The Gerda Henkel Prize was set up in 2006. It is awarded every two years to excellent and internationally acclaimed researchers who have demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement in the disciplines and funding areas supported by the Foundation and can be expected to continue to do so. The selection process includes an invitation to scholars of universities worldwide, as well as renowned cultural and academic institutions, to nominate qualified candidates. The Prize is open to scholars from all countries. Self-nominations are not accepted. Neither members of the Foundation Committees or the jury nor employees of the Gerda Henkel Foundation may participate in the nomination process or be nominated for the prize. 

Achille MBEMBE is a Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He was born in Cameroon and obtained his PhD in History at the Université de Paris I-Pantheon Sorbonne and a DEA in Politics at Sciences-Po (Paris).

He taught successively at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University. From 1996 to 2000, he was the Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). He has been a Visiting Professor in various academic institutions including Harvard University, Yale University, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Irvine and the Jakob-Fugger Zentrum of the University of Augsburg. 

Earlier in his career, he published extensively in African politics and history. His landmark work, “On the Postcolony” (Berkeley, University of California Press, 2001) has deeply influenced postcolonial thought and various other disciplines in the field of the humanities. 

The winner of many awards, including the 2018 Ernst Bloch Award and the 2015 Geschwister Scholl-Preis, he has powerfully contributed to the renewal of critical theory from a global Southern perspective with his later work (Sortir de la grande nuit, 2010; Critique de la raison negre, 2013; and Politiques de l’inimitie, 2016).

A wonderfully learned, rigorous and original mind, his many books have been translated in various languages, including German, Italian, Spanish, English, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish, Romanian and Arabic. 

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a worldly recognized public intellectual, Achille Mbembe is one of the leading and most recognizable voices writing today in French.