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‘Who is Frantz Fanon?’ ‘Oh, my body, always make me a man who questions’

Lecturer: Steven Corcoran

Originally Taught: Winter School 2021

Lesson 1 – Aspects of Fanon’s biography and Black Skin, White Masks

We will touch here on Fanon’s background and some of the key turning points in his life, before exploring, chapter by chapter, the structure, methods and arguments of the work, his first, that  Black Skin, White Masks. Delving into how he understands the structure of an anti-black world and how it impacts the body and psyche of the colonized, we look at his arguments for a revised conception of the human. Fanon’s essential emphasis is always on futurity: how in an anti-black world can the problem of blackness and whiteness be overcome toward a different human futurity. 

Reading: Black Skin, White Masks.

Biographical details will be provided shortly before the class.  For those wanting something more comprehensive, read David Macey’s excellent Frantz Fanon: A Biography.

Lesson 2 – Fanon, political revolutionary: Algeria (or the nation) as a political category

Moving to Algeria to take up a position as a psychiatric, Fanon’s political ideas (we come to his psychiatric praxis in Lesson 4) shift focus. While Black Skin, White Masks lays out the basic structure of his decolonial work, once in Algeria, surrounded by the anticolonial struggle of the Algerians, he develops a broader theory of the oppressed, colonialism and revolutionary resistance to its systemic reach. The Wretched of the Earth is essential Fanon reading.

Reading: Wretched of the Earth

Lesson 3 – Fanon, political revolutionary

Here we continue to read about Fanon’s political work and his broader takes on the necessity of African unity in the struggle against coloniality as a system. If Fanon’s focus here shifts from Algeria to Africa at large and a call for African unity, this is because his call for solidarity in action is based on an approach to (anti-colonial) struggle that is anti-essentialist, one that is consonant with his work from the beginning and still relevant for us today. 

Reading: A Dying Colonialism and Toward the African Revolution

Lesson 4 – Fanon, radical psychiatrist

Little has been written about Fanon’s radical psychiatric work and practice, which he based on an understanding on the role of sociality and culture in the formation of mental illness. Here we touch on themes such as: the role of culture in mental illness and the refusal of all forms of naturalization of mental illness; Fanon’s strong notion of alienation; his critique of ethno-psychiatry; and mental illness as a ‘pathology of freedom’.

Reading: excerpts from The Psychiatric Writings of Frantz Fanon. tba 

Lesson 5 – Figures of Fanon

This lesson will be devoted to contemporary readings of Fanon. We will look at the way that Fanonian discourse is woven into various theoretical and political agendas. Broadly, we will contrast Homi Bhabha’s poststructuralist and postcolonialist reading of Fanon with Achille Mbembe’s rather more ethical reading and with the more directly political readings that we see in the likes of Peter Hallward. We thereby hope to grasp in the diversity of the figures insight into how Fanon can inspire us today.

Reading: tba