Frantz Fanon, Colonialism, and Algeria: The Historical Formation of a Radical Discourse
The reception of Fanon’s work has been disconnected from the locations of its production. Postcolonialist analysis placed Fanon within European heritages of thought. Third World contributions were, however, effaced from these, largely, Anglo-American accounts. The thesis sets out to analyse, through Third World commentaries, Fanon’s final work which contained previously neglected concepts. These concepts, it is be argued, have to be understood through a knowledge of Fanon’s colonised experiences across the distinctiveness of specific Third World locations. To effect this form of reading, Volosinov’s concept of the “situated utterance” will be adapted into a focus on the contexts of words, which constitute a significant element of word construction.
Fanon’s itinerary from 1925 to 1953 considers his early life on Martinique; his army experiences in the Mahgrib, and France; and his anti-colonial, medical, and psychiatric practices in metropolitan France. His remaining life from 1953 to 1961 will focus on Algeria.
His commitment to the Algerian revolution marked the decisive identification of his life. The specificity, and the historical individuality, of these locations will be a particular point of emphasis. The professional, theoretical, and political positioning of Fanon’s thought resulted in a distinctive analysis of colonial locations. Thus, as a psychiatrist, cultural theorist, and revolutionary, Fanon was able to understand and warn of the dangers of continued mystification in the context of decolonisation.
The linguistic features of Fanon’s discourse and ideolect are also considered. His French language discourse was ill-served by flawed English translations, and the resulting misreadings have seriously affected the transmission of his ideas. A genealogy of his concepts will thus be traced across the corpus of his French language discourse.
The concepts in Les damnes de la terre will be discussed at length through a close textual reading. The magical superstructure, the pathology of atmosphere, and the seeds of decomposition represent different facets of colonised alienation and mystification.
Fanon’s account of magical thought, spatial oppression, and the destructive effects of western culture have a relevance and a translateability beyond their immediate circumstances of production. The analysis of the concepts will help to explain contemporary appropriations of Fanon’s work in the Third World. Algerian and Afghani Islamist interpretations of Fanon’s work on alienation and violence will be discussed in the light of the new knowledge provided by this situated study of the concepts of mystification, and the historical formation of Fanon’s radical discourse.