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The Legacy of Frantz Fanon: A Brief Look

Born on the Island of Martinique under French colonial rule, Frantz Omar Fanon (1925-1961), was one of the most important writers in black Atlantic theory in an age of anti-colonial liberation struggles. His work drew on a wide array of poetry, psychology, philosophy and political theory and its influence across the global south has been wide, deep and enduring.

In his lifetime, he published two Key original works: “Black Skin, White Mask” in 1952 and “The Wretched of the Earth” in 1961. Collections of essays ” a Dying Colonialism ” and Toward the African Revolution”, posthumously published in 1964, round out the portrait of this radical thinker in motion.

Moving From the Caribbean to Europe, to North America to sub-Saharan Africa and Fanon had the ability to transform his thinking at each stop. In 2015, a collection of Fanon’s unpublished writings entitled Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté or Alienation and Freedom in English was released. This new edition to his body of work will surely expand our understanding of the origins and intellectual context of Fanon’s dynamic mind.

Fanon engaged the fundamental issues of his day: language, sexuality, gender, race and racism, religion, social formation, and time just to name a few among many others. Due to Fanon’s impact on revolutionary thinking in Algeria, he was received as something of a dignitary when he arrived there. In 1953, he was appointed to a position in psychiatry at Bilda Joinville hospital.

His participation in the Algerian revolutionary struggle shifted his thinking from the theorization of blackness to a wider, more ambitious theory of Colonialism, anti-colonial struggle and vision for a post-colonial culture and society.

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Photo Credit: jacobinmage.com

Fanon’s work was published in academic journals and revolutionary newspapers, allowing access to his radical vision of anti-colonial struggle and decolonization for a variety of audiences and geographies. The adherents to his political thought ranged from young academics in Paris, members of the Algeria National Liberation Front ( FLN), The Ambassador to Ghana for the provisional government, or revolutionary participants at conferences across Africa.

Following a diagnosis and short battle with Leukemia, Fanon was transported to Bethesda, Maryland (arranged by the US CIA) for treatment and died at the National Institute for Health Facility on December 6th, 1961.

In speaking of Fanon’s background, we can assume that his thinking is wide-ranging and touches on many topics, but there is a common thread that runs throughout, that ties it all together. That is a focus on the colonial and post colonial conditions.

Fanon was, above all, a post-colonial thinker. He not only predicted many of the problems that would emerge after independence. He also understood why they would happen and that they were a result of structural pre-conditions that were put in place through colonial rule.

Fanon’s theories, up to the present day, have inspired many African leaders in their struggle for independence. Not least among these were Kwame Nkrumah and Jomo Kenyatta. Moreover, many who would emerge as leaders of the Negritude Movement read Fanon and materialized his theories and teachings. Those teachings boosted African leaders’ nationalism and erased any sort of complex of inferiority internalized by their former, white colonizers. This necessary shift in their thinking pushed them to claim independence and sovereignty with equal dignity.

We could say that, in many ways, Fanon’s legacy and influence outsize his modest output as a writer. Fanon wrote for about a decade, which in any comparison with other major thinkers, is almost no time at all.

                                                                                                                                               Kofaye

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                                                                                                                                               Dakar, Senegal

Sources

-Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy

 – Gibson, Nigel C. ” Fanon, the post colonial imagination”

-Hoppe,Elizabeth ” Fanon and th decolonization of philosophy”

-Gordon Lewis R., T.Denean “Fanon, a critical reader”

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