Stuart Hall / Frantz Fanon V2
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Stuart Hall was a Jamaican-born British Marxist sociologist, cultural theorist and political activist. Hall, along with Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, was one of the founding figures of the school of thought that is now known as British Cultural Studies or The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies. While at the Centre, Hall is credited with playing a role in expanding the scope of cultural studies to deal with race and gender.
Hall's work covers issues of hegemony and cultural studies, taking a post-Gramscian stance. He regards language-use as operating within a framework of power, institutions, politics and economics. This view presents people as producers and consumers of culture at the same time. (Hegemony, in Gramscian theory, refers to the socio-cultural production of "consent" and "coercion".) For Hall, culture was not something to simply appreciate or study, but a "critical site of social action and intervention, where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled".
Hall's works, such as studies showing the link between racial prejudice and media, have a reputation as influential, and serve as important foundational texts for contemporary cultural studies. He also widely discussed notions of cultural identity, race and ethnicity, particularly in the creation of the politics of Black diasporic identities. Hall believed identity to be an ongoing product of history and culture, rather than a finished product.
Hall had a major influence on cultural studies, and many of the terms his texts set forth continue to be used in the field. His encoding/decoding text is viewed as a turning point in Hall's research toward structuralism and provides insight into some of the main theoretical developments he explored at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
Race as Floating Signifier
What W.E.B. Du Bois called the differences of color, hair, and bone; what everyone understands as visible racial differences. Hall examines the inner workings of the system and tries to unlock the secret of how and why race matters so much to people. Hall does not necessarily focus on the effects of racism as he takes those as his starting point. Now, as a result, some people have accused him of not paying enough attention to the practical outcomes and violence associated with racism. Nothing could be further from the truth, Hall is passionately concerned with the psychological, cultural, and physical violence that racism inflicts, but he believes there’s a better fight against it. People have to first understand the logic of how it works. He wants to understand how racism is cultivated in one’s imaginations, of how it works in one’s head, so that people can better combat it on the streets.
Hall’s basic argument is that all attempts to scientifically show racial inferiority have failed. And yet there is a persistent and widespread belief in white supremacy. To understand why this should be the case, Hall argues that we have to pay attention, not to the objective facts of the situation alone, but to the stories the culture spins for us about what the physical differences we are born with mean. This involves examining the discourses that surround race. Taking what he calls a “discursive position”. That is, analyzing the metaphors, the antidotes, the stories, the jokes that are told by culture about what physical racial differences mean. In fact, when you do this, you see that historically things like skin color have been given many different meanings over the years. There is nothing solid or permanent to the meaning of race. It changes all the time. It shifts and slides. That’s why it’s called The Floating Signifier. What racial difference signifies is never static or the same. This sounds very theoretical and abstract but Hall’s motivation for insisting on this strategy is not at all academic. It is only once we understand how racism works that we can struggle against it and understanding it takes hard, analytical work.
Words by Hall:
“What do I mean by a floating signifier? Well to put it crudely, race is one of those major concepts, which organize the great classificatory systems of difference, which operate in human society. And to say that race is a discursive category recognizes that all attempts to ground this concept scientifically, to locate differences between the races, on what one might call scientific, biological, or genetic grounds, have been largely shown to be untenable. We must therefore, it is said, substitute a socio-historical or cultural definition of race, for the biological one.”
Race works like a language
“Race works like a language. And signifiers refer to the systems and concepts of the classification of a culture to its making meaning practices. And those things gain their meaning, not because of what they contain in their essence, but in the shifting relations of difference, which they establish with other concepts and ideas in a signifying field. Their meaning, because it is relational, and not essential, can never be finally fixed, but is subject to the constant process of redefinition and appropriation.”
“The meaning of a signifier can never be finally or trans-historically fixed. That is, it is always, or there is always, a certain sliding of meaning, always a margin not yet encapsulated in language and meaning, always something about race left unsaid, always someone a constitutive outside, who’s very existence the identity of race depends on, and which is absolutely destined to return from its expelled and objected position outside the signifying field to trouble the dreams of those who are comfortable inside.”
“Alright, you might say perhaps race is not after all a matter of genetic factors, of biology, of physiological characteristics, of the morphology of the body, not a matter of color, hair, and bone, that chilling threesome that DuBois frequently quotes.” But you may say, “can you seriously be claiming that it is simply a signifier, an empty sign, that it is not fixed in its inner nature, that it cannot be secured in its meaning, that it floats in a sea of relational differences?”
“You know, in Fanon’s book Black Skin White Masks, whereas I said he’s entranced and he’s obsessed by the trauma of his own appearance and what it means, he is driven wild by the fact that he is caught, caught and locked in this body which the white other knows just by looking at him that the other can see through him just by reading the text of the black body. He’s obsessed by that fact. And yet, as I am sure you know, when it came to it, the power and importance of Black Skin White Masks is that Fanon understood that beneath what he called the bodily and corporeal schema is another schema. A schema composed of the stories and the anecdotes and the metaphors and the images, which is really, really he says, what constructs the relationship between the body and its social and cultural space. These stories, not the fact itself. The fact itself is just exactly that trap of the surface, which allows us to rest with what is obvious. It’s so manifestly there. The trap in racism is precisely to allow what is manifestly there what offers it to us as a symptom of appearance to stand in the place of what is in fact one of the most profound and deeply complex of the cultural systems which allow us to make a distinction between inside and outside, between us and them, between who belongs and who doesn’t belong. That apparently simple, obvious and banal fact requires the invocation of territories of knowledge in order to produce it as a simple, obvious, visible fact. In this way race is more like sexual difference, racial difference is more like sexual difference than it is like the other systems of difference precisely because anatomy, physiology appears to wind the question up and what we know about and have learned gradually about sexual difference that is to say the profundity of the depth that lies behind the making of that distinction is what we need now to begin to learn about the languages of race which we speak.”
An empty sign?
“I have to say it again because I can feel the sense of relief that after skirting around through these various structures we have come to know after all what we all know about race. It’s reality. You can see its effects, you can see it in the faces of the people around you, you can see people pulling the skirts aside as people from another racial group come into the room. You can see the operation of racial discrimination in institutions and so on. What is the need of this entire scholarly hullabaloo about race, when you can just turn to its reality?”
“There are probably differences of all sorts in the world, that difference is a kind of anomalous existence out there, a kind of random series of all sorts of things in what you call the world, there’s no reason to deny this reality or this diversity. ... It’s only when these differences have been organized within language, within discourse, within systems of meaning, that the differences can be said to acquire meaning and become a factor in human culture and regulate conduct, that is the nature of what I’m calling the discursive concept of race. Not that nothing exists of differences, but that what matters are the systems we use to make sense, to make human societies intelligible. The system we bring to those differences, how we organize those differences into systems of meaning, with which, as it were, we could find the world intelligible.
I think these are discursive systems because the interplay between the representation of racial difference, the writing of power, and the production of knowledge, is crucial to the way in which they are generated, and the way in which they function. And I use the word discursive here to mark the transition theoretically from the more formal understanding of difference to an understanding of how ideas and knowledge of difference organize human practices between individuals.”
Hall takes a semiotic approach and builds on the work of Roland Barthes and Umberto Eco. The essay takes up and challenges long held assumptions about how media messages are produced, circulated and consumed, proposing a new theory of communication. "The 'object' of production practices and structures in television is the production of a message: that is, a sign-vehicle or rather sign-vehicles of a specific kind organized, like any other form of communication or language, through the operation of codes, within the syntagmatic chains of a discourse".
According to Hall, "a message must be perceived as meaningful discourse and be meaningfully de-coded before it has an effect, a use, or satisfies a need". There are four codes of the Encoding/Decoding Model of Communication. The first way of encoding is the dominant (i.e. hegemonic) code. This is the code the encoder expects the decoder to recognize and decode. "When the viewer takes the connoted meaning full and straight and decodes the message in terms of the reference-code in which it has been coded, it operates inside the dominant code." The second way of encoding is the professional code. It operates in tandem with the dominant code. "It serves to reproduce the dominant definitions precisely by bracketing the hegemonic quality, and operating with professional codings which relate to such questions as visual quality, news and presentational values, televisual quality, 'professionalism' etc." The third way of encoding is the negotiated code. "It acknowledges the legitimacy of the hegemonic definitions to make the grand significations, while, at a more restricted, situational level, it makes its own ground-rules, it operates with 'exceptions' to the rule". The fourth way of encoding is the oppositional code, also known as the globally contrary code. "It is possible for a viewer to perfectly understand both the literal and connotative inflection given to an event, but to determine to decode the message in a globally contrary way." "Before this message can have an 'effect' (however defined), or satisfy a 'need' or be put to a 'use', it must first be perceived as a meaningful discourse and meaningfully de-coded."
Hall challenged all four components of the mass communications model. He argues that (a) meaning is not simply fixed or determined by the sender; (b) the message is never transparent; and (c) the audience is not a passive recipient of meaning. For example, a documentary film on asylum seekers that aims to provide a sympathetic account of their plight does not guarantee that audiences will feel sympathetic. Despite being realistic and recounting facts, the documentary must still communicate through a sign system (the aural-visual signs of TV) that simultaneously distorts the producers' intentions and evokes contradictory feelings in the audience.
Distortion is built into the system, rather than being a "failure" of the producer or viewer. There is a "lack of fit", Hall argues, "between the two sides in the communicative exchange"—that is, between the moment of the production of the message ("encoding") and the moment of its reception ("decoding"). In "Encoding/decoding", Hall suggests media messages accrue commonsense status in part through their performative nature. Through the repeated performance, staging or telling of the narrative of "9/11" (as an example; there are others like it), a culturally specific interpretation becomes not only plausible and universal but elevated to "common sense".
Our society has reached a point where both the oppositional and preferred readings cannot see each other’s perspectives. Hall states that “One of the most significant political moments (they also coincide with crisis points within the broadcasting organizations themselves, for obvious reasons) is the point when events which are normally signified and decoded in a negotiated way begin to be given an oppositional reading. Here the ‘politics of signification’ — the struggle in discourse — is joined.” Hall does not give a solution on how to escape from this issue, but he does give us a better understanding of how it happens.
Views on cultural identity and the African diaspora
In his influential 1996 essay “Cultural Identity and Diaspora”, Hall presents two different definitions of cultural identity. In the first definition, cultural identity is a "a sort of collective 'one true self'… which many people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common." In this view, cultural identity provides a "stable, unchanging and continuous frame of reference and meaning" through the ebb and flow of historical change. This allows the tracing back of the origins of descendants and reflecting on the historical experiences of ancestors as a shared truth. Therefore, blacks living in the diaspora need only "unearth" their African past to discover their true cultural identity. While Hall appreciates the good effects this first view of cultural identity has had in the postcolonial world, he proposes a second definition of cultural identity that he views as superior.
Hall's second definition of cultural identity "recognizes that, as well as the many points of similarity, there are also critical points of deep and significant difference which constitute 'what we really are'; or rather – since history has intervened – 'what we have become.’” In this view, cultural identity is not a fixed essence rooted in the past. Instead, cultural identities “undergo constant transformation” throughout history as they are "subject to the continuous 'play' of history, culture, and power". Thus Hall defines cultural identities as “the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past.” This view of cultural identity was more challenging than the previous due to its dive into deep differences, but nonetheless it showed the mixture of the African diaspora."In other words, for Hall cultural identity is "not an essence but a positioning".
Policing the Crisis
In the 13 months between August 1972 and August 1973, 60 events were reported as muggings in the national daily newspapers. Dramatic individual cases of such crimes were highlighted in the media. On the 15th of August 1972, Arthur Hills was stabbed to death near Waterloo station. For the first time, a specific crime in Britain was labelled a mugging in the press. On the 5th of November 1972, Robert Keenan was attacked by three youths in Birmingham. He was knocked to the ground, and had some keys, five cigarettes and 30 pence stolen. Two hours later, the youths returned to where he lay, and they viciously kicked him and hit him with a brick.
It was stories such as these that highlighted an apparently new and frightening type of crime. Judges, police and the politicians lined up with the media in stressing the threat that this crime posed to society. Many commentators believed and thus the discourse became that the streets of Britain would soon become as those in New York and Chicago. The Home Secretary in the House of Commons quoted an alarming figure of a 129% increase in Muggings in London in the previous four years.
Hall sees these reactions as a moral panic. (An exaggerated outburst of public concern over the morality and behavior of a group in society). Hall tried to explain why there should be such a strong reaction to, and widespread fear of, mugging. Hall rejected the view that the panic was inevitable and understandable reaction to new and rapidly increasing forms of violence. As far back as the nineteenth century, footpads and garrotters had committed violent street crimes similar to those of the modern mugger. Violent robberies were not, therefore a new crime at all – indeed, as recently as 1968, an MP had been kicked and robbed in the street without the crime being labelled a mugging.
Hall noted that there is no legally defined crime as mugging. Since in law there is no such crime, it was not possible for the Home Secretary accurately to measure its extent. Hall’s study found no basis in the criminal statistics for his figure of 129% rise over four years. From Hall’s examination of the statistics there was no evidence that violent crime was particularly rising fast in this period leading up to the panic. Using the nearest legal category to mugging – assault with intent to rob – the official statistics showed an annual rise of an average of 33.4% between 1955 and 1965, but only a 14% average annual increase from 1965 to 1972. This type of crime was growing more slowly as the time the panic took place than it had done so in previous decades.
For these reasons Hall could not accept that the supposed novelty or rate of increase of the crime explained the moral panic. He argued that both mugging and the moral panic could only be explained in the context of the problems faced by British capitalism at the start of the 1970s.
Capitalism, Crisis and Crime
Economic problems produced part of the ‘crisis’. Hall accepted the Marxist view that capitalist economies tend to go through periods of crisis when it is difficult for firms to sell goods at a profit. The crisis of British society, however, went beyond economic problems. It was a crisis of ‘hegemony’. Hegemony is political leadership and ideological domination of society. Accordingly, the state tends to be dominated by parts of the ruling class. They attempt to win support for their policies and ideas from other groups in society (to maintain power). They try to persuade the working class that the authority of the state exercised fairly and justly in the interests of all (not just themselves). A crisis in hegemony takes place when the authority of the state and the ruling class is challenged.
In 1970-72 the British state faced both an economic crisis and a crisis of hegemony. From 1945 until about 1968 there had been what Hall called an inter-class truce, there was little conflict between the ruling and subject class. Full employment, rising living standards and the expansion of the welfare state secured support for the state and the acceptance of its authority by the working class. As unemployment rose and living standards ceased to rise rapidly, the basis of the inter-class truce was undermined it became more difficult for the ruling class to govern by consent.
Hall provides a number of examples of the challenge to the authority to the hegemony of the state:
- Northern Ireland generated into open warfare.
- There was a growth in student militancy and increased activity in the black power movement
- Trade unions were seen to pose the biggest threat as miners launched ‘flying pickets’ to prevent coal from reaching power stations/key industries and to hold the state to ransom
Since the government was no longer able to rule by consent, it turned to the use of force to control the crises. It was in this context that street crime became an issue. Mugging was presented as a key element in a break-down of law and order. Violence was portrayed as a threat to stability of society, and it was the black mugger who was used to symbolize the threat of violence.
In this way the public could be persuaded that society’s problems were caused by ‘immigrants’ rather than the faults of the capitalist system they are (people may steal because they are ‘made’ poor). The working class was effectively divided on racial grounds, since the white working class was encouraged to direct its frustrations towards the black working class.
Race Is The Modality In Which Class Is Lived
"Race is the modality in which class is “lived”, the medium through which class relations are experienced, the form in which it is appropriated and “fought through”.’ What marks out Hall’s analysis as so innovative is the way he further develops his conception of ideology to analytically capture questions of identity formation and resistance to domination.
Stuart Hall wrote in Policing the Crisis, “Race is the modality in which class is lived.” There is no class experience that is not also a racialized (and gendered) class experience. Neoliberalism secured its hegemony because it acted along these multiple dimensions in order to defeat black and Third World collectivism as much as the solidarities of white labor movements. Racial populism and neoliberalism were born together and unite in times of crisis. Only by fighting the two together can either one of them be defeated.
Race is a necessary fiction for capitalism, just as is private property, just as is the idea that you can be free at the same time that you must sell yourself to another if you wish to eat. Conversely, a conception of “class” (and class struggle) confined to a normative national, social history of wage labor, one that excludes social relations anchored in rightlessness, wagelessness, and extra-economic coercion, obscures the violence constituting capitalism’s capacity to reproduce itself. It is that violence that undergirds the well-known formulation by Stuart Hall and his comrades, “race is the modality in which class is lived,” capturing the fundamental social experience of the unity of race and class.
Hall points out that anti-racist projects focusing on reconstructing a national culture so those racialized as minorities can find legitimate positions from which to speak within it are as important as more traditional forms of class struggle.
Frantz Fanon was a French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism. As well as being an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization.
In the course of his work as a physician and psychiatrist, Fanon supported the Algerian War of Independence from France and was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. For more than five decades, the life and works of Frantz Fanon have inspired national liberation movements and other radical political organizations in Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the United States. He formulated a model for community psychology, believing that many mental health patients would do better if they were integrated into their family and community instead of being treated with institutionalized care. He also helped found the field of institutional psychotherapy while working at Saint-Alban under Francois Tosquelles and Jean Oury. In What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction To His Life And Thought, Lewis R. Gordon remarked that Fanon's contributions to the history of ideas are manifold. He is influential not only because of the originality of his thought but also because of the astuteness of his criticisms. He developed a profound social existential analysis of anti-black racism, which led him to identify conditions of skewed rationality and reason in contemporary discourses on the human being.
Black Skin, White Masks
In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon psychoanalyzes the oppressed Black person who is perceived to have to be a lesser creature in the white world that they live in, and studies how they navigate the world through a performance of White-ness. Particularly in discussing language, he talks about how the black person's use of a colonizer's language is seen by the colonizer as predatory, and not transformative, which in turn may create insecurity in the black man's consciousness. He recounts that he himself faced many admonitions as a child for using Creole French instead of "real French," or "French French," that is, "white" French. Ultimately, he concludes that "mastery of language (of the white/colonizer) for the sake of recognition as white reflects a dependency that subordinates the black's humanity".
In chapter 1 of Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon discusses how people of color were perceived by the white people. He says that The black man has two dimensions: one with his fellows, the other with the white man. A Black person behaves differently with a white man and with another Black person. That this self-division is a direct result of colonialist subjugation is beyond question. To speak a language is to take on a world, a culture. The Antilles black man who wants to be white will be the whiter as he gains greater mastery of the cultural tool that language is. Fanon concludes this theorizing by saying “Historically, it must be understood that the Black man wants to speak French because it is the key that can open doors which were still barred to him fifty years ago. In the Antilles Black man who comes within this study we find a quest for subtleties, for refinements of language—so many further means of proving to himself that he has measured up to the culture.”
In chapter 5 of Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon tackles many theories. One theory he addresses is the different schema that are said to exist within a person, and how they exist differently for Black people. He talks about one's “bodily schema”, and theorizes that because of both the “historical-racial schema”, one that exists because of the history of racism and makes it so there is no one bodily-schema because of the context that comes with Blackness, and one's “epidermal-racial schema”, where Black people cannot be seen for their single bodily-schema because they are seen to represent their race and the history and therefore cannot be seen past their flesh—there is no universal Black schema. He describes this experience as “no longer a question of being aware of my body in the third person but in a triple person.” Fanon concludes this theorizing by saying “As long as the black man is among his own, he will have no occasion, except in minor internal conflicts, to experience his being through others.”
Fanon also addresses Ontology, stating that it “Does not permit us to understand the being of the black man”. He says that because Blackness was created in, and continues to exist in, negation to whiteness, that ontology is not a philosophy that can be used to understand the Black experience. Fanon states that this ontology can't be used to understand the Black experience because it ignores the "lived experience." He argues that a black man has to be black, while also being black in relation to the white man.
In chapter 9 of Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon discussed how being Black can and does affect one's psyche. He makes it clear that the treatment of Black people causes emotional trauma. Fanon argues that as a result of one's skin color being Black, Black people are unable to truly process this trauma or "make it unconscious". Black people are unable to not think about the fact that they are Black and all of the historical and current stigma that comes with that. Fanon's work in this chapter specifically shows the shortcomings of big names in psychology such as Sigmund Freud. Figures like Fanon and his discussion of the mental health of Black people show that "traditional" psychology was created and founded without thinking about Black people and their experiences at all.
The Wretched of the Earth
Fanon is best known for the classic analysis of colonialism and decolonization, The Wretched of the Earth. The Wretched of the Earth was first published in 1961 by Éditions Maspero, with a preface by Jean-Paul Sartre. In it Fanon analyzes the role of class, race, national culture and violence in the struggle for national liberation. The book includes an article which focuses on the ideas of violence and decolonization. He claims that decolonization is inherently a violent process, because the relationship between the settler and the native is a binary of opposites. In fact, he uses the Biblical metaphor, "The last shall be first, and the first, last," to describe the moment of decolonization. The situation of settler colonialism creates within the native a tension which grows over time and in many ways is fostered by the settler. This tension is initially released among the natives, but eventually it becomes a catalyst for violence against the settler. His work would become an academic and theoretical foundation for many revolutions.
Fanon uses the Jewish people to explain how the prejudice expressed towards blacks cannot not be generalized to other races or ethnicities. He discusses this in Black Skins, White Masks, and pulls from Jean-Paul Sartre's Reflections on the Jewish Question to inform his understanding of French colonialism's relationship with the Jewish people and how it can be compared and contrasted with the oppressions of Black people across the world. In his seminal book, Fanon issues many rebuttals to Octave Mannoni's Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. Mannoni asserts that "colonial exploitation is not the same as other forms of exploitation, and colonial racialism is different from other kinds of racialism." Fanon responds by arguing that racism or anti-Semitism, colonial or otherwise, are not different because they rip away a person's ability to feel human. He says "I am deprived of the possibility of being a man. I cannot disassociate myself from the future that is proposed for my brother. Every one of my acts commits me as a man. Every one of my silences, every one of my cowardices reveals me as a man."
In this same vein, Fanon echoes the philosophies of Maryse Choisy, who believed that remaining neutral in times of great injustice implied an unforgivable complicity. Specifically, Fanon mentions the ravages of racism and anti-Semitism because he believes that those who are one are necessarily the other as well. Yet he is careful to distinguish between the causes of the two. Fanon argues that the reasons for hating "The Jew" are born from a different fear than those for hating Blacks. Bigots are scared of Jews because they are threatened by what the Jew represents. The many tropes and stereotypes of Jewish cruelty, laziness, and cunning are the antithesis of the Western work ethic. The Black man is feared for perhaps similar traits, but the impetus is different. Essentially, "The Jew" is simply an idea, but Black people are feared for their physical attributes. Jewishness is not easily detectable to the naked eye, but race is.
The reception of his work has been affected by English translations which are recognized to contain numerous omissions and errors, while his unpublished work, including his doctoral thesis, has received little attention. As a result, it has been argued Fanon has often been portrayed as an advocate of violence (it would be more accurate to characterize him as a dialectical opponent of nonviolence) and that his ideas have been extremely oversimplified. This reductionist vision of Fanon's work ignores the subtlety of his understanding of the colonial system. For example, the fifth chapter of Black Skin, White Masks translates, literally, as "The Lived Experience of the Black" ("L'expérience vécue du Noir"), but Markmann's translation is "The Fact of Blackness", which leaves out the massive influence of phenomenology on Fanon's early work.
For Fanon in The Wretched of the Earth, the colonizer's presence in Algeria is based on sheer military strength. Any resistance to this strength must also be of a violent nature because it is the only "language" the colonizer speaks. Thus, violent resistance is a necessity imposed by the colonists upon the colonized. The relevance of language and the reformation of discourse pervades much of his work, which is why it is so interdisciplinary, spanning psychiatric concerns to encompass politics, sociology, anthropology, linguistics and literature.
His participation in the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale from 1955 determined his audience as the Algerian colonized. It was to them that his final work, Les damnés de la terre (translated into English by Constance Farrington as The Wretched of the Earth) was directed. It constitutes a warning to the oppressed of the dangers they face in the whirlwind of decolonization and the transition to a neo-colonialist, globalized world.
An often overlooked aspect of Fanon's work is that he did not like to write his own pieces. Instead, he would dictate to his wife, Josie, who did all of the writing and, in some cases, contributed and edited.
A Dying Colonialism
A Dying Colonialism is a 1959 book by Fanon that provides an account of how, during the Algerian Revolution, the people of Algeria changed centuries-old cultural patterns and embraced certain ancient cultural practices long derided by their colonialist oppressors as “primitive,” in order to destroy those oppressors. Fanon uses the fifth year of the Algerian Revolution as a point of departure for an explication of the inevitable dynamics of colonial oppression. This is a strong, lucid, and militant book; to read it is to understand why Fanon says that for the colonized, “having a gun is the only chance you still have of giving a meaning to your death.” One of the most influential articles, "Unveiled Algeria," also comes from this book. It signifies the fall of imperialism and demonstrates how people struggle to decolonize their "mind" to avoid assimilation.
Fanon has had an influence on anti-colonial and national liberation movements. In particular, Wretched of the Earth was a major influence on the work of revolutionary leaders such as Ali Shariati in Iran, Steve Biko in South Africa, Malcolm X in the United States and Ernesto Che Guevara in Cuba. Of these only Guevara was primarily concerned with Fanon's theories on violence; for Shariati, Biko and also Guevara the main interest in Fanon was "the new man" and "black consciousness" respectively.
Bolivian indianist Fausto Reinaga also had some Fanon influence and he mentions The Wretched of the Earth in his magnum opus La Revolución India, advocating for decolonization of native South Americans from European influence. In 2015 Raúl Zibechi argued that Fanon had become a key figure for the Latin American left.
Fanon's writings on black sexuality in Black Skin, White Masks have garnered critical attention by a number of academics and queer theory scholars. Interrogating Fanon's perspective on the nature of black homosexuality and masculinity, queer theory academics have offered a variety of critical responses to Fanon's words, balancing his position within postcolonial studies with his influence on the formation of contemporary black queer theory.
Black Panther Party
With regard to the American liberation struggle more commonly known as The Black Power Movement, Fanon's work was especially influential. His book Wretched of the Earth is quoted directly in the preface of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and Charles Hamilton's book, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation which was published in 1967, shortly after Carmichael left the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In addition, Carmichael and Hamilton include much of Fanon's theory on Colonialism in their work, beginning by framing the situation of former slaves in America as a colony situated inside a nation. "To put it another way, there is no "American dilemma" because black people in this country form a colony, and it is not in the interest of the colonial power to liberate them".
Another example is the indictment of the black middle class or what Fanon called the "colonized intellectual" as the indoctrinated followers of the colonial power. Fanon states, "The native intellectual has clothed his aggressiveness in his barely veiled desire to assimilate himself to the colonial world". A third example is the idea that the natives (African Americans) should be constructing new social systems rather than participating in the systems created by the settler population. Ture and Hamilton contend that "black people should create rather than imitate".
The Black Power group that Fanon had the most influence on was the Black Panther Party (BPP). In 1970 Bobby Seale, the Chairman of the BPP, published a collection of recorded observations made while he was incarcerated entitled Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. This book, while not an academic text, is a primary source chronicling the history of the BPP through the eyes of one of its founders. While describing one of his first meetings with Huey P. Newton, Seale describes bringing him a copy of Wretched of the Earth. There are at least three other direct references to the book, all of them mentioning ways in which the book was influential and how it was included in the curriculum required of all new BPP members. Beyond just reading the text, Seale and the BPP included much of the work in their party platform. The Panther 10 Point Plan contained 6 points which either directly or indirectly referenced ideas in Fanon's work including their contention that there must be an end to the "robbery by the white man," and "education that teaches us our true history and our role in present day society". One of the most important elements adopted by the BPP was the need to build the "humanity" of the native. Fanon claimed that the realization by the native that they were human would mark the beginning of the push for freedom. The BPP embraced this idea through the work of their Community Schools and Free Breakfast Programs.
Souffles was a magazine established in 1966 by a small group of self-professed 'linguistic guerrillas' as "a manifesto for a new aesthetics in the Maghreb". The magazine became a conduit for a new generation of writers, artists, and intellectuals to stage a revolution against imperialist and colonial cultural domination. The starting point for this revolution was language. It was based in Rabat.
From its first issue, Souffles posed an aggressive challenge to the traditional Francophone and Arabophone literary divides by encouraging experimentation, translations and collaborations. It was not long before its trademark cover emblazoned with an intense black sun radiated throughout Africa, the Arab world, West Indies and the Black Atlantic. In the early 1970s the magazine changed focus. Motivated by the crushing Arab defeat in the Six-Day War and the Paris uprisings, its founder, editor and publisher Abdellatif Laabi declared that "Literature was no longer sufficient". After the fifteenth issue, dedicated to Palestine, Souffles underwent a major redesign, emerging as a new firebrand organ of leftist revolutionary group, Ila al-Amam. This new political agenda caught the attention of the authorities and in 1972 the magazine was banned after publishing nearly 22 issues and Laabi arrested. While in prison he was awarded several international poetry prizes. After a long solidarity campaign, he regained his freedom in 1980.
The positions gathered in Souffles magazine allowed for an understanding of postcolonial modernity as an antagonistic, multi-sited ground on which the invention of the future was negotiated through decontextualization and detournement; through processes of transnational translation, radical refusal of colonial heritage, creative adaptations of pre-existing concepts and many other forms of strategic and tactical border-crossing. The search for a radical aesthetic that might serve as the ground for developing a new society can be described, inter alia, as the problem of creating a post-subaltern subjectivity. Their work not only allows for a conceptual renewal of postcolonial aesthetics, but also provides several practical models for considering the globalized world as a web of multi-centered alliances and oppositions in which national borders are far from the only determinate aspect.
A major intellectual reference for Souffles was Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, as well as early postcolonial writers — Aimé Césaire, Mario de Andrade, and René Depestre — and journals like Présence Africaine. The art critic Abdallah Stouky would, for instance, write on “nostalgia for Negritude” (of the Senghorian variety) at the Dakar International Festival for Negro Arts in 1966, accusing the organizers of fabricating a false “negro unity” based on the European enthusiasm for “primitive arts” that had been set off half a century earlier by artists such as Pablo Picasso and Matisse. Exoticism, as Frantz Fanon admirably stated, “is a form of racist simplification. From that perspective, no cultural clashes can occur. On the one side there is a culture in which qualities of dynamism, growth, and depth are recognized. A living culture that perpetually renews itself. On the other side there are characteristics, curiosities, objects — but never structures.” In a later essay, considering his own poetic evolution, Laabi would cite Fanon and other critics of colonialism, espousing their ideas as a model for his own efforts of “de-alienation and restructuration, of struggle against cultural domination and imperialist ideology.”