Tag Archives: colonialism

Blog 5: Fanon






Franz Fanon was born in Martinique, France and published two books   Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth which became two post-colonial literature classics.  He used Marxist’s theory, psychology, critical race theory, and global political economy in order to give an account of the colonized subject, the problem of nationalism, and the path to liberation.  The post colonial theory is a set of theories in social science and literature that address the legacy of colonial rule and the struggle for political and cultural independence of peoples formerly subjugated in colonial empires.  In the Wretched of the Earth, Fanon defines and explains colonialism and decolonization from a political, philosophical, historical, and socio-cultural perspective.  His book served as a handbook for political leaders faced with decolonization.  Fanon says that “decolonization is not simply the removal of colonial structures, but especially, the deconstruction of colonial legacies in the mindset of formerly colonized peoples.”  He argued that colonialism was a source of violence rather than reacting violently against resistors which had been the common view.


Blog Post #5: Malcolm X, Fanon, & Colonialism

Malcolm X, inarguably one of the most provocative Civil Rights leaders, was known for his radical views and blunt approach. Malcolm X dedicated the later portion of his life to what he would consider “emancipating blacks from mental slavery” and mobilizing them to (literally) combat racism and prejudice. He saw white Americans as the biggest threat to overall African American progress. Mr. X, however, did not believe blacks were honestly American. After listening to several of his speeches, I identified the source of these sentiments. He expressed many elements of colonialism and oppression (from white Americans) in his rhetoric. This automatically reminded me of Frantz Fanon and his literature. Fanon describes that within a colonial system, there exists two conflicting societies: the colonizers and the colonized. The colonizer oppresses and barbarizes the colonized, allowing himself/herself to take full control. In this particular case, Malcolm X would consider whites as the colonizers and blacks as the colonized. Throughout history, blacks were portrayed as less intelligent and incapable of functioning effectively in society. This is partially why systems such as Jim Crow were instituted. In the video above, Malcolm X particularly speaks on decolonization and the growth of a revolution. He discusses the difference between a black revolution and a negro revolution. The latter, he argues remains stuck in colonialism. Just as Fanon writes that liberation for the colonized is only possible through revolutionary violence,  Mr. X conveys this very same idea. He makes it a point to remind the crowd that every revolution in history, up to that particular point, had resulted in bloodshed. It seems that Mr. X could have been an unofficial student of Fanon.

Brixton 1981

The interview with Darcus Howe brings up the 1981 Brixton riot…well, the BBC host assumes Howe had first-hand experience.   Either way, Howe would probably describe it as the “Brixton uprising.”  At the center, was a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in South London, England. Wikipedia describes the “1981 Brixton riot” like this:

The main riot on 11 April, dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by TIME magazine,resulted in almost 280* injuries to police and 45* injuries to members of the public; over a hundred vehicles were burned, including 56 police vehicles; and almost 150 buildings were damaged, with thirty burned. There were 82 arrests. Reports suggested that up to 5,000 people were involved.

The Guns of Brixton” is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash. It was written and sung by bassist Paul Simonon, who grew up in Brixton, south London. The song has a strong reggae influence, reflecting the culture of the area, with a nod to the classic reggae gangster film “The Harder They Come.”  This video features a collage of images shot during the days of civil unrest in 1981.

Santogold covered the song in 2008 for her “Top Ranking” mixtape with Diplo — but changed the lyrics from Brixton to Brooklyn.  This video (the first half of which is “Guns of Brooklyn,” features more documentary footage from 1981 Brixton.

‘Settler Colonialism: Then and Now’ (Video)

[Map of European colonial expansion/settlement of territories that become the United States, 1800-1820. Image from from The National Atlas of the United States of America (1970) via PCL Map Collection of the University of Texas at Austin Library]Most accounts of colonialism, like Frantz Fanon‘s tend to focus on the European powers.  Mahmood Mamdani claims that America was a “pioneer in the history and technology of settler colonialism” but “has yet to pose the question of decolonization in the public sphere.”  In this lecture, “Settler Colonialism: Then and Now,” Mamdani argues that “if there’s an ‘American exceptionalism’ it is this: the world’s first settler colonial state continues to function as one…The American sensibility remains a settler sensibility in important ways.”  This lecture was delivered on December 6, 2012 at Princeton University for the 10th Annual Edward W. Said ’57 Memorial Lecture.

Mahmood Mamdani is an academic, author, and political commentator. He is the author of, among other books, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (1996), When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (2002), Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2010), and, most recently, Define and Rule: Native as Political Identity (2012). His works explore the intersection between politics and culture, the history of colonialism since 1452, the history of civil war and genocide in Africa, the Cold War and the War on Terror, and the history and theory of human rights.

Mamdani is presently the Herbert Lehman Professor of Government at Columbia University in New York, and also Professor and Director of the Makerere Institute of Social Research at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, and. He grew up in Uganda and acquired his B.A from the University of Pittsburgh, before going on to attain his Masters degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in 1969 and his PhD from Harvard University in 1974.  This event was sponsored by the Edward W. Said ’57 Memorial Lecture Fund, the Princeton Committee on Palestine, the Department of English, and the Program in African Studies.

‘Colonized’ by Corporations?

“Colonized by Corporations,” a column by Chris Hedges (Truthdig, 5/14) brings together multiple themes and concepts from the course — colonialism, decolonization, exploitation, revolution, legitimacy, violence, ideology, racism and white supremacy, to name a few.  Hedges argues that theorists of colonial rule like Frantz Fanon offer the best insights into the functioning of our own system, which he calls a “corporate state”:

“We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent.”

In order to challenge the “corporate state,” Hedges argues we must first recognize ourselves as “colonized subjects.” But, as Fanon observed in “Black Skin, White Masks,” the psychological mechanism of cognitive dissonance often inhibits such recognition:

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”

On the question of the “revolutionary potential” of different social classes and class “fractions,” Hedges concurs with Marx, that the marginalized poor (lumpenproletariat), as a group, present little threat to the ruling elite.

“The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.”