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Fanon, Frantz

Page history last edited by Helen 15 years, 4 months ago


Frantz Fanon, born in 1925 in Martinique, was a psychiatrist and philosopher who focused most of his work on postcolonial studies. While his time on this earth was relatively short (he died at thirty-six to cancer), the work that he produced at such a young age has been influential to many writers and activist such as Malcolm X, Che Guevara, and Cornell West. He is most known for his work on issues of Black Nationalism, and the effects of colonization, which he saw firsthand as a doctor in the psych ward during the French-Algerian War. He may be regarded as one of the most dangerous intellectuals of the twentieth century for his theories of violence.


The Wretched of the Earth is Fanon's best work dealing with the issue of decolonization. For  Fanon, the only way colonized individuals can liberate themselves from the colonizers is through violence. Fanon was not an advocate for use of violence, however, but by analyzing the use of violence in the French-Algerian war he revealed the emotional/mental cleansing process violence has for many colonized individuals. Language is vital to Fanon's understanding of decolonization. Speaking English means that one accepts, or is forced to accept, the collective consciousness of English, which defines black as evil and sinful and white as pure and innocent. Fanon argued that the colonized retaliate in violence for “violence is the only language the colonizer speaks.”


Decolonization is always a violent phenomena. At whatever level we study it—relationships between individuals, new names for sports clubs, the human admixture at cocktail parties, in the police, on the directing boards of national or private banks—decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain “species” of men by another “species” of men.


In terms of praxis, Fanon takes the theory of Marx, but stresses that the revolution will come from the lumpenproletariat, usually the poorest, peasant/vagabond, outside of the industrial sector. It will be the lowest of the low that are needed to root out the colonizers, but what he stresses is that this process can never be peaceful. “In decolonization, there is therefore the need of complete calling in question of the colonial situation. If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the well known words: “the last shall be the first and the first last.” Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence. That is why, if we try to describe it, all decolonization is possible.”


Fanons work focusing on the role of the Negro intellectual gave light to the struggles of marginalized scholars and intellectuals trying to give voice to subjugated knowledge. Fanon's description of consciousness is similar to W.E.B Dubois conception of the double-consciousness in the danger the native intellectual has of conforming their identity to fit that of the western intellectual. Being colonized by a language has psychological effects for one’s consciousness because speaking a language “means above all to assume a culture.” The contradiction between those who have been educated in a Western perspective yet still wish to see the world through their Negro/native identity is still a concern for scholars including Patricia Hill Collins, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Cornell West and Trinh T. Minh-ha. The writing styles of these intellectuals reflects what Fanon had to say about giving expression towards the process of liberation:


It is a vigorous style, alive with rhythms, struck through and through with bursting life; it is full of color, too, bronzed, sunbaked, and violent. This style, which in its time astonished the peoples of the west, has nothing racial about it, in spite of frequent statements to the contrary; it expresses above all a hand to hand struggle and it reveals the need that man has to liberate himself from a part of his being which already contained the seeds of decay. Whether the fight is painful, quick, or inevitable, muscular action must substitute itself for concepts.

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