Beyond Manicheanism: A Critical Study of Frantz Fanon's Dialectic of Liberation

Dissertation, Columbia University (1996)
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Abstract

As Frantz Fanon's writings receive increasing attention, inspiring a variety of applications and interpretations, it becomes increasingly important to situate Fanon accurately in the historical milieu that formed him and that he helped form. This dissertation seeks to supply such a foundation, especially the relevant intellectual context without which one cannot justly appreciate Fanon's political and philosophical preoccupations. Reconsidering the relation between Fanon the political theorist and Fanon the revolutionary activist, this dissertation takes fully into account Fanon's crucial engagement with the Hegelian dialectic, particularly the master/slave dialectic. This re-evaluation further recognizes the importance of Fanon's engagement with--and critique of--negritude and Sartrean existentialism. This project then analyzes Fanon's approach to such problems as violence, humanism, women's liberation, and nationalism. ;The problematic Fanon develops in his early Black Skin, White Masks , especially with regard to his conception of reciprocity in race relations, is redeveloped and reworked in The Wretched of the Earth as a response to the Algerian revolution. Through his experience of this revolution, Fanon finds the historical subject for a new dialectic of liberation. The Algerian masses' experience of revolution, which is not exhausted by violence, is central to Fanon's conception of the "radical mutation" in the "native's" culture and consciousness, which he describes in Dying Colonialism. The experience of this "fighting culture" is crucial if Fanon's ideal of reciprocity, or a new humanism, is to be realized. ;What I call "beyond manicheanism" offers a way to think about Fanon's conception of a dialectic of revolution. To go "beyond manicheanism" is to transcend the absolute division of the colonial world into native and settler; it is to pursue an analysis more complex than an argument that construes the problem only as an opposition between colonial society and the native's reaction to it. Beyond manicheanism offers a way to get beyond the general abstraction of colonizer and colonized without throwing out the reality that these terms imply, and at the same time provide the possibility of expressing difference. In short, "beyond manicheanism" offers an understanding of Fanon's thought through the idea of a possible subjectivity beyond one defined by the Other

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