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William Robertson

Frantz Fanon Frantz Fanons work resided in a Marxist body of theory. Aside from an economic perspective, Fanons theory had a catalytic value of violence similar to Marx. Fanon expanded upon three major concepts throughout his work; colonialism, violence, and black consciousness. When Fanon accepted his role as director of psychiatry for a hospital in Algeria, Fanon made his mark. This is when he introduced a contemporary therapy, treatment for those suffering from colonization. It was during this time, where Fanon would treat patients due to situational or reactive psychoses triggered from violence or torture. Fanon believed the oppressing nature of colonialism was inflicting a psychological toll on the people of Algeria. In addition, Fanon emphasized the importance of violence, and its therapeutic nature, in the process of decolonization. Lastly, Fanons work on black consciousness assumed an almost self-reflective nature. Drawing from his own experiences as a black man in a white world, he was able to identify the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. This led Fanon to lean on negritude as a driving force behind the revival of black consciousness amidst national turmoil. Fanons work is paramount because of Fanons opportunity to fuse theory and practice during a revolution. Colonialism only loosens its hold when the knife is at its throat. (1961, Wretched of the Earth). Fanons view of colonialism was much more unpleasant than Marxs view of capitalism. While Marx acknowledged capitalism as a step in the right direction, Fanons Manichean paradigm left little love for colonialism. Decolonization was important to Fanon for much the same reason violence was. It set the colonized free. Fanon believed that all people require recognition, moral consideration, and equality. For example, Fanon believed that the term native was extremely derogatory. It communicated that the native was primitive, un-evolved, and lesser. In fact, Fanon believed colonialism was violence in its natural state, shrouded by bureaucracy. He saw that the

William Robertson

purpose of colonialism was to separate tribes and to replace one race with another. In his book, Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon illustrated how black children adopted the attitudes of white men, who brought truth to the savages. Thus, the child wishes to be like the colonizer, and an inferiority complex surfaces whenever they are reminded that they cannot achieve the true status of whites. In Fanons other work, A Dying Colonialism, Fanon detailed the effort of French colonizers to shame the traditional veil worn by Arab women. These efforts of cultural destruction were universal to colonialism, and thus led to the inferiority complex. According to Fanon, decolonization was necessary in the process of psychological healing. Violence is another commonality Fanon shared with Marx. This concept is shared because of its nature for change. Fanon theorized that colonialism always oppressed people with violence, and that a greater violence was required to overcome it. As Gandhis proverb, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind would dictate, trading violence for violence seems illogical. However a tradeoff of violence for freedom sounds much more legitimate. Fanons only reservation was that he was unsure if it was the only method and he was unsure if it would always work. Unfortunately, the only available option to revolutionaries was violence. Otherwise, he was convinced a national level of counter violence was sufficient for decolonization. In addition, he stated decolonization was always a violent phenomenon. He described violence as operating within a therapeutic role because it marked the end of exploitation and oppression. Much in line with violence as a tool for decolonization, language was seen as a measure of power. For Fanon, To speakmeans above all to assume a culture, to support the weight of a civilization (1952, Black Skin, White Masks). Fanon painted the colonized and the colonist as polar opposites, much like Marx depicted the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In Fanons eyes, with two mutually exclusive worlds, violence was an inevitable balancing mechanism. One of Fanons books, Wretched of the Earth, had a section titled On

William Robertson

Violence. In this passage he described a volatile relationship between classes that had been set into motion through communication and oppression. Although Fanons theory on violence is logical, it is not without criticism. Due to the revolutionary social context, many modern theorists guess that if Fanon had not died of leukemia, his theory would have evolved with Algeria as it gained independence. While Fanons passion allowed him insight into colonial unrest, it also led him to romanticize violence. Black consciousness was salient to Fanons work for much of the same reason class consciousness was salient to Marx. The greatest way to carry out a revolution is to have revolutionaries. Therefore you must have a population of empowered individuals. The concept of an awakening is also important because it implies a coercive society. This brings us back to Fanons idea of an inferiority complex. Black consciousness is necessary to combat the inferiority complex that has been caused by the oppressing nature of colonialism. Fanon referred to a narrative to explain his idea for the negro intellectual. In this narrative, Fanon described a metamorphosis-like process in which the black intellectual, whom prior was assimilated with white culture, realizes his negritude. This process, as Fanon stated, is initiated from an objective observation of the mindlessness that has consumed his continent. Lastly, the intellectual is to injure himself, thereby freeing himself from the germs of decay. This transformation was summed by Fanon as, A swift, painful combat where inevitably the muscle had to replace the concept. This is when, Fanon illustrates, the entire system loses its bearings. Due to a chain reaction amongst the colonized, a realization of superficiality comes to light. This is when the revolution reaches its desired momentum and the colonized wage war with colonialism. For Fanon, colonialism was an evil bestowed on blacks by the whites. While not all colonies turn into the turmoil that erupted in Algeria, it can happen. It is important to note that this social

William Robertson

context may have fueled some of Fanons more controversial ideas. In current day, violence is largely seen as less of a solution than a problem. For Fanon, violence was the solution to the problem. With this context in mind, it is not farfetched to think Fanons theory may only be applicable in dire situations. Regardless of his applicability, his influence was clear. As a Marxist, Fanon turned conflict theory on its side to investigate the social implications of racial discrimination. He knew; that through awareness, action, and intelligence, a people were able to rise above their dominating elements no matter their social or economic value. But through human desire alone. He led the way for race relations and for the independence of the Algerian people. Although he died before seeing Algeria gain its independence, he knew it would come. Because once the people achieved consciousness, the entire system loses its bearings.

William Robertson

Bibliography Rose-Jensen, Sarah. "Fanon and Violence." Fanon and Violence. Unrest Magazine, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. Poulos, Jennifer. "Fanon, Frantz." Postcolonial Studies. Emory, June-July 2012. Web. Hilton, Blake T. "Frantz Fanon and Colonialism: A Psychology of Oppression." Journal of Scientific Psychology (2011): 45-59. Fowale, Joseph. "Frantz Fanon and African Liberation." Suite101.com. Suite101, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. "Frantz Fanon. Revolutionist Or Terrorist?" SOC 331 Foundations of Sociological Theory. Queens College, 13 May 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. Fanon. 2013. Decolonizing, National Culture, and the Negro Intellectual. In Lemert, Charles. Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings, Fifth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Westview Press, pp. 273-276
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks.1952. Print. Fanon, Frantz. A Dying Colonialism.1959. Print. Fanon, Frantz. Wretched of the Earth.1961. Print.