Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference raises a host of crucial questions regarding the relevance of Fanon today: in today’s world, where violence and terror have gone global, what conclusions might we draw from Fanon’s work? Should we keep on blaming Fanon for the colonial violence, which he internalized and struggled against, and overlook the fact that the very Manichaeism that previously governed the economy of colonial societies is now generating violence and terror on a global scale? Has the new humanism which he inaugurates in the concluding section of The Wretched of the Earth turned out to be nothing but a vain plea? What grounds for optimism does he allow us, if any? What is to be salvaged from his ethics and politics in this age of globalization?

Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference offers a new reading of Fanon’s work, challenging many of the reconstructions of Fanon in critical and postcolonial theory and in cultural studies and probing a host of crucial issues: the intersectionality of gender and colonial politics; the biopolitics of colonialism; Marxism and decolonization; tradition, translation and humanism. Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference underscores the ethical dimension of Fanon’s work by focusing on his project of decolonization and humanism.

Madness and colonization
Azzedine Haddour

Chapter 4 focuses the discussion on Fanon’s critique of the complicity of medicine and psychiatry with the institution of colonialism. This chapter contextualizes what tend to be neglected elements of Fanon’s work and relates them to his clinical practice in illuminating ways. This chapter shows that madness and what Fanon dubs the ‘North African syndrome’ were nothing but manifestations of colonial assimilation and the attendant violence to which it gave rise as it brought about the pulverization of traditional society. The chapter ascertains how the medical establishment was employed as the instrument of coloniality and how psychiatry was implicated in the alienation of the colonized Algerians.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
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Azzedine Haddour

Central to the work of Fanon is a conception of history and international politics enabling nations to share the same history without losing their differences. Fanon inaugurates a new humanism which is premised on an ethics that respects difference. The conclusion shows that he was an ethical thinker: anti-racist, humanist and internationalist.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
The anthem of decolonization?
Azzedine Haddour

In Chapter 5, the discussion of Fanon’s views on Marxism purposefully leads to three stages of development. First, this chapter examines his assertion that in the post-independence state the bourgeois phase is useless and that the lumpenproletariat is not a reactionary class but rather is the most revolutionary; an assertion which reverses the roles Marx assigned to the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat and radically subverts Marxist theory. Second, it charts the historical development of what Fanon dubs the lumpenproletariat in The Wretched of the Earth, by examining Marx’s and Sartre’s analyses of the impact which French colonialism had on the emergence of this class of people as well as on France’s democratic and republican political institutions. Third, it endeavours to read Fanon and Marx, contrapuntally engaging with Peter Stallybrass and Ranjana Khanna and with the political role they respectively assign to the lumpenproletariat.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
Azzedine Haddour

Chapter 6 elaborates on the psycho-affective complexes engendered in ‘men of culture’ – namely the advocates of negritude and Arabo-Islamism – who turned to a mythic past to counter colonialism. The chapter shows that, for Fanon, decolonization must be sought at the level of European thought; it goes on to explore the influence which he had on Abelkabir Khatibi, Abdallah Laroui and Edward Said. The aim of the chapter is to deconstruct Western epistemology by considering the notions of ‘tradition’, ‘translation’ and the ‘humanities’ and to provide a critique of neo-liberalism and cultural imperialism.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
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A black rebel with a cause
Azzedine Haddour

The Introduction outlines the terms of the problematic. It seeks to resituate Fanon historically in terms of his own cultural, social and political environment. It also adumbrates the itinerary of his project as a humanism but also as the intellectual of decolonization.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
Azzedine Haddour

Chapter 1 provides an account of Fanon’s critical indebtedness to Sartrean existential phenomenology. It also engages with his critique of negritude. The aim of this chapter is to inscribe Black Orpheus (as well as Anti-Semite and Jew) in the philosophical discourse of Being and Nothingness, two correlative works which elaborate a phenomenology of perception, race and embodied selves. These works were cornerstones for the negritude movement and had an impact on Fanon. While Sartre considers negritude as a source of poetry, Fanon accuses him of damming up its poetic source by abstracting the being-of-the-black. Fanon acknowledges the importance of Sartre’s intervention in Black Orpheus but criticizes it for intellectualizing the experience of the black.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
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Azzedine Haddour

Chapter 3 takes us through Fanon’s complex relations with French society as a kind of ‘family romance’. The chapter engages with the interplay of language, gender and colonial politics, critiquing along the way simplistic, non-intersectional analyses which privilege, say, gender (e.g. Bergner) to the exclusion of racial difference. The chapter concentrates on Fanon’s reading of Capécia and Maran, exploring the ways in which both language and sexuality are marked by the dimension of colonial ideology. The chapter engages with the elements of this family romance, analysing how the notion of race traverses gender and sexual politics.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference
Azzedine Haddour

Chapter 2 goes on to analyse Bhabha’s appropriation of Fanon to promote postcolonial studies in the 1980s. Before challenging the more general postcolonial use that has been made of Fanon, the discussion takes us through careful readings of Bhabha’s primary influences. The main aim of the chapter is twofold: first, to outline how Bhabha deploys Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory and Derrida’s deconstructive criticism as critical tools to interpret the work of Fanon; and second to problematize the appropriation of Fanon in postcolonial and cultural studies. The chapter seeks to challenge Bhabha’s reading of the ‘dissembling self’ in Black Skin, White Masks as a poststructualist notion and his reading of The Wretched of the Earth’s politics as undialectical and transhistorical, as postmodern based on partial truths.

in Frantz Fanon, postcolonialism and the ethics of difference