Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961)

French psychiatrist and revolutionary writer, whose writings had profound influence on the radical movements in the 1960s in the United States and Europe. As a political thinker born in Martinique, Fanon's views also gained audience in the Caribbean islands along with Aime Cesaire, Edouard Glissant, C.L.R. James, and Eric Williams. Fanon rejected the concept of "Negritude"- a term first used by Cesaire - and stated that persons' status depends on their economical and social position. Fanon believed that violent revolution is the only means of ending colonial repression and cultural trauma in the Third World.

"I have no wish to be the victim of the Fraud of a black world. My life should not be devoted to drawing up the balance sheet of Negro values. There is no white world, there is no white ethic, any more than there is a white intelligence. There are in every part of the world men who search. I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny. I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introduction invention into existence. In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself." (Fanon in Black Skin, White Masks, 1952)

Frantz Fanon studied medicine and psychiatry in France after serving in the World War II. Seared as a youth by racism, and influenced by Sartre's existentialism, Fanon analysed the impact of colonialism and its deforming effects. From an 'European intellectual' Fanon gradually transformed to polemic scholar and socialist to revolutionary. His first major work, BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS (1952), had a major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world. Fanon argued that white colonialism imposed an existentially false and degrading existence upon its black victims to the extent that it demanded their conformity to its distorted values. He demonstates how the problem of race, of color, connects with a whole range of words and images, starting from the symbol of the dark side of the soul. "Is not whiteness in symbols always ascribed in French to Justice, Truth, Virginity?" Fanon examines race prejudices as a philosopher and psychologist although he acknowledges social and economic realities. The tone of the text varies from outrage to cool analysis and its poetic grace has not lost anything from its appeal.

In 1952 Fanon began to practice in a psychiatric ward in Algeria. He married in 1953 and was appointed director of the psychiatric department of Blida-Joinville's hospital. After three years he resigned and allied himself with the Algerian liberation movement that sought to throw off French rule. Fanon travelled guerrilla camps from Mali to Sahara, hid algerian fighters at his home and trained nurses to dress wounds. In 1959 he was severely wounded on the border of Algeria and Morocco. Fanon then worked briefly as an ambassador of the provisional Algerian government to Ghana and edited in Tunisia the magazine Moudjahid. Fanon survived several political murder attempts, but finally he was taken of leukemia and died in Washington, DC, on December 12, 1961. In the same year appeared The Wretched of the Earth, which was based on his horrific experiences in Algeria during its war of independence. Using Marxist framework, Fanon explores the class collision and questions of cultural hegemony in the creation and maintenance of a new country's national consciousness. "In guerrilla war the struggle no longer concerns the place where you are, but the places where you are going. Each fighter carries his warring country between his toes." The book became one of the central documents of the black liberation movement. Fanon did not accept the view that the Communist party leads the revolution like Mao, but he believed that the revolutionary party grows from the struggle. Fanon's other publications include Dying Colonialism, originally published as Year Five of the Algerian Revolution, in which he calls for armed struggle against the French imperialism.

1 comment:

IMZ said...

The Journal of Pan African Studies has published a special issue (vol.4, no.7) on Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) edited by Kurt B. Young (University of Central Florida) featuring an editorial and 10 articles. The issue can be read at: http://www.jpanafrican.com/currentissue.htm.