Britain’s royal family seeks to preserve the myth of the ‘neutral monarchy’ by blocking access to the archives. But as historians of the Commonwealth further investigate Britain’s colonial past, Buckingham Palace will not be able to maintain its tight control of the historical narrative.
In the Name of Algeria
Frantz Fanon and the Algerian Revolution
Let us consider this remarkable passage from the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth:
The West saw itself as a spiritual adventure. It is in the name of the spirit, in the name of the spirit of Europe, that Europe has made her encroachments, that she has justified her crimes and legitimized the slavery in which she holds four-fifths of humanity. Yes, the European spirit has strange roots (1967: 252 / 1991: 373).
Fanon emphasizes the dialectical moment in the movement of the spirit: on the one hand it is exposed as a mere ‘European spirit’, as a false universalism based on ‘strange roots’, and accordingly a disaster for the majority of humanity; on the other, through the subtle distinction between the spirit and its strictly European embodiment implicit throughout Fanon’s work, the spirit itself is rehabilitated as a living force still in the service of a new humanism. The very moment the spirit is detached from its European formation we must therefore question Fanon as to what kind of new spirit he invokes to replace the old one. Who are the ‘we’, designated by Fanon, as capable of transcending the ‘strange roots’ of the European humanism? Who are the ‘comrades’ chosen to ‘turn over a new leaf’, to ‘work out new concepts’ and, as he writes in the concluding line, try to ‘set afoot a new Man’?
The movement of the spirit is, more precisely, a condition of possiblity for Fanon’s invocation of a new humanism. It warrants the ‘both…and’ which defines Fanon’s affinity to Hegelian thought, indicates its intimate knowledge of the problematic dialectic of universalism and situates the new historical subject, the very ‘we’ that Fanon invokes, inside the framework of a historical Aufhebung. The journey towards real humanism must have as its point of departure a new foundation, a new spirit that may overcome the antinomies of the European spirit, without neglecting the ‘prodigious theses which Europe has put forward’.
This complex of problems is the focal concern of this essay. We are in the presence of a mode of reasoning which constantly undermines absolute oppositions: Fanon’s dialectic involves both learning and transcendence from Europe, both a critique of humanism and an emphasis on its necessity, both a revolt against and a rehabilitation of Hegel; a dialectic strategically concerned with the actual war between the master and the slave, the colonizer and the colonized, taking place in the country that Fanon’s destiny gradually has come to coincide with: Algeria. Algeria becomes the name of the historical subject, the spirit, that Fanon invokes to transcend the antinomies that have marked the history of mankind.
The Double-bind of Manichaeism
What are, more precisely, the antinomies? What are the historical and philosophical problems that Fanon tries to analyze and overcome? Fanon’s first work Black Skin, White Masks, from 1952, can be read as a critical reflection of four contradictory experiences: the encounter with the Martinican reality, with France, with the reality of colonialism in North Africa and with certain formations of thought. Black Skin, White Masks deepens the revolutionary reappraisal of Europa and the West, already initiated by thinkers like Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas. Jean-Paul Sartre is given a central place among the thinkers both set to work and criticized in this critical mission – the liberation of Man. A passage in Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jewfrom 1946, accounting for the Jew’s situation in an anti-Semitic society, offers some conceptual tools to Fanon’s analysis of the colonized people’s experience of the European spirit:
Such, then, is this haunted man [the jew], condemned to make his choice of himself on the basis of false problems and in a false situation, deprived of metaphysical sense by the hostility of the society that surrounds him, driven to a rationalism of despair. His life is nothing but a long flight from others and himself. He has been alienated even from his body; his emotional life has been cut up in two; he has been reduced to pursuing the impossible dream of universal brotherhood in a world that rejects him. (Sartre 1995: 135 / 1954: 164).
In the colonial situation, Fanon stresses, this logic finds its equivalent expression: Turn White or Disappear. The crucial moment for every struggle for liberation lies in the question of how this contradiction is to be resolved, in the question of how a true liberation can avoid the double-bind that seems to bind the revolution to a logic of substitution, threatening to reproduce the Manichaean structure:
– either the black man is doomed to escape the gaze of the white man, the violence and mechanisms of exclusion in the colonial system, by entering the white side of the dividing line, by melting together with the Other to such an extent that his blackness no longer can be detected. The colonized becomes ‘free’ by rejecting himself, by fulfilling his desire to turn white.
– or he is forced to affirm his blackness by positing himself against the white man and by all means necessary endeavour to replace him on the throne. The colonized becomes ‘free’ by learning to master the logic of the Manichaean order more thoroughly than the colonizer, by imitating his methods in order to outwin the master at his own game.
Sartre’s remarks on the hopelessness of this situation, of the dream of a ‘universal brotherhood’, alludes precisely to the tragic conditions of this choice: no matter what the slave does, he is bound to reproduce the very order of things and identities that he attempts to destroy. In both cases the odious structure, embodied by the master, remains – the difference between the two alternatives is merely a shifting of places between the master and the slave.
Fanon’s specific project involves both a careful examination of this dilemma and an effort to transcend it. While the early Sartre ends up in a profound pessimism over the basic hopelessness of the human condition, in the designation of man as a ‘passion inutile’ and of the impossibility of any ‘we’ becoming a unified subjectivity, Fanon continues to assert the dream of universal brotherhood and thus starts in reverse order: ‘Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions’ (1986: 42 / 1952: 33). Fanon discerns a space beyond the fundamental positions of subjectivity that colonialism creates. Between lordship and bondage, between ‘turn white or disappear’, Fanon introduces a ‘mediation’, a dialectic of reconciliation.
The Fanonian ‘I’ between France and Algeria
From the mid ’50s on a radical dislocation takes place in Fanon’s universe. It is clear already from how Fanon locates his own ‘I’: it is no longer ‘we Frenchmen’, or ‘we Martinicans’, but rather ‘we Algerians’. Fanon has choosen take part in this new historical formation, chosen to answer and recognize himself in its interpellation, and at the same time designate it as the foundation for a new humanism.1
The decisive factor for his conversion is, of course, his close encounter with the ongoing war for independence in Algeria. One year after his dissertation at the faculty of medicine in Lyon in 1952, Fanon is offered a position as chef de serviceat the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Clinic, outside of Algiers. As Simone de Beauvoir recalls, this period came to be a genuine trial for Fanon. His loyalty both to France and the colonized population was stretched to the limit. He could, for instance, threaten both torturers and tortured on the same day. It is also here that he comes into contact with FLN, and, in 1956, finally chooses to resign in order to join the liberation movement.2 The contradictions are no longer possible for him to bear and ‘the duty of the citizen’, Fanon writes in his letter of resignation, forces him to condemn the ‘systematized de-humanization’ of the Algerians:
There comes a time when silence becomes dishonesty. The ruling intentions of personal existence are not in accord with the permanent assaults on the most commonplace values. For many months my conscience has been the seat of unpardonable debates. And the conclusion is the determination not to despair of man, in other words, of myself. The decision I have reached is that I cannot continue to bear a responsibility at no matter what cost, on the false pretext that there is nothing else to be done (1988: 54 / 1969: 52-3).
In Algeria the violence and exploitation of the colonial power had indeed taken on atrocious forms. Fanon realizes that no real ‘assimilation’ or ‘integration’ is possible inside the colonial hierarchy: the promises of assimilation, freedom and equality have their conditions of impossibility in the very colonial reality they try to legitimate. The frontiers, instituted by violence since 1830, are not accidental creations bound to be abrogated in the name of French civilisation and equality. Rather, they are the fundamental requests for the double investments of colonialism: on one hand, Fanon points out, colonialism is fighting to strengthen its domination and economic exploitation; on the other it is fighting ‘to maintain the identity of the image it had of the Algerian and the depreciated image that the Algerian had of himself (1989: 30 / 1968: 12). The dividing line between ‘the master’ and ‘the slave’ is the very basis for the French colonial empire, the founding principle for the designation of France as the embodiment par excellenceof the universal subject endowed with a mission to globalize itself.
Of course, Fanon wasn’t the first to expose this paradox in the ideology and reality of L’Algérie Française. Critical voices had been raised since long, not only among other evolués in the different colonies of France, but also among French intellectuals.3 In this respect, Albert Camus, born as a pied noir in colonial Algeria, is of particular interest. Already in 1939 Camus had launched a harsh criticism against the shortcomings of the colonial system and, after the massacres in Sétif and Guelma in 1945, he declared that France must take responsibility for the rights of the ‘natives’. In contrast to Fanon, however, Camus never takes the crucial step from ‘Frenchman’ to ‘Algerian’: in fundamental respects, he remains a spokesman for L’Algérie Française. While Fanon stresses that the contradictions are inherent in the logic of colonialism per se, that they constitute structural problems that can only be resolved by ‘real independence’, Camus continues to assert a kind of reformism that binds him to a limited and immanent critique of L’Algérie Française. France always remains the exclusive subject and thus ‘the best future possiblity of the Arab peoples’ [la meilleure chance d’avenir au peuple arabe] (Camus 1965: 980). In Camus, we won’t be able to find the displacement found in Fanon, which involves nothing less than the replacement of France with Algeria.4 Or, put in other terms, Camus maintains the colonial mythology that Fanon criticizes so thoroughly in The Wretched of the Earth. According to it, the life of the colonizer is ‘an epoch, an Odyssey:
He is the absolute beginning: ‘This land was created by us’; he is the unceasing cause: ‘If we leave, all is lost, and the country will go back to the Middle Ages.’ […] And because he constantly refers to the history of the mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother country (1967: 39-40 / 1991: 82).
Fanon’s loyalty to Algeria, his ‘conversion’ from a Martiniquan-Frenchman to an Algerian, is laid bare in this passage: the moment Fanon resigns from his French mission in Algeria, it is also obvious that he himself has to shift ‘motherland’, to reinvent a symbolic ancestry that might serve his claim for Algeria as the founding principle for a new humanity.
The Algerian Spirit: Between Aristotle and Hegel
In order to grasp how Fanon conceives the movement which shall replace France with Algeria, transcend the antinomies of the European spirit and expose the contradictions of colonialism, we have to scrutinize more closely how he posits the logic of the colonial dividing line. In The Wretched of the Earthwe find a very precise description:
The colonial world is a world cut in two. The dividing line, the frontiers, are shown by barracks and police stations. […] The two zones are opposed, but not in the service of a higher unity. Obedient to the rules of pure Aristotelian logic, they both follow the principle of reciprocal exclusivity. No conciliation is possible, for of the two terms, one is superfluous (1967: 29-30 / 1991: 68-69).
This tension is a guiding principle in Fanon’s narrative: on one hand the Aristotelian logic, with its mutually exclusive oppositions; on the other, the Hegelian logic which stages the lack, the contradiction in the Aristotelian logic itself, by introducing a subversive negation. Thus, first the Aristotelian logic exemplified by the master in Black Skin, White Masks; beyond the Hegelian dialectic he only ‘laughs at the consciousness of the slave. What he wants from the slave is not recognition but work.’ (1986: 220 / 1952: 179). The slave is de trop. Secondly, the Hegelian logic which reminds both the master and the slave that the order of things is contingent and reversible. While the slave hereby becomes alert for any possibility of putting himself in the place of the colonizer, the master is compelled to guard the dividing line with ‘terrible watchdogs’. Hegel is always-alreadydeconstructing Aristoteles from within.5 The breakdown of the Manichaean structure is accordingly staged already in Fanon’s appeal to the colonized peoples to ‘make history’ and to start a ‘new history of Man’.
It also becomes clear that it is in this dialectical upheaval that we must seek both Fanon’s theory of violence and his conception of Algeria’s place in the globalrevolution against colonialism. The Aristotelian and the Hegelian systems of logics have, according to Fanon, a common denominator in the necessity of violence: in both cases the master must be overthrown with violence. Colonialism ‘is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence’ (1967: 48 / 1991: 98).
However, a fundamental difference remains: the moment his theory of violence is based upon an Aristotelian conception, Fanon will be trapped inside the scope of the double-bind and thus reproduce the Manichaean logic. The violence will not upset its logic of substitution and the slave that yields to pure force will only be tomorrow’s master. Here, it is actually the colonizer that shows him the way:
He [the native] of whom they have never stopped saying that the only language he understands is that of force, decides to give utterance by force. In fact, as always, the settler has shown him the way he should take if he is to become free. The argument the native chooses has been furnished by the settler, and by an ironic turning of the tables it is the native who now affirms that the colonialist understands nothing but force (1967: 66 / 1991: 116).
It is precisely here that we find Fanon’s greatest challenge. How can Algeria replace France without reproducing its ideology and colonial structures? Under what circumstances is it possible to create a ‘new humanism’, a new kind of nationalism and a social structure that doesn’t reflect the colonial system? Is there a universal brotherhood beyond the Aristotelian logic?
The invocation of Hegel implies a fundamental promise in Fanon’s thoughts on violence. In Jean-Paul Sartre’s preface to The Wretched of the Earth, this promise finds its most hopeful expression: ‘To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remain a dead man, and a free man’ (1967: 19 / 1991: 52). It is on the level of liberation and freedom that the fundamental difference between the Aristotelian and Hegelian logic must be found. In the first case, liberation is primarily a question of transcending the dividing line, to penetrate the other zone guided by its terrible watchdogs, and to take the colonizer’s place. In the other, the aim is to abolish the dehumanizing system of colonialism at its very roots, to liberate both the colonizer and the colonized. As Fanon points out in the introduction to A Dying Colonialism, an independent Algeria must not be ‘the result of one barbarism replacing another barbarism, of one crushing of man replacing another crushing of man’ (1989: 32 / 1968: 15).
Already in Black Skin, White Masksthis is one of the principal themes: a true liberation must involve a radical dissolution, not only, or even primarily, of the physical violence of colonial-racist situation, but ultimately a dissolution of the inferiority complex and the alienation epidermalized in the colonized. In his comments on Hegel, Fanon designates violence as the very negation that can crush the atmosphere of submission that holds the slave as a captive of himself. Choosing violence is from this perspective nothing less than choosing an existence that transcends mere life, to risk death for the foundation of a subjectivity and freedom (être-pour-soi) of one’s own:
I demand that notice be taken of my negating activity insofar as I pursue something other than life; insofar as I do battle for the creation of a human world – that is, of a world of reciprocal recognitions. […] Historically, the Negro steeped in the inessentiality of servitude was set free by his master. He did not fight for it (1986: 218-219 / 1952: 177).
In The Wretched of the Earththis analysis, woven together subtly by Hegelian and psychoanalytical elements, is further developed: the colonialized ‘thing’, Fanon writes, becomes human in the same process by which it frees itself (1967: 28 / 1991: 67).S6 He continues:
The well-known principle that all men are equal will be illustrated in the colonies from the moment that the native claims that he is the equal of the settler. […] Thus the native discovers that his life, his breath, his beating heart are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler’s skin is not of any more value than a native’s skin; and it must be said that this discovery shakes the world in a very necessary manner. All the new, revolutionary assurance of the native stems from it (1967: 34-35 / 1991: 75-76).
The moment the gaze of the colonizer no longer paralyzes the colonized, the first step is taken towards the destruction of the two zones: nobody can be a lord when the slaves are missing. However, some fundamental questions arise: on what – besides the violence – shall the liberated nation be founded? What remains of the newly won unity the moment the most unifying element – the enemy – has been conquered? How shall the future Algeria be organized?
Again, the conceptual tools put forward by Sartre in Anti-Semite and Jew can serve as starting-point. The Manichaean ideology of anti-Semitism is here designated as a pure, abstract negation, a social movement rooted only in the call for an eradication of the Other:
Therefore Good consists above all in the destruction of Evil. Underneath the bitterness of the anti-Semite is concealed the optimistic belief that harmony will be re-established of itself, once Evil is eliminated. His task is therefore purely negative: there is no question of building a new society, but only of purifying the one which exists (Sartre 1995: 43 / 1954: 50).
In Fanon this analysis becomes a critical weapon of self-examination. For Algeria to become a country that is ‘open to all’ and, as Fanon writes, a society ‘in which every kind of genius may grow’, certain pitfalls must be avoided (1989: 32 / 1968: 15). Let us examine them more closely.
From French Algeria to African Algeria
A reading of Fanon’s articles in El Moudjahid, the FLN mouthpiece, indicates how ‘Algeria’ gradually becomes charged with a modified significance and function.7 It appears as a moment in a wider destiny, a process that transcends the national consciousness and the national revolution. ‘We, Algerians’ are now intimately linked to a new subject: ‘we, Africans’. Fanon’s ultimate aim seems to be the conceptualization of the conditions of possibility for a unified Africa, even a ‘United States of Africa’ (1988: 187 / 1969: 185). Algeria’s function in the war against colonialism is thus to pave the way, to uncover the contradictions in the French colonial policy, to stage the weakness of the master by exposing him to the persistent and violent will of the former slaves. Put in Hegelian terms: Algeria is the negation – ‘the most active and also the truest element in this dialectic’ (1988: 112 / 1969: 115) – that stages the historical contingency of French colonialism by showing that its power only resides upon the submission of the colonized. From this perspective, the Algerian revolution becomes nothing less than the ‘scandal’ that ‘upsets the established balances, the accepted truths and fundamentally challenges the prospects of the French nation’ (1988: 111 / 1969: 114). Several texts address themselves directly to the people of the African continent, urging them to follow the example of Algeria. The Algerian struggle becomes both the weak point of the colonial system and ‘the rampart of the African peoples’:
The war of liberation of the Algerian people has spread the gangrene and carried the rot of the system to such a point that it has become obvious to observers that a global crisis must result. […] When we address ourselves to colonial peoples, and more especially to the African peoples, it is because we have to hurry to build Africa, so that it will express itself and come into being, so that it will enrich the world of men, and so that it may be authentically enriched by the world’s contributions (1988: 114-115 / 1969: 118-119).
Fanon uncovers the logic which is at stake on both sides: for France ‘Algeria’ is the scandal, the contradiction, that must be concealed; for Algeria its possible success would constitute itself as a ‘guide territory’, paving the way for other oppressed peoples to continue the struggle against colonialism. The guide territory, Fanon writes, functions as ‘an invitation, an encouragement, a promise’. In this process the colonialized peoples gradually come to know their real enemy and each struggle for national independence is, therefore, ‘dialectically linked to the struggle against colonialism in Africa’ (1988: 171 / 1969: 173).
Such a revolutionary consciousness is, however, yet to be formed. Fanon’s experiences of the newly independent states in Africa fills him with doubt. No humanism will spring automatically from the defeat of the colonial power. Colonialism threatens to be replaced by a ‘pseudo-independence’. Fanon observes that the greatest menaces to the future of Africa are to be found in the absence of ideology, the great appetites from the national middle classes who believe that they ‘can conduct political affairs like their business’, the nationalist parties’ distrust towards the rural masses and finally the extreme militarist policy which together create a repression as pitiless as that of the colonial periods.
In The Wretched of the Earth these warnings find their most pregnant expression. The tragic reality that plagues many postcolonial states in Africa bears witness to Fanon’s remarkable gift of prophecy.S8 The common front, mobilized and formed during the war against the colonial power, is threatened by disintegration the very moment the enemy has been physically vanquished. The nation’s lack of common interests is now exposed, and it becomes necessary to transform the energies of spontaneity into political organization. Fanon insists on ‘the objective necessity of a social programme which will appeal to the nation as a whole’ (1967: 97 / 1991: 160). A nation that aspires to democracy can neither be built upon the eradication of the enemy as the only means of preserving unity amongst its own people, nor on the notion of a given identity and solidarity inherent a priori in the nation:
The people will thus come to understand that national independence sheds light upon many facts which are sometimes divergent and antagonistic. Such a taking stock of the situation at this precise moment of the struggle is decisive, for it allows the people to pass from total, undiscriminating nationalism to social and economic awareness. The people who at the beginning of the struggle had adopted the primitive Manichaeism of the settler – Blacks and Whites, Arabs and Christians – realize as they go along that it sometimes happens that you get Blacks who are whiter than the Whites and that the fact of having a national flag and the hope of an independent nation does not always tempt certain strata of the population to give up their interests or privileges… Everything seemed to be so simple before: the bad people were on one side, and the good on the other (1967: 115 / 1991: 182-183).
The national movement will meet its terminal point, Fanon continues, if it is not deepened by a rapid ‘transformation into a consciousness of social and political needs, in other words into humanism’(1967: 165 / 1991: 247, my emphasis). Consequently, the transformation of Manichaeism requires both a dissolution of the primitive categories of identification, upheld both by the colonial power, the middle class and the spontaneous masses, and a scrupulous analysis of the social and economic state of affairs. The colonized peoples must, Fanon writes, insist on the necessity of a global ‘redistribution of wealth’, on the fact that the colonial powers have an enormous debt to pay to the colonized world for all the riches they have stolen from it. The Marxist spirit invoked in The Wretched of the Earthis already present in the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks: ‘There will be an authentic disalienation only to the degree to which things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word, will have been restored to their proper places’ (1986: 14 / 1952: 9).
Fanon endeavours to pave the way for an Algerian – and African – development beyond ‘the middle class chauvinistic national phase’, or more precisely, beyond the national elite’s identification with, and reproduction of, the cultural and economic logic of the former colonial state. The national middle class has already shown their delight in playing the role of ‘transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neocolonialism’ (1967: 122 / 1991: 193). The whole future of Africa is at stake:
African unity, that vague formula, yet one to which the men and woman were passionately attached, and whose operative value served to bring immense pressure to bear on colonialism, African unity takes off the mask, and crumbles to regionalism inside the hollow shell of nationality itself. […] Colonialism which had been shaken to its very foundations by the birth of African unity, recovers its balance and tries now to break that will to unity by using all the movement’s weaknesses (1967: 128 / 1991: 200-201).
Africa is divided into black and white, Muslim and Christian, into a variety of ethnic groups and tribes. The unity that made the revolution possible is split into fundamental disunity. ‘The hollow shell of nationality’ is indeed a very precise notion of the traumatic state that afflicts many postcolonial states of today – Algeria, not the least. The tragic trend of events that has torn Algeria apart since the violent interruption of the elections in the late ’80s, finds here its crucial designation: today’s Algeria designates mainly an empty formula, a purely formal identity, and the clashes of ideologies are focused precisely on the question regarding which social reality and cultural identity should give content to this empty form.
The Manichaean logic is here put in the service of an ‘hermeneutics of eradication’ where every sign of difference and deviation, from the perspective of one (or the other) fraction’s projection of the content of ‘the true Algeria’, is enough for a death sentence. Civilians and innocence no longer exist. The ideology of ‘cleansing’ and ‘purification’ involved in this tragic process, expresses the dream of a total liberation, of a subjectivity beyond Otherness, that certain elements in Algeria nourish (in particular GIA, to a certain extent FIS and fractions of the security forces).9
Stressing the importance of conceiving Fanon’s notion of humanism as a specific negation to the Manichaean order, we are requested to understand it as the very moment which enables us to transcend the inhuman in such a relation to the other. Fanon’s humanism must be interpreted in terms of praxis, in the sense that it is explicitly ‘prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict’ (1967 / 1991: 294). In Hegelian terms: as the mediation of the ‘abstract negation’ inherent in the many attributes to the Manichaean logic that Fanon develops in his works: ‘the narcissistic monologue’, ‘the metaphysics of absolute difference’, ‘systematic de-humanization’, ‘paternalistic understanding’, etc.
Accordingly, the logic of substition that is set to work by Fanon is always situated. Algeria as the subject which undermines the Manichaean society and destroys the reification inherent in colonialism, serves a double purpose: to reveal ‘the strange roots’ of the European spirit and to stage the possibility of a humanism without thesespecific antinomies. The basic ground for his disavowal of race or ethnicity as foundations of subjectivity is his insistence on the possibility of a dialectical transcendence which, in the end, amounts to nothing less than a ‘right to citizenship’ in a world of ‘reciprocal recognitions’. Fanon’s visionary narrative wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t that he assumed the possibility of dialectical transcendence, of the possibility of a national consciousness which may give birth to an ‘opening of oneself to the other’, on a personal lever, and on a further scale, to an ‘international consciousness’ (1967: 199 / 1991: 296). The absence of any exhaustive account in Fanon for the state of affairs awaiting mankind at the end this dialectic should not upset us; rather we should be grateful that he refrains from reducing his critical legacy to just one among many other hallucinatory phantasms of an End of History beyond the unforeseeable [imprévisible] possibilities that true human encounters implies.
Fanon, F: (1952) Peau Noire, Masques Blancs, Paris: Éditions du Seuil.
(1959-69) Rencontre de la societé et de la psychiatrie: Notes de cours Tunis 1959-69, Tunis: Université de Oran.
(1967) The Wretched of the Earth, Great Britain: Penguin Books.
(1968) Sociologie d’une révolution, Paris: François Maspero [Sr].
(1969) Pour la révolution africaine: Écrits Politiques, Paris: François Maspero.
(1986) Black Skin, White Masks, London: Pluto.
(1988) Toward the African Revolution, New York: Grove Press.
(1989) Studies in A Dying Colonialism, London: Earthscan Publications.
(1991) Les Damnés de la terre, Paris: Éditions Gallimard.
(1995) Svart hud, vita masker, Göteborg: Daidalos.
Azar, Michael: (1995) ‘Fanon, Hegel och motståndets problematik’, Preface to the Swedish translation of Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, Svart hud, vita masker, Göteborg: Daidalos.
Azar, Michael: (1997) ‘Albert Camus and L’Algérie Française’, in Ord & Bild, 6/97, Uddevalla.de Beauvoir, S: (1963) La force des choses, Paris: Gallimard
Bernasconi, R: (1996) ‘Casting the slough: Fanon’s New Humanism for a New Humanity’, In: Fanon: A Critical Reader, Ed. Gordon, L. R, White, R. T and Sharpley-Whiting, T. D. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Bhabha, H K: (1994) The Location of Culture, New York and London: Routledge
Bulhan, H A: (1985) Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression.New York: Plenum Press.
Camus, A: (1965) Essais, Paris: Éditions Gallimard
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Rioux, J-P and Sirinielli, J-P: (1991) La guerre d’Algérie et les intellectuels français, Paris: Éditions Complexe.
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–- (1954) Réflexions sur la question Juive, Paris: Éditions Gallimard [RqJ]
Sekyi-Otu, A: (1996) Fanon’s dialectic of experience, Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press.
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White, R. T and Sharpley-Whiting, T. D. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Vergès, F: (1997) ‘Creole skin, Black Mask: Fanon and Disavowal’, in: Critical Inquiry, Vol 23, No 3. Chicago.
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This 'conversion' has been discussed in various terms. See for instance Françoise Vergès(1997) on Fanon's disavowal of his Antillean history and his invention of a symbolic ancestry in Algeria. For a convincing critique of the perspective elaborated by Albert Memmi and others on Fanon as either an European interloper or a 'pretended' Algerian, see Gordon, L R (1995), chapter 5. It is necessary to recapture the signicance of Fanon's early identification with France - "I am a Frenchman. I am interested in French culture, French civilization, the French people. We refuse to be considered 'outsiders', we have full part in the French drama" - to really understand the meaning of this 'shift' for his life and thought (1986: 203 / 1952: 164). However this specific subject isn't further developed here, it will be thoroughly examined in my forthcoming thesis, In the Name of the Spirit Representations of a war: Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartreand Frantz Fanon(to be published first in Swedish this winter, 2000).
See Simone de Beauvoir(1963) chapter 11 and Perinbam (1982) chapter 4, for a discussion of this period in Fanon's life.
For further discussion, see Girardet, R (1972) and Sirinielli, J-F and Rioux, J-P (1991).
See Azar(1995 and 1997) for a more detailed analysis of Camus and Fanon in this respect.
For an excellent discussion on this tension in Fanon's work, see chapter 2 in Sekyi-Otu, A (1996). chapter. See also Bernasconi, R (1996) and Bhabha, H K (1994) where this tension, although theorized in other concepts (ambivalence etc.), is central for his reading of Fanon.
ee Bulhan, H A (1985) and Azar(1995) for a more substantial examination of Fanon's relation to psychoanalysis. Of interest is also Fanon's lecture notes from 1959-60, where he returns to Lacanand others in a critical examination of the value of certain psychologies in the light of colonial Algeria (1959-60).
These text are collected in his (1988) (, 1969).
ee Olufemi Taiwo(1996) for instructive observations on this topic.
For a short, but convincing, analysis of the postcolonial history of Algeria, see Benjamin Stora(1995). The formula "In the name of the spirit" designates here the incessant proclamation of differerent Subjects (Islam, Modernity, Arabism etc.) charged with the burden of cleansing Algeria from all 'Evil' elements. This logic is thoroughly described by Hegelwhere this 'abstract negation' implies a fundamental inability to accept the negativity that dwells in the 'lack' that every identity - personal or social - is bestowed with. The Other in the fundamentalist discourse - religious or not - functions as the embodiement of the very reason to the existence of the lack (before the appearance of the Other everything was in perfect order). This makes it possible to imagine an existence, a society, without it - after it has been eradicated. Of course, its a form of ideology which constantly threatens itself: the very moment the Other is actually eradicated the whole structure of the phantasm may be exposed as an illusion and that's is the precise reason to why these ideologies constantly must invent new enemies to the Cause [Spirit]. The Hegelian concept of 'the loss of the loss' designates this logic perfectly: for the fundamentalist nothing could be worse than facing an actual loss of the enemy, because it would only expose that he never had (and never can have) what he supposed to have lost. The moment of victory is therefore the moment of greatest loss as he now loses the very loss he had blaimed the Other for (Cf. Zizek: 1990). It is also here it is important to stress Fanon's acute criticism of, for instance, Négritude, where he refrains from yielding to this very illusion of an identity, or a society, without an inherent negativity.
Published 6 December 2000
Original in English
First published by Glänta
Contributed by Glänta © Michael Azar / Glänta / EurozinePDF/PRINT
To understand why the imitation of western-style liberal democracy failed post-communist Central Europe, one has to consider the agency of the lead partner, the West. Mimicry is a strategy of colonial power, that stems from the logic of the dominant: it is encouraged on the condition that it fails.