From Political Space to Political Agency: Arendt, Sartre, and Fanon on Race and Revolutionary Violence

Dissertation, The University of Memphis (2003)

Kathryn Gines
Pennsylvania State University
This dissertation challenges Hannah Arendt's conception of the political realm including the public/private distinction and the "rise of the social." I argue that this distinction results in a paradox, confining "the many" to the private realm so that "the few" may access the public realm. This is not only a problem in The Human Condition , but also before that in The Burden of Our Time , and afterwards in "Reflections on Little Rock" , On Revolution , and On Violence . I make the case that the limitations of Arendt's distinction is clear in her glorification of the American Revolution for focusing on the political question of the form of government and her claim that, unlike the French Revolution, the American Revolution excluded the social questions of economics, poverty, and misery. ;This distinction is also present in Arendt's analysis of imperialism, the rise of which she attributes to bourgeois political thinking and to the political realm taking on economic expansion as a national goal. The distinction also persists in Arendt's analysis of anti-black racism and her critique of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, which she accuses of dragging the social issue of discrimination into the political realm. Finally, the distinction underlies Arendt's critique of violence. Arendt describes the violence necessary to maintain the public/private distinction without criticism, yet she is highly critical of the revolutionary violence of the colonized against colonizers. ;Against this background I present the alternative viewpoints of Jean-Paul Sartre and Frantz Fanon. Looking at Sartre's "Black Orpheus" and Fanon's "The Lived Experience of the Black" , I examine what I call anti-black colonialism, anti-black racism, and the formation of black racial identities for the colonized. I also examine Sartre's and Fanon's later works, especially The Wretched of the Earth , with their analyses of colonialism in terms of the antagonistic relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, the role of super-exploitation, and the pervasive violence within the colonial system. Finally, I argue that revolutionary violence is both a justifiable and a legitimate method for the colonized to confront the violent system of colonialism
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