Essays Political Theory

Frantz Fanon: Négritude, Decolonisation and the Politics of Friendship (Part Two)

by Omar Chowdhury
“With the struggles of Black Americans precipitating into protests worldwide, the world remains as divided as it was during Fanon’s era making his theories just as relevant now as they were then.”

Psychology and Colonialism

Until now, we have seen the contrasting effects Fanon deemed Négritude had. We have witnessed the positive impact of Négritude through its ability to help the Black individual overcome the inferiority complex whilst also acknowledging its weakness by enabling the re-imperialisation of the post-colonial state through neo-colonialism. We must now turn our attention towards Fanon’s attempts to decolonise the mind of both the coloniser and colonised. Despite helping to lay the foundations for the politics of friendship, Négritude, in the opinion of Fanon, did only that. As we will witness, Fanon recognised that Négritude represented a major problem in his attempts to emancipate the coloniser and colonised from their colonial mindsets. This is because Négritude did two things: firstly, though it helped to rehabilitate the black person from the inferiority complex, it created and maintained a dependency complex. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Négritude preserved the divisions colonialism caused.

Regarding the first issue, Fanon believed that Négritude was responsible for the creation of the African Cultural Society (ACS). This society was created by African intellectuals so that they may get to know each other and compare their experiences as it aimed to ‘affirm the existence of an African culture’. However, the ACS also fulfilled another need: ‘the need to exist side by side with the European Cultural Society [ECS]’. As a result, the ACS was anxious to highlight that a ‘culture [was] springing from the very heart of the African continent’. Eager to show this, Fanon predicted that the ACS ‘will limit itself to exhibitionist demonstrations’ whilst limiting themselves ‘to show Europeans that such a thing as African culture exists’. To Fanon, this attitude was normal ‘and draws its legitimacy from the lies propagated by Western culture’.[1] The affirmation of Black intellectuals towards a “unified” Black culture triggered the existence of the ACS. The biggest issue was that it was created in response to the ECS. Having witnessed the creation of the ECS, Black intellectuals, according to Fanon, saw it necessary that their uniform culture was celebrated in the same way. But in doing so, the existence of the ACS was to gain the respect of the white European. Envisioning that the ACS would limit themselves to demonstrations which prove to the European that an African culture exists, the Black intellectual was still dependent upon their former colonial masters for legitimacy and this is crucial.

The attachment the Black intellectual has towards Négritude results in them attempting to prove that a Black culture exists in comparison to a White, colonial culture. If we remember, Fanon theorised that one of the key reasons why colonialism survives in the post-colonial world was because of the Black intelligentsia dedicating themselves towards Négritude. Instead of trying to solve the issues facing their own countries, the intellectuals were more interested in yearning for colonial recognition. For Fanon, this was not a new idea. As expressed in Black Skin, White Masks ‘the black man is comparaison […] in the sense that he is constantly pre-occupied with self-assertion and the ego ideal’.[2] By self-assertion, Fanon meant that the Black man, or the Black intellectual in The Wretched of the Earth, was constantly focused on asserting themselves as better than the coloniser. But in doing so, they remained mentally colonised as they were still attempting to prove themselves to the coloniser. The coloniser continued to be the standard that the Black person had to overcome meaning that they were still the group that one aspired towards. This is not true independence as the mindset of the Black individual, and hence the White individual, remains colonised.

Accordingly, Négritude did nothing to bridge the divide between Black and White individuals. As mentioned earlier, Fanon’s goal was to eliminate the notion of Blackness and Whiteness, but Négritude prevented this because the maintenance of a Black culture signifies the existence of Blackness. Logically, the only way Blackness can exist is through there being an Other which comes in the form of Whiteness. The survival of both concepts was reliant on the existence of the other as we cannot have Whiteness unless there was something to compare it to. Indeed, as Macey brilliantly states, for Fanon, the White man and the man of colour exist for others. Macey continues, writing that Fanon makes the

concluding argument that the negro “is” not (does not exist) and nor “is” the white man. Trapped in their respective ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’, they ‘are’ only insofar as they create one another. Colour and race are not essences, but the product of an existence and a situation.[3]

Therefore, so long as Blackness or Whiteness exists, divisions will remain. As stated previously, Derrida theorised that it is only when distinction exists between people does discrimination survive. As Négritude prevents the decolonisation of the mind, the survival of Blackness and Whiteness necessitates that they are juxtaposed with each other with each seeing the other as evil. As Derrida writes, ‘friendship commands me to love the other as he is by desiring that he remains as he is’.[4] But as people remain divided along the lines of skin colour, this friendship is impossible to attain. Fanon proved this through the maintenance of colonial language and the collective unconscious.

Concerning language, Fanon remarks that ‘to speak a language is to appropriate its world and culture’. In other words, by speaking a language, it entails that one understands the meanings of the words being said. Consequently, the attitudes of society become inundated within the speaker as they embrace them through the realm of language. In the case of the Black Antillean, Fanon believes that ‘the more [he] assimilates the French language, the whiter he gets’. By speaking French, the black Antillean ‘possesses […] the world expressed and implied by [it]’.[5] This means that the more the Black Antillean speaks French, the more they embrace the attitudes that are laden within French society.

Indeed, Fanon explores these attitudes in the ‘North African Syndrome’. Directed at the people of France, Fanon criticises them for stereotyping all North Africans as “Mohammed”. Fanon attacks the French saying that the Mohammed ‘whom you construct, or rather whom you dissolve on the basis of an idea you know to be repulsive’, empties the North African of any substance. Such ideas synonymise the North African with laziness for whenever they are sick, ‘there is no need [for the doctor] to prescribe rest; they’re always in bed’. It follows that the North African is stereotyped as ‘a simulator, a liar, a malingerer, a sluggard, a thief’. The European doctors would diagnose a patient with “North African Syndrome” ‘for he is a man who fancies himself to be ill’. In doing this, Arabs are seen as a dirty, disgusting ‘do-nothing race’.[6] These stereotypes are learnt through French for it possesses words and phrases which connotes the North African to being deceitful and lazy. When a person, be they from France, the Antilles or Algeria speak French, they understand and embody these words in their attitude. In the case of the French-speaking Algerian, they become alienated by perceiving themselves as “Mohammed”. Yet this alienation would not exist within a non-French speaker.

Fanon highlights this when discussing the existence of the Malagasy noting that ‘the Malagasy exist in relation to the European […] he is a Malagasy because of the white man’.[7] Simply put, the Malagasy only exists because the White man labels him so. In the White man’s language, they label the people of Madagascar as Malagasy but the natives of the country previously would not have viewed themselves as such. It is only when the White man arrives and labels the native as a Malagasy does the Malagasy begin to exist. Hence, the idea of the Malagasy only exists in the White man’s language. The labelling of the Malagasy is the same as what happens to North Africans in French. The language reifies North Africans as lazy shoehorning them in the process. Anyone who speaks this becomes a part of the culture. In turn, when Fanon writes that ‘to speak gobbledygook to a black man is insulting for it means he is the gook’, the same thing can be said about the alienating effects French has on the North African.[8]

Thus, so long as language remains entrenched within colonial racism and is the outward expression of colonial culture, the survival of the coloniser and colonised is guaranteed as both mindsets continue to be imperialised. The Derridean enemy endures because French clearly differentiates the North African from the Frenchman. French speakers, and more generally French people, view all North Africans as “Mohammed’s” which results in the Algerian hating the French. It is why Fanon says that for a person to elevate themselves above colourised hierarchy, it requires ‘restructuring the world’.[9] Négritude prevents this as it confines humanity to two spheres: Self and Other. Much of the Manicheanism that defines Fanon’s commentary on race is maintained by this division. Be they White or Black, North African or French, humanity remains colonised as they still see their opposite as an Other. No matter what happens, so long as this restructuring of the world does not take place, the mind cannot become decolonised. It is why Bhabha argues that decolonisation for Fanon can only be achieved through the destruction of colonial compartmentalisation.[10]

Furthermore, Négritude does nothing to tackle the collective unconscious that a community holds. To Fanon, the term collective unconscious means ‘the repository of prejudices, myths and collective attitudes [held by] a particular group’. Fanon explores this through the impact film and comics have on Black children. In every society, there must exist an outlet where ‘energy accumulated in the form of aggressiveness can be released’. The stories of Tarzan and those in comics were mediums where this catharsis could occur. Per Fanon, the problem with these tales is that they were ‘written by white men for white children’. In such stories, ‘the Wolf, the Devil, the Wicked Genie, Evil and the Savage are always represented by Blacks or Indians’. As these magazines are devoured by Antillean children, and as one always identifies with the “good guys”, ‘the little black child, just like the little white child, becomes an explorer, an adventurer and a missionary “who is in danger of being eaten by the wicked Negroes”’. With the Black schoolboy identifying as ‘the white man who brings the truth to the savages’, he adopts the White man’s attitudes. In time, the Antillean schoolchild will see himself as White.[11] The collective unconscious where the Black and the Indian are representatives of evil and savagery is internalised by both Black and White children who read the comics creating a desire for the Black child to become White or seek their legitimacy from the White person in a similar way to the ACS.

Indeed, there are great similarities between the collective unconscious of the Black community and the French-speaking people in the ‘North African Syndrome’. In both cases, the colonised native is painted as the quintessence of evil, immune to ethics and goodness. Fanon elaborates on the collective unconscious claiming that ‘racism bloats and disfigures the face of the culture that practices it’. Literature, the arts and songs become vulgarised, championing racism in the process. Resultantly, ‘the racialised group tries to imitate the oppressor and thereby to deracialize itself’. North Africans and Black people deny their inferiority by sharing ‘with the “superior race” the convictions, doctrines and other attitudes concerning it’. In other words, they embrace the collective unconscious that is held by the White world. This ‘cultural mummification leads to the mummification of individual thinking’ with the North African and the Black individual yearning to become White with the White person content within their superiority.[12]

Regardless of independence, the colonial mindset, be it in France, the Antilles or any other former colony, remains as the structures of society are still entrenched in colonial beliefs. The realms of language and collective unconscious instill thoughts of inferiority and superiority into young children with these beliefs remaining with them for much, if not all, of their lives with Négritude doing very little to prevent this. As Brennan summarises, Fanon believed that ‘human liberation required the restructuring of society’s institutions, modes of work, distributions of power […] it required a revolution’.[13] Though Négritude may aid in overcoming the inferiority complex, Fanon maintained that it did little else to decolonise language and collective thought. If anything, it helped in their maintenance as the concept necessitated separation through the creation of Blackness. In turn, the barrier that separates Black individuals from their White counterparts endures as society’s institutions remain unchanged.

This is not to say that Fanon was without hope for as far-fetched as it may seem, he believed that this restructuring of society had occurred in Algeria. At this juncture, it is important to note that we are not critiquing the validity of what Fanon said, rather trying to assess how his perception of the Algerian Civil War fits into his wider theory of decolonisation. For this, we must turn to an often-overlooked text in Fanon’s oeuvre: A Dying Colonialism and more specifically the chapter ‘This is the Voice of Algeria’. Discussing the impact of the radio during the Algerian Civil War, Fanon stated that it had undergone a metamorphosis. Whilst previously it was weaponised by the occupier to oppress the native, the war resulted in the radio no longer being ‘a part of the occupier’s arsenal of cultural oppression’. In fact, the radio became a means of resisting ‘the increasingly overwhelming psychological and military pressures of the occupant’ helping Algerians bring the revolution into existence. The radio programme ‘The Voice of Fighting Algeria was of capital importance in consolidating and unifying the people’. By transmitting in Kabyle, Arabic and French, the three dominant languages within Algeria, the idea of a unified Algeria became ‘the expression of a non-racial conception’.[14] In other words, with all three languages being utilised in the name of the revolution, Algeria became non-racialised as it was impossible to perceive it as a country solely for Arabs. Rather it was a country for the Kabyle, French and Arab alike. All were now brothers helping to relay the message that Algeria was for Algerians.

As a result, both the French and Arab languages became exorcised losing their colonised characteristics. Regarding the former, Fanon described it as ‘the language of occupation’ because ‘every French expression referring to the Algerian had humiliating content’. Every speech previously directed against the Algerian was either a threat or an insult. But Fanon believed that the broadcasting of French programmes through Fighting Algeria ‘was to liberate the enemy language from historical meaning’. With the message of Algerian liberation told in three languages, Fanon reasoned that this helped unify people in supporting the Algerian cause giving it a universal dimension. In the process, French ‘lost its accursed character, revealing itself to be capable of transmitting for the benefit of the nation’.[15] The French language became decolonised because it was no longer used to solely attack and denigrate the Algerian people. By being transmitted through Fighting Algeria, Fanon believed that French became exorcised as Algerians no longer associated it with oppression. Instead, French became recognised as a tool which supported the Algerian Revolution and in doing so allowed the Arab to view the Algerian European not as an enemy, but as an ally. This is because both groups mostly wanted one thing: Algerian independence. It is why Fanon wrote that the French language had experienced a mutation. For the Algerian, it assumed ‘a friendly character of support [and] protection’ with ‘the message of the Revolution, [in] the French language, becoming an instrument of liberation’. This ‘stripped the Arabic language of its sacred character, and the French language of its negative connotations’.[16]

Indeed, the most interesting section of the chapter is the following observation made by Fanon:

behind each modulation, each active crackling, the Algerian would imagine not only words, but concrete battles.[17]

As discussed, the Voice of Fighting Algeria transmitted programmes in numerous languages. We can assume that the targeted audience for each programme would be those who could speak and understand what was being said. It follows that French programmes were targeted at primarily Algerian-Europeans whilst battles re-enacted in Kabyle were aimed at the people of the mountain. Therefore, as each group of people listened to the words of the revolution they could understand, the Algerian Fanon refers to were all who supported the revolution. As a participant in the revolution, this is significant because it proves that Fanon’s aims remained consistent throughout his life: he wanted the unity of both the coloniser and colonised. This is why Fanon said that the Voice of Fighting Algeria had ‘brought the nation to life’.[18] It was successful in reconciling the various communities in the country to see themselves as Algerians.

For Fanon, the importance of this could not be downplayed because Algeria’s European minority, the group who were previously viewed as the Arab’s enemy, were actively participating in the Algerian cause. Algerian independence was no longer a matter which solely concerned the natives. Large numbers of non-Arabs ‘identified themselves with the Algerian cause and collaborated actively in the struggle’. Highlighting the activity of Jewish tradesmen in Algeria, Fanon stressed that since 1954, they had been arrested ‘for aiding and abetting the Algerian Revolution’. With some Jewish policemen even slowing down the arrests of revolutionaries, Fanon deduced that these Jews are Algerian for they share with the millions of natives ‘the multiracial reality of the Algerian nation’. Fanon continues, writing that in their common fight against European imperialism, Muslims and Jews discovered themselves to be racial brothers who equally felt ‘a deep and lasting attachment to the Algerian fatherland’. This feeling was multiplied by the participation of European settlers for the Algerian cause. Since 1955, ‘many farms belonging to European settlers had been used as infirmaries, refuges or relay stations’. The National Liberation Army (ALN) used European farms to stock their supplies resulting in several European farms being ‘transformed into ALN granaries’. With European farmers also helping to finance the Algerian Revolution, the National Liberation Front saw that ‘in the new nation that is being built, there are only Algerians […] every individual living in Algeria is an Algerian’.[19]

Whether or not this was true is insignificant, the fact that Fanon believed it occurred is the true matter of importance. This is because through Algeria, Fanon underscored that the decolonisation of the mind was successful. To understand why Fanon held this opinion, we must again turn towards Derrida. Derrida stated that ‘friendship is never a given […] its discourse is that of prayer’. By this, Derrida means that friendship between two people can only exist through forms of communication. Such communication is established through “prayer”, an action which should not be interpreted as being religious. As Derrida notes, prayer ‘is a discourse that [is] somewhat in the manner of a performative’. He appeals to humanity to be

‘my friends for I love or will love you […] Listen to me, be sensitive to my cry, understand and be compassionate, I am asking for sympathy and consensus, become the friends to whom I aspire. Accede to what is at the same time a desire, a request and a promise, one could also say a prayer’.[20]

Thus, for Derrida, prayer was not the act of appealing to a higher being, but an act whereby one shows their love for another person whilst asking their counterpart to do the same to them. The Derridean prayer sees two people listening to each other in an understanding and compassionate way. They are sympathetic and each other’s inspiration, only desiring that the other feels their love. When analysing A Dying Colonialism, it is very difficult to overlook the similarities that exist between Derrida’s act of prayer and what happened in Algeria during the revolution. Through the exorcism of the country’s languages and the integration of minorities to the native cause, Fanon genuinely felt that each part of Algerian society listened to each other through their unified effort to liberate the country. The Jewish policemen showed their love to the revolutionaries by slowing down their arrest rates whilst the European farmers displayed their compassion by converting their farms into ALN granaries. Overall, Fanon felt that he witnessed the development of love between the various ethnic communities in Algeria through actions which promoted integration. Through the act of Derridean prayer, the minds of all Algerian inhabitants, according to Fanon, became decolonised. If we refer to the Derridean concept of the enemy, Fanon sensed that through the united struggle towards Algerian liberation, it had defeated any notion of otherness that previously existed. The native Arab, Jew or European no longer existed in Algeria as they were uniformly Algerian. Through the elimination of difference, no discrimination could occur allowing friendships to develop between all Algerians. This would allow the nation to thrive and develop as each person viewed the other as equal, therefore overcoming distinctions born from the Other.

Unlike the Algerian Revolution, Fanon saw Négritude as separatist, preventing the development of friendship between people. Albert Memmi wrote that Fanon ‘took the position that Négritude was not the solution’ when attempting to fix the white error because it yielded to the Black mirage.[21] Though it was successful in overcoming the inferiority complex, Memmi correctly underscores the limitations Fanon detected within Négritude as the Black mirage prevented the complete decolonisation of the mind. Thus, V. Y. Mudimbe asserts that for Fanon ‘the alienation caused by colonialism constitutes the thesis, the African ideologies of otherness (black personality negritude) the antithesis, and political liberation the synthesis’.[22] The Algerian Revolution was successful because it successfully eradicated all things which demarcated difference. It exorcised language and the collective unconscious of all Algerians, highlighting what true liberation looked like.

Indeed, this togetherness was something that Fanon believed should not be limited to Algeria, rather it should be experienced by the whole world. This point is hotly contested by some historians who argue that Fanon’s vision of a liberated world was limited. For example, Anuja Bose proclaims that Fanon’s thought was ‘grounded in an intercontinental populism of the Third World’. Wherever Fanon uses “we”, Bose claims that he was evoking the Third World political community with his international consciousness best understood as ‘a form of political solidarity articulated at an intercontinental scale between Asia, Africa and the Americas’. Fanon wanted to leave Europe behind.[23] Bose’s assertions echo those of Bhabha who argues that because of the Cold War and the Manicheanism it promotes, Fanon desired to create ‘a world-system of Third World nations that fostered a post-colonial consciousness […] and international solidarity’.[24] Moreover, Macey contends that Fanon’s Third World was a ‘curious geographical entity’ as it did not include Asia, Latin America or the Middle East. Fanon, then, made ‘the “Third World” synonymous with “Africa”’ implying that his mission was to liberate the continent.[25]

However, all three judgements overlook the crucial concluding words of The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon begins his conclusion pleading to his audience to ‘leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them’. In doing this, Fanon reasons that ‘we today can do everything so long as we do not imitate Europe, so long as we are not obsessed by the desire to catch up with Europe’.[26] Fanon desires to ‘leave this Europe’ which has arguably resulted in the conclusions made by Bose, Bhabha and Macey. But when assessing his work holistically, it is clear that what Fanon means is to leave Europe behind politically. It is to abandon the structures Europe has implemented throughout the colonial world which has resulted in the exploitation and enslavement of humankind. As we have seen through the example of Algeria, Fanon wanted to rebuild and restructure society so that all people were celebrated and treated equally. Like Algeria, Fanon wanted to build a society on the foundations of love, virtue and equality which would be impossible if the post-colonial world was to mimic Europe.

This is supported by Fanon himself when he calls for the Third World to start a new history of Man because the actions of Europe, through the development of ‘racial hatred, slavery, exploitation and bloodless genocide’, resulted in the mutilation of Man. Colonialism, through the inferiorisation of the native, had degraded Man to the extent that it resulted in the ‘pathological tearing apart of his functions and the crumbling away of unity’. Hence, for humanity to progress past these crimes, Fanon exclaimed that we must look beyond Europe.[27] This implies the re-centring of humanity’s goals, making them the antithesis of what Europe glorifies. Fanon prioritises the development of friendly relations between people through the equal treatment of others which eradicates exploitation. This would prevent the discrimination that was rife in Europe.

If Fanon was to leave us with this, then the conclusions drawn by Bose, Bhabha and Macey would be correct, but these are not Fanon’s final words. For Fanon, somewhat appropriately, concludes that:

‘For Europe, for ourselves and for humanity, comrades, we must turn over a new leaf, we must work out new concepts and try to set afoot a new man’.[28]

Fanon’s dying message is telling because he does not want to abandon Europe at all; he wants to save it. This is best summarised by Memmi who writes that Fanon ‘found himself both attacking Europe and wanting to save it; he wanted to save all of humanity’.[29] Fanon realised that the only way to save humanity was for the Third World to temporarily turn its back on Europe for if they did not, the Third World, like the African intelligentsia, would merely end up as a mirror image of the continent. Fanon wanted to build a Third World solidarity composed of all post-colonial states before preceding to show Europe the correct way of living. He desired to show Europe the benefits of equality and living for each other as opposed to against. Fanon’s hope echoes the following words from Derrida:

‘Every friend should first be the “friend of man”. This is not only the philanthropist; the friend of man presupposes equality among men, the Idea of being obligated by this very equal it’.[30]

Fanon’s dying wish was identical to the goal he set out to achieve in Black Skin, White Masks. He wanted to establish brotherhood within humanity through the values of love, equality and virtue. This should not be mistaken for universalism because, as discussed, Fanon wanted these values to be established through region-specific policies. Ultimately, Fanon wanted to bring Europe out of the proverbial darkness and help them rediscover the humanity he believed they had lost. To do this, Fanon hoped to use the Third World as an example of what humanity should be and this is the politics of friendship.

Fanon is not a transnationalist as Said and others may want us to believe because he believed in economic rigidity and building society solely on the foundations of socialism. He is not a universalist as he understands that each country has its own specific problems which require specialist solutions and not universal answers. He could not be an Afro-pessimist as he envisioned the pitfalls of black solidarity through his critique of Négritude. What Fanon believed in was the politics of friendship. Although Derrida published this theory three decades after Fanon’s death, it is difficult to overlook the vast similarities that exist between them. Fanon wanted to build a world which celebrated, as opposed to denigrated, Man. To him, this was only possible through the establishment of values such as love, virtue and equality as only they could overcome the factionalism and discrimination that was rife throughout Fanon’s world. Fanon’s true wish, as mentioned at the beginning of this thesis, was to ‘get my brother, black or white, to shale of the dust from that lamentable livery built over centuries of the incomprehension’.[31]

Fanon for the 21st Century

‘I will not make myself the man of any past. I do not want to sing the past to the detriment of my present and my future. It is not because the Indo-Chinese discovered a culture of their own that they revolted. Quite simply, it was because it became impossible for them to breathe in more than one sense of the word’.[32]

In his closing remarks to the ‘Politics of Friendship’, Derrida asked his readers:

‘When will we be ready for an experience of equality that would be a respectful test of this friendship, and that would at last be just, just beyond justice as law?’[33]

Through this, Derrida was challenging his audience to help bring about a world where the values of love, equality and justice—in a word, friendship—were prioritised. He desired a society which would benefit humankind whilst being free of the divisions which had plagued it, especially during the twentieth century. But this hope for a world that is equal and just beyond the remits of the law is easily applicable to Fanon.

As argued throughout this paper, Fanon’s central aim was to live in a world where humanity was not divided along the lines of skin colour and ethnicity. Instead, Fanon wanted to look beyond these categorisations of humanity and live in a society where a person was not defined by their Blackness, Whiteness or Arabness, rather by the fact that they were human. To achieve this, Fanon saw Négritude not as the endpoint, but as a necessary phase towards global friendship. As we saw in the second chapter, Fanon perceived Négritude to be vital in helping the Black person overcome the alienation and inferiority complex that colonisation had caused. But after this disalienation occurred, Fanon believed that Négritude was harmful towards the establishment of virtues such as equality and love in the post-colonial world.

As discussed in chapters three and four, Fanon thought that Négritude would help to maintain colonialism in two ways. Firstly, through the fascination of the African intelligentsia with reviving Black history, Fanon asserted that they would overlook the issues that besieged their respective countries allowing the native middle-class to gain political power. In turn, they ask for economic sustenance from the former imperial power giving rise to neo-colonialism and is why he did not want to make himself a man of the past. Secondly, because the concept of Négritude and the celebration of Blackness requires for there to be an opposite to necessitate its existence, namely Whiteness, Fanon deduced that it would maintain the divisions of humanity he sought to defeat. Through this, the decolonisation of the mind could not occur.

In 2014, as he laid near motionless in a chokehold, Eric Garner struggled to say his final words: ‘I can’t breathe’.[34] Garner’s dying words are synonymous with the struggle of Black Americans, and in general Black people, today. Suffocating from the oppression they still encounter, the experience of Black individuals in the twenty-first century can be likened to those of Indochina whom Fanon spoke about in Black Skin, White Masks as seen in the quote above.

With the struggles of Black Americans precipitating into protests worldwide, the world remains as divided as it was during Fanon’s era making his theories just as relevant now as they were then. As difficult as it may be to achieve, his advocation for the eradication of colour politics so humankind can see each other as brothers and sisters; his belief in love and equality defying the relationships that exist between people and nations; and his desire to decolonise systems such as language and the collective unconscious, are goals that we as humans should aspire towards. It is a testament to Fanon that his ideas not only remain with us but are goals we should try our utmost to achieve. Perhaps it is only when we try to realise such goals can progress be made and true friendships be established.

About the Reviewer: Omar Chowdhury is a historian of political thought who studied history at Royal Holloway University of London before completing a master’s in the history of political thought from UCL and Queen Mary. Omar’s main interests includes analysing the political theory of enlightenment philosophers, the history of postcolonialism and more specifically, the history of postcolonial political thought. In particular, Omar’s interests lie within reading and dissecting anticolonial political texts that were published after World War Two.


[1] Ibid, p. 173.

[2] Fanon, Black Skin, p. 185.

[3] Macey, p. 141.

[4] Derrida, p. 361.

[5] Fanon, Black Skin, pp. 21, 2.

[6] Frantz Fanon, ‘The North African Syndrome’, Toward the African Revolution, trans. by Haakon Chevalier (New York, Grove Press, 1994), pp. 14, 6, 8.

[7] Fanon, Black Skin, pp. 77-78.

[8] Ibid, p. 15.

[9] Ibid, p. 63.

[10] Bhabha, ‘Framing Fanon’, p. xv.

[11] Fanon, Black Skin, pp. 124-126.

[12] Fanon, ‘Racism and Culture’, pp. 37-38, 34.

[13] Brennan, p. 12.

[14] Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, trans. by Haakon Chevalier (New York, Grove Press, 1965), p. 85.

[15] Ibid, p. 89.

[16] Ibid, pp. 89-90, 92.

[17] Ibid, p. 88.

[18] Ibid, p. 96.

[19] Ibid, pp. 153-155, 157, 159, 152.

[20] Derrida, pp. 367-368.

[21] Albert Memmi, ‘The Impossible Life of Frantz Fanon’, The Massachusetts Review, trans. by Thomas Cassirer and G. Michael Twomey, 14 (1973), p. 17.

[22] V. Y. Mudimbe, The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge (Indiana, Indiana University Press, 1988), p. 92.

[23] Bose, pp. 675, 686.

[24] Bhabha, ‘Framing Fanon’, p. xxvi.

[25] Macey, p. 405.

[26] Fanon, The Wretched, pp. 251-252.

[27] Ibid, p. 254.

[28] Ibid, p. 255.

[29] Memmi, p. 32.

[30] Derrida, p. 381.

[31] Fanon, Black Skin, p. xvi.

[32] Ibid, p. 201.

[33] Derrida, p. 388.

[34] ‘Eric Garner: NY Officer in ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Death Fired’, BBC News 19 August 2019 <> [Accessed 22 August 2020].


Primary Sources:
Derrida, Jacques, ‘Politics of Friendship’, American Imago, trans. by Gabriel Motzkin and Michael Syrotinski, 50 (1993), pp. 353-391.

Politics of Friendship, trans. by George Collins (Guildford, Verso, 1997).

‘Eric Garner: NY Officer in ‘I Can’t Breate’ Death Fired, BBC News 19 August 2019 <> [Accessed 22 August 2020].

Fanon, Frantz, A Dying Colonialism, trans. by Haakon Chevalier (New York, Grove Press, 1965).

Black Skin, White Masks, trans. by Richard Philcox (New York, Grove Press, 2008).

Toward the African Revolution, trans. by Haakon Chevalier (New York, Grove Press, 1994).

Wretched of the Earth, trans. by Constance Farrington (St Ives, Penguin Classics, 2011).

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