Amílcar Cabral’s Biopolitical Cultivation of Decolonial Revolution

Working hypothesis for this course’s project; any comments, criticisms, feedback, or suggestions are most welcome

In this essay, I argue that Amíclar Cabral’s praxis prior to and during Guinea-Bissau’s decolonial revolution provides an example of a lived articulation of an African biopolitical socialism that challenges the trajectory typical of some European biopolitical historiographies. The analysis of such a contestation not only allows one to move discourses on biopolitics to a transnational register without recourse to diffusionist philosophies of history, but also offers a manner in which to rethink revolutionary biopolitical socialism. First, the historical formation of Cabral’s biopolitical and revolutionary art of governance calls into question the often-implicit continental diffusionism to be found at work in European bioplitical histories. That is, to say that biopolitics itself ‘emerges in the West’ not only overlooks colonial historical geographies which often prove to be testing grounds for violent biopolitical management, but also assumes that the very notion of ‘the West’ proves useful for historical-philosophical analysis. Secondly, Cabral’s revolutionary biopolitical socialism challenges Foucault’s (Eurogenic) biopolitical history in which racism constitutes an endogenous sine qua non. Cabral and the PAIGC’s persistent attempts to combat Portuguese colonialism and not ‘the Portuguese’ or ‘Europeans’ as a biological race exemplifies an attempt to inaugurate an explicitly antiracist biopolitical socialism, and this complicates the borders of the Foucauldian narrative. Finally, insofar as Cabral framed Guinean decolonization as part of the process of the rehistoricization of Africa; and insofar as Cabral’s revolutionary biopolitical socialism aided in the overthrow of five hundred years of colonial rule; one need not simply track various inherent “Western” biopolitical tendencies from Greece to their explosion in Nazi biocracy. In its qualified yet noteworthy successes, and against the materially and socially inscribed inertia of five hundred years of slavery, labor-extraction, violent exploração, and so forth, the revolutionary and biopolitical art of governance articulated by Cabral aids in the accomplishment of one of his primary goals (as Tsenay Serequeberhan notes), namely, in reclaiming the self-creative historicity of Africa by means of revolutionary thought and action.



Agamben, Girogio. Homo Sacer.

Cabral, Amilcar. Analise de Alguns Tipos de Resistencia.

——————-.  Guinée, Cap Vert, face au colonialisme portugais.

——————-. Unity and Struggle.

Dean, Mitchell. “’Demonic Societies:’ Liberalism, Biopolitics, and Sovereignty.”

Esposito, Roberto. Bios.

Foucault, Michel. History of Sexuality.

———————. Society must be Defended.

Graeber, David. Possibilities.

Serequeberhan, Tsenay. The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy.


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2 Responses to Amílcar Cabral’s Biopolitical Cultivation of Decolonial Revolution

  1. grockhil says:

    This is an excellent topic that overlaps with many of the themes of the seminar but also explores territory that we did not explicitly engage with in our analysis. In formulating a critique of diffusionist histories of biopolitics, it might be worth developing a reflexion on alternative cultural geographies. Sometimes criticisms of diffusionism remain entrenched in a very specific geographic framework in which they attempt to show that a particular phenomenon was or is already present in a “non-European” community. The risk of such approaches is that they simply maintain a questionable opposition between Europe and the rest of the world. I would be curious to see how much of your project could also speak to a rethinking of this implicit cultural geography.
    On a slightly different note, your project reminded me of Angela Davis’ critique of Foucualt’s Eurocentrism and his lack of engagement with racial questions (see chapters 5-6 of “The Angela Y. Davis Reader).

  2. danielallenwood says:

    Hi Dr. Rockhill,

    Thank you for your comments and suggestions for further reading. Our various discussions in class (and the presentation on historical ontology) have led me to think about these more methodological questions surrounding the historical framing of revolutionary thought. Specifically, I have begun to try to think through the ways in which certain histories of philosophy present a contingent ‘northwestward’ march through time as though it were necessary or tied to a telos or spirit. In this paper I want to situate what I see as the biopolitical tonalities of Cabral’s socialism within a historical geography that breaks with the borders/timelines offered by Foucault, Agamben, and Esposito. I want to avoid moral argumentation (i.e., so-and-so also exhibits biopolitical forms of thought, so we should include them) and instead argue for a radicalization of genealogical method combined with an eschewal of the categories of ‘West’ and ‘South’ in favor of the concepts of world-systems analysis. I think the upcoming sessions will probably help to develop this as well.

    Thanks again,


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