The Wretched Of The Earth


Fanon's book, "The Wretched Of The Earth" like Foucault's 
"Discipline and Punish" question the basic assumptions that underlie 
society. Both books writers come from vastly different perspectives 
and this shapes what both authors see as the technologies that keep 
the populace in line. Foucault coming out of the French intellectual 
class sees technologies as prisons, family, mental institutions, and 
other institutions and cultural traits of French society. In contrast 
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) born in Martinique into a lower middle class 
family of mixed race ancestry and receiving a conventional colonial 
education sees the technologies of control as being the white 
colonists of the third world. Fanon at first was a assimilationist 
thinking colonists and colonized should try to build a future 
together. But quickly Fanon's assimilationist illusions were destroyed 
by the gaze of metropolitan racism both in France and in the colonized 
world. He responded to the shattering of his neo-colonial identity, 
his white mask, with his first book, Black Skin, White Mask, written 
in 1952 at the age of twenty-seven and originally titled "An Essay for 
the Disalienation of Blacks." Fanon defined the colonial relationship 
as one of the non recognition of the colonized's humanity, his 
subjecthood, by the colonizer in order to justify his exploitation. 
 Fanon's next novel, "The Wretched Of The Earth" views the 
colonized world from the perspective of the colonized. Like Foucault's 
questioning of a disciplinary society Fanon questions the basic 
assumptions of colonialism. He questions whether violence is a tactic 
that should be employed to eliminate colonialism. He questions whether 
native intellectuals who have adopted western methods of thought and 
urge slow decolonization are in fact part of the same technology of 
control that the white world employs to exploit the colonized. He 
questions whether the colonized world should copy the west or develop
a whole new set of values and ideas. In all these questionings of 
basic assumptions of colonialism Fanon exposes the methods of control 
the white world uses to hold down the colonies. Fanon calls for a 
radical break with colonial culture, rejecting a hypocritical European 
humanism for a pure revolutionary consciousness. He exalts violence as 
a necessary pre-condition for this rupture. Fanon supported the most 
extreme wing of the FLN, even opposing a negotiated transition to 
 His book though sees the relationship and methods of control 
in a simplistic light; he classifies whites, and native intellectuals 
who have adopted western values and tactics as enemies. He fails to 
see how these natives and even the white world are also victims who in 
what Foucault calls the stream of power and control are forced into 
their roles by a society which itself is forced into a role. Fanon 
also classifies many colonized people as mentally ill. In his last 
chapter he brings up countless cases of children, adults, and the 
elderly who have been driven mad by colonialism. In one instance he 
classifies two children who kill their white playmate with a knife as 
insane. In isolating these children classifying there disorders as 
insanity caused by colonialism he ironically is using the very thought 
systems and technologies that Foucault points out are symptomatic
of the western disciplinary society. 
 Fanon's book filled with his anger at colonial oppression was 
influential to Black Panther members Newton and Seale. As students at 
Merrit College, in Oakland, they had organized a Soul Students' 
Advisory Council, which was the first group to demand that what became 
known as African-American studies be included in the school 
curriculum. They parted ways with the council when their proposal to 
bring a drilled and armed squad of ghetto youths onto campus, in 
commemoration of Malcolm X's birthday, the year after his 
assassination, was rejected. Seale and Newton's unwillingness to 
acquiesce to more moderate views was in large part influenced by 
Fanon's ideas of a true revolutionary consciousness. In retrospect 
Fanon's efforts to expose the colonial society were successful in 
eliminating colonialism but not in eliminating the oppression taking
place in the colonized world. Today the oppression of French 
colonialism in Algeria has been replaced by the violence of the
civil war in Algeria, and the dictator of Algeria who has annulled 
popular elections, a the emergence of radical Islam which seeks to 
replace colonial repression with religious oppression. But this 
violence might be one of the lasting symptoms of Frances colonial 
brutality which scared the lives of Algerians and Algerian society; 
perverting peoples sense of right and wrong freedom and discipline. 

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