followed by another 5 paragraphs or so, there's an ad in the middle by the publication website that might be confusing the issue.

Isn't he great? I first came across him a few years ago writing columns for various African national newspapers, the Ugandan one I think.

If y'all want to blast through filter bubbles, then following some well curated twitter handles from Africans in Africa and the diaspora is a great way to enter a headily different world of public intellectuals and intelligentsia - that's how this came my way yesterday morning
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:09 AM on October 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

Here is the unpaywalled version of the article Hellgirl links to, uploaded by Nick Couldry
posted by Mrs Potato at 1:21 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

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