This was required reading for a graduate course in the Humanities. Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 - December 6, 1961) was a Martinique-born French author and essayist. He was perhaps the preeminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.
"The Wretched of the Earth" (French: Les Damnés de la Terre, first published 1961) is Frantz Fanon's best-known work, written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule. As a psychiatrist, Fanon explored the psychological effect of colonization on the psyche of a nation as well as its broader implications for building a movement for decolonization. A controversial introduction to the text by Jean-Paul Sartre presents the thesis as an advocacy of violence. This focus derives from the book's opening chapter `Concerning Violence' which is a caustic indictment of colonialism and its legacy. It discusses violence as a means of liberation and a catharsis to subjugation. It also details the violence of the colonialism as a process itself.
Structural politics of race and making oneself is a continuous theme of Pan Africanism 1950's, 60's. Colonialism is toppled , growing awareness of colonial conditions and kinds of people that emerge from it, no one comes out of it unchanged both colonizers and subjects recognize colonialism is product of Enlightenment reason a perversion of what it stood for and its ideals. Some enlightenment thinkers justified feelings of superiority, people of science over people of mythology. All people are transformed by colonization. Many justify the economy of colonization, such as in the Belgian Congo. The colonizer has to invent a new human being, the colonized.
Sigmund Freud and W. E. B. Du Bois are intellectual fathers of Fanon. Colonialism depersonalizes people in their own country. The Theory of Manichean logic is a society structured around race. Social and racial structure of colonialism is Manichean. It is an us or them mentality, no in between. Black is bad, white is good, etc. Fanon argues that to get over this; a new world must be created. This is a Utopian idea. He advocates revolution and violence. Fanon finds that a 20th century preoccupation with violence becomes formative of the subject. This is his theme of 20th century philosophy and psychology. He argues that in the 2oth century we finally recognize we are a violent people.
1968 Algerian revolt shakes French society and history to its core. Algerians were promised full democracy for years, they finally get suspicious. Men were cheap labor and biggest import to France. Economic downturn in 1950's causes France to bar Algerians from working in country, so violence ensues. French intellectuals push out old guard and old thinking, student protests, etc. Jean-Paul Sartre led the movement, and wanted to find a genuine authentic voice of this revolt, he finds it in Fanon. Fanon, in his book, questions who is crazy, tortured or torturer.
For Fanon, there is nothing more consistent than racist humanism since the European has been able to only become a man thru slavery. The two groups are opposed they can't get along, because Empire needs slaves. Thus, he critiques the Enlightenment ideal. The two peoples live as perpetual protagonists. Colonizer and colonists are backed into a struggle. Colonization is good and colonized are amused by this. Both see each other as morally superior. Colonizer uses violence to keep colonized in check, so they learn to use more violence to overthrow colonizer. Colonizer has their history, and history books on their side. Colonized see them as delusional they see the propaganda as a form of violence. Colonized people will accept servitude because they fear death. Once they don't fear death you can't control them. Anger and rage starts to build and 1st violence against their own people and family, and finally they turn violent on the colonizers. As soon as they see colonizers can be killed, they will revolt, it gives them self-respect. Oppression is practiced and institutionalized violence. Oppression must be done cruelly and violently. This is what will overthrow Manichean world. A different kind of person will now emerge. He is openly celebratory of violence. He is shaped by his history.
Fanon's work in Algeria changes his way of thinking. He concludes counter violence will make a new man. Violence leaves scars on people. Violence becomes a dialectic of the master slave process. Colonialism is another stage of slavery. Colonial racism in crudest form say colonized have no culture, then they say there is a hierarchy of culture colonizer higher than colonized. He makes links to culture and economic relations and how change in one changes the other. Fanon argues that when the oppressed are lazy, it is one more way for them to sabotage. Laziness is passive resistance. This is a stage in process before colonized is ready to fight back. Colonized can use subtle ways to resist laws and mores. Colonized do this to revolt against oppression. Colonized must develop framework of collective struggle to fight against oppressor. Fanon believes that to have a new person violence is necessary to destroy category of blackness and whiteness Manichean racial duality. Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon. Replacement of one kind of man with another kind of man. Must have a clean sweep of change in society. Fanon's insistence on violence grounded in his history and personal nature. Psychoanalytic theory of his is different than Freud's, they come from different society and culture. Freud never took race into account in his theories.
On his return to Tunis, after his exhausting trip across the Sahara to open a Third Front, Fanon was diagnosed with leukemia. He went to the Soviet Union for treatment and experienced some remission of his illness. On his return to Tunis, he dictated his testament "The Wretched of the Earth." When he was not confined to his bed, he delivered lectures to ALN (Armée de Libération Nationale) officers at Ghardimao on the Algero-Tunisian border. He made a final visit to Sartre in Rome and went for further leukemia treatment in the USA. Ironically, he was assisted by the CIA in traveling to the United States to receive treatment. He died in Bethesda [Maryland, US], on December 6, 1961 under the name of Ibrahim Fanon. He was buried in Algeria, after lying in state in Tunisia.
Recommended reading for anyone interested in history, psychology, or philosophy.
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