Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (1963)

In the Wretched of the Earth, Fanon eloquently and powerfully voices revolutionary theory, psychological insights, and paths to liberation from the perspective of the colonized Other.  As part of the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Fanon offers an intimate explanation of the colonized psyche to the powerful extent that Jean-Paul Sarte says of Fanon:  [T]he Third World finds itself and speaks to itself through his voice (10).  

As Fanon explains, “The status of ‘native’ is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonized people with their consent” (20).  In saying so, he holds the natives responsible for their own liberation, which can only be achieved through community organization to topple the prevailing power structures.  As Fanon writes, “The immobility to which the native decides to put an end to the history of colonization—the history of pillage—and to bring into existence the history of the nation—the history of decolonization” (51).  Decolonization sometimes entails organized violence in Fanon’s eyes; for “colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties.  It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence” (61).  Fanon does not condone violence based on revenge or racial hatred; but organized violence constructed by a revolutionary parties educated leaders can be effective (147). 


 Fanon believes that revolutionary parties must be organized around nation, not race or culture, because “every culture is first and foremost national” (216).  He does not believe in a black culture, for instance, because the political, economic, and social conditions for black peoples all over the world are not the same.  Fanon also says that once a culture has been colonized there is no reverting back to previous cultural traditions, for that would be going against the current of history and opposing the people themselves who constitute that culture (224).  Reclaiming national culture is the answer he feels; for “it is the fight for national existence which sets culture moving and opens to it the doors of creation” (244).  Through the development of national consciousness, through the struggle for libertion, through what I call rhetorics of decolonization, culture is born afresh…


Interestingly, Fanon describes the role of national arts in the struggle for liberation.  He explains that literature, drama, epics, stories, contribute to the national movement for freedom.  The literary arts, which he calls literature for combat, I might call rhetorics for combat, as they “call on whole people to fight for their existence as a nation….[I]t molds the national consciousness, giving it form and contours and flinging open before it new and boundless horizons….[I]t assumes responsibility…and it is the will to liberty expressed in terms of time and space” (240).  Fanon claims songs also contribute to this movement as well as handicrafts, ceramics, and pottery, which “begin to reach out” (241).  In making  contributions to the national effort, “the artist invites participation in an organized movement” (242).   While formalism drops out, colors which previously conformed to rules of harmony, begin to increase in numbers and intensity “by the repercussion of the rising revolution” (242).  Jazz, as Cornel West claims, is living evidence of this revolutionary movement in the southern U.S.  The purpose of these arts is “no longer than of univocation but rather of the assembling of the people, a summoning together to awaken the native’s sensibility and to make unreal and inacceptable the contemplative attitude, or the acceptance of defeat” (243).  Continuing, Fanon explains, “[t]he native rebuilds his perceptions because he renews the purpose and dynamism of the craftsman, of dancing and music, and of literature and the oral tradition” (244). 







To be a European man is to be an accmplice of colonialism, since all Europeans benefit by colonial exploitation (25).


And when one day our human kind becomes full-grown, it will not define itself as the sum total of the whole world’s inhabitants, but as the infinite unity of their mutual needs- 27


For a colonized people, the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land:  the land which will bring them bread, and above all, dignity – 44.


The native can see clearly and immediately if decolonization has come to pass or not, for his minimum demands are simply that the last shall be first –46  The native is an oppressed person whose permanent dream is the be the prosecuter – 53


Enemy is created by myth – 56


Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it -206.




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