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Coming sixty years after the publication of The Wretched of the Earth and his death from leukemia at the age of 36, Fanon Today: Reason and Revolt of the Wretched of the Earth, edited by activist and scholar Nigel Gibson, provides a solid overview of the relevance of Frantz Fanon to the work of those of us who still believe that a just and humane world is both necessary and possible. Throughout the volume the contributors provide space and examples of a Fanonist development of radical humanism, which provides for the psychological development of the person within the context of consciousness raising, collective action and structural change. Through a variety of examples, the book also clearly demonstrates the fact that the agents of change do not simply have to be the usual suspects of the industrial working class but includes – and must include – the peasantry and the various manifestations of the lumpenproletariat. As noted by Gibson, “Fanon’s new humanism is a politics of becoming, based on the fundamental transformation of paralyzed Black and colonized subjects into new human beings through the liberation struggle” (p. 300). Timothy Wild, Review of African Political Economy. Dec 6, 2021.
This monumental compendium of cosmopolitical provocations and decolonial insights does more than just correct the misreadings that have threatened recently to engulf and mystify Fanon’s work. These exhilarating essays and commentaries put his incendiary contribution back where it belongs: in the insurgent speculations and reconstructive efforts of creative thinkers struggling to transform the imperiled predicament of our planet. —Paul Gilroy, founding Director of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Race and Racism at University College London
This is a wonderful book. It succeeds in extracting Fanon’s thought (the Wretched/Damned of the Earth in particular) from the realms of academia, Cultural Studies and Afropessimism and to locate it squarely where it originally belonged: within the domain of political practice, outside of which it makes very little sense. In academic reading, one remains a prisoner of the limits of the text itself; in a political reading, the text becomes a vehicle for addressing the problems raised by active militancy. Gibson has succeeded in bringing together an international array of brilliant contributors who all prove to be eloquent witnesses to the continued relevance of Fanonian concepts—such as the Manichean character of (neo)colonialism and racism, the corrupt nature of the so-called ‘national bourgeoisie’ and the continued relevance of ‘national consciousness’—in the contemporary expanded reproduction of racial capitalism on a world scale. What is particularly fascinating is the way in which intense studies of Fanon’s writings within the United States carceral system and South African informal settlements among other locations have enabled the production of political thought that takes Fanonian dialectical categories beyond their original subjective context, into concrete political practices combining the necessary experiences of particular struggles with conceptions of universal freedom. This is a militant work for militant readers. —Michael Neocosmos, Emeritus Professor in Humanities, Rhodes University, South Africa.
There is not one time, not one aspect of the world’s experience, that does not give credence to Fanon’s precepts. Our collective human history has taught us that the human is bound to face attempts to crush her or his integrity, to condemn them to despicable exploitation, treacherous oppression. It is in the very nature of that experience that we have learned how Fanon shall never die. For his precepts and action remain always universally relevant. This is also what Fanon Today affirms. The book is fundamentally relevant and useful. It reminds us that in the face of exploitation and repression, the human and the humanist will always find ways to combat those. Dense and eclectic, strategically thought out and organized, critically stimulating, this book is as incisive as it is compelling. —Hanétha Véte-Congolo, President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association
In this collective labor of love of the here and the now, voices of the damned—that pathologized, incarcerated, and evicted majority of the world’s population—rise! From Algeria to Brazil, Ireland to Kenya, Palestine to Portugal, South Africa to Trinidad and beyond, they are breathing life into and actively humanizing our precious and oh-so-fragile earth. Meeting brutal structural violence with the courageous construction of democratizing institutions that nurture mental health, well-being, and solidarity, Fanonian praxis emerges in each chapter. Evincing a thoughtful agency that questions everything, the volume forges new relations spanning generations and locales. Through it, sixty years since the publication of Les damnés de la terre, Fanon’s insights reach out to us, beckoning us to carry on the tireless work of building a world of the “we.” —Jane Anna Gordon, author of Statelessness and Contemporary Enslavement
Coming out of the pandemic, the greatest challenge is how we express our anger, how we make it a digna rabia, a “dignified rage”, as the Zapatistas say. Fanon must be part of the answer. This magnificent collection of essays helps us to focus our minds on that challenge, to direct our anger to the task of making a different world. An important book, an exciting book. —John Holloway, author of We are the Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader
Fanon Today: Reason and Revolt of the Wretched of the Earth, edited and cordinated by Nigel C Gibson, gives the opportunity to several intellectuals and activists with different backgrounds from Brazil to Algeria, from Pakistan to South Africa, to tell how the struggle against injustice and racism inscribe itself into the continuity of the Fanonian visionary legacy. Not to be missed! —Hassane Mezine, Photographer, Film Director of Fanon hier, aujourd’hui
This is an indispensable book. It brings together many among the overlooked communities for whom Fanon actually wrote—the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the organic voices rising from the depths of misery on the verge of despair. What better way to commemorate the six decades since the publication of Les damnés de la terre than to remind readers of that great work that the people in solidarity with whom its ideas were generated not only speak but also write? Read and learn from these voices as, in those proverbial revolutionary words, the struggle continues. —Lewis R. Gordon, author of Freedom, Justice, and Decolonization
*In Fanon Today, Nigel Gibson brings to life the Fanonian project of exploring the implications of radical theory in contemporary sites of struggles. This groundbreaking book commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Wretched of the Earth by exploring its significance in the work of intellectuals and organizers active in radical social movements. Fanon Today is a timely book about the turbulent present and its connections to the long history of racial capitalism. It is a landmark addition to the field of Fanonian studies and an absolutely necessary reading for anyone interested in decolonial thought and social movements. —Yasser Munif, author, The Syrian Revolution: Between the Politics of Life and the Geopolitics of Death
Fanon Today does not just bring Fanon into the immediate present, it also restores Fanon as a thinker of praxis, of organisation and struggle. There are a growing number of attempts to retrieve Fanon’s thought from its immediate historical context and put it to work in the present. But there are very few that show much interest in the fact that most of Fanon’s work was produced and grounded within struggle, within popular struggle. In keeping with Fanon’s own internationalism his thought is brought into struggles in Palestine, Pakistan, Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, the prisons in the United States and more. The worldliness of the work gathered here speaks, implicitly but lucidly, to the spirit of a thinker who was, always, in motion towards the world. Edited by Nigel Gibson, a leading Fanon scholar, including work by a group of exciting younger thinkers, and graced by a contribution from Ato Sekyi-Otu, also one of the best Fanon scholars, and a singular philosophical presence in the examination of the contemporary African condition, the book has real intellectual heft. It is essential reading for anyone who aims to engage Fanon as a comrade in struggle rather than solely as an interlocutor in more isolated and abstracted forms of academic theorizing. — Richard Pithouse, Editor, New Frame and author of Being Human After 1492
Edited by Nigel C Gibson
Frantz Fanon died sixty years ago in December 1961. In less than a decade, from 1952 to 1961, he wrote three books (Black Skin White Masks, (1952), A Dying Colonialism (1959) and The Wretched of the Earth (1961)) that have become recognized as classics of decolonization. After nearly four years working at Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in colonial Algeria, he officially joined the Front de Liberation Nationale (FLN) and began working full-time for the Algerian revolution while continuing his work as a psychiatrist in Tunis, where he opened a day hospital in 1958. Later, he became part of the Provisional Algerian Government (GPRA) as Ambassador to Ghana and represented the GPRA across West and North Africa.
The Wretched of the Earth reflected his ongoing philosophy about liberation. What would become “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness” was presented to the National Liberation Army at Ghardimao on the Algerian-Tunisian border. Notes from psychiatric cases, as well as his critique of the Algeria school of ethnopsychiatry, would be reframed in the chapter, “Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders,” and his presentation at The Congress of Black Writers and Artists conference in Rome was included in his chapter “On National Culture.” The presentation opened with the words, “each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.”
If these words are but one expression of the Fanonian measure, then the ideas this book offers revolve around the importance of Fanon thought to the various peoples and cultures being subjugated by colonialization. How can Fanon help them in their quest to be free from subjugation? Alongside the courage of all those participating in these movements, counter-revolution, most brutally seen in its almost permanent state in Syria, aided by global and regional powers, demands a real reckoning.
Fanon was one of the first theorists of the anticolonial revolution to warn that the counter-revolution was not simply external. It is importantly internal and often aided by neo-colonial forces. Fanon found that one of the greatest weaknesses of anticolonial movements was their failure to consider, let alone create, a genuinely decolonized society, because they lacked an explicit revolutionary-humanist philosophy grounded in the experience of the masses. The tragedy of the anticolonial struggles, Fanon argues, is framed by the macro-political outlooks of the anticolonial movement leaders, and by the intellectuals who fetishize political power and see taking over the colonial apparatus as their prize. Fanon’s insights have proved essential to our understanding of the failure of countless anticolonial struggles. From our present retrogressive reality, this book demands that we recast our vision and ask: What might this generation of intellectual revolutionaries and social movements ask of Fanon, and what might have Fanon asked of them?
If we wish to move forward, everything, Fanon writes in The Wretched, needs to be thought out again, and new beginnings should be fashioned in line with those caught up in local struggles. This return to the people is by no means transparent, Fanon warns, because demoralization has been buried deep by years of colonization. He insists that “the sense of time must no longer be that of the moment or the next harvest but rather that of the rest of the world.” Fanon’s sharp critique of the wreckage wrought in the name of humanity does not tempt him to reject ideas of humanism as the master’s tools; rather, his quest, “new humanism,” is evoked throughout his work and makes especially relevant arguments for radical activists who are committed to promoting social change, dignity and equality.
Sixty years is a long time in the afterlife of any thinker, and for Fanon, who was for many years dismissed not only as a humanist and advocate of violence but also as simply passé, the veracity and indeed recent popularity of his thought has been reflected in both the new editions and translations of his work. This collection will further develop some of the latest thinking on Fanon by asking questions from another standpoint—as Fanon called it, the “rationality of revolt.” Fanon reminds us in The Wretched of the Earth that the anticolonial intellectuals, enamoured with state politics and state power as the object of politics, often deny these movements any traction. At best, popular revolts are viewed as supporters for elitist plans, so, as Fanon puts it, any criticisms become quickly silenced. What unites the attitudes of some left critics, as well as those of local and state governments, is the idea that the poor cannot speak for themselves; indeed, when they speak out they must be speaking for other interests and forces. The nationalist intellectuals, Fanon argues, is incapable of rationalizing popular praxis because of their “incapacity to attribute it any reason” (2004: 97). This idea is essential to Fanon’s critique in The Wretched of the Earth, as he emphasizes a dialectical relationship between thought and activity. This is the essence of what I have called “Fanonian practices.” In Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo I argued that just as revolutionary thought and the development of new concepts in conversation with Fanon, such as Black Consciousness in South Africa, can give radical action its direction, mass movements, often from outside of the realm of the political give direction to radical theoreticians. The engagements with Fanon in Fanon Today: The Revolt and Reason of the Wretched of the Earth begins from these spaces—by shifting the geography of reason to the revolt of the discounted and marginalized. This collection will ask and answer the question: How can Fanon help think through and understand the myriad global crises we confront?
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Rising of the Damned
PART I. FANONIAN MILITANTS
1. The Particular Lived Experience of the Black in Portugal
Flavio Zenun Almada
2. Black Mind in Motion
3. Setting Afoot of a New People: Prison Intellectuals, New Afrikan Communism and the Making of Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth
4. Looking for Justice in a Compartmentalized World: Mothers and Police Killings in Kenya
5. From ‘Caliban’ to ‘Cockroaches’: The Construction of Profane Space, Wretched Others and Political Agency in a Postcolonial ‘Ghetto’ Johannah-Rae Reyes and Levi Gahman
6. The Power of Abahlali and Our Living Politic Has Been Built with Our Blood
7. Fanon and Palestine: The struggle for justice as the core of mental health
Samah Jabr and Elizabeth Berger
8. Reading the Term ’White Syrian’ through Fanon: An Anti-Colorist Feminist Critique
9. Voice of the Revolution: Radio and Women’s Empowerment
PART II. STILL FANON
10. Pakistan The Immediacy of Frantz Fanon
11. All Quiet in this Non-Settler-Postcolony
12. The Still Wretched of the Earth: A Critique of Imaginary Decoloniza- tion
13. Of Signs, Symptoms, and Stereotypes: Fanon, Institutional Racism, and Institutional Subjectivity
Miraj U. Desai
14. Fanon, Movement and Self-Movement
Nigel C. Gibson
PART III. FANONIAN PRACTICES
Section A: Fanonian Homes
15. When Black Liberation Mattered: Frantz Fanon in the Theory and Practice of Pan-Africanism in the Black Power Era, 1965-1975
Lou Turner and Kurtis Kelley
16. Fanon, Postcolonial Criticism and Theory: Notes in Latin American Contexts
Alejandro de Oto
17. “‘Ó Bhun Aníos’: The Irish Language Revival in the North of Ireland Power, Resistance and Decolonisation
Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh
18. Generals to the Dustbin, Algeria Will Be Independent The New Alger- ian Revolution as a Fanonian Moment
19. Discussing Fanon
Abahlali baseMjondolo and Nigel C. Gibson
Section B: Fanonian Practices in Brazil
20. The Influence of Frantz Fanon’s Thought on Black Female Intellectual Production in Brazil
Rosemere Ferreira da Silva
21. The Wretched by COVID-19 and the Colonial Faces of Black Genocide in Brazil
22. Territorializing Existence as Resistance: a Fanonian Reading on the Munduruku and the Riverside Peoples Collective Self-determination Processes in Amazonia
We inhabit extraordinary times: times in which we are acutely aware of the intensity of what revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon called “the glare of history’s floodlights.” The velocity and scale at which the revolt against police murder that began in Minnesota after the death of George Floyd on May 25th and moved throughout the US, and then other parts of the world, was astonishing. It was impossible to predict, but then, in retrospect, it is George Floyd’s death becomes a nodal point: calling for action as well as rethinking and self-clarification. Thinking about this moment with the world revolutionary Frantz Fanon, we need to be aware of continuities and discontinuities — or, as he puts it, opacities — between the ages, his and ours. Fanon is always speaking to us, but often in ways we cannot hear. We have to work to listen to him and to understand the new contexts and meanings in relative opacity. It is this constant dialogue that helps illuminate the present and enable ongoing fidelity to Fanon’s call in the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth the necessity to work out new concepts to confront one of Fanon’s greatest concerns, the betrayal of the revolutionary movement. In this pamphlet we consider how Fanon’s idea of liberation is connected with “the rationality of revolt.” The practice of engaging Fanon not only with revolt but with the reason or rationality of revolt connects with Fanon’s idea of how this liberated humanity is a product of a new consciousness of collectivity open to rethink everything.