Wretched of the Earth – Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon critically analyzes the multiple dimensions of maintaining the structures of colonialism. Through Wretched of the Earth, readers are able to understand the effects and implications of colonization on the oppressed or “colonized.” Fanon meticulously situates the flow, circulation, and direction of violence inherent in human relationships established by colonialism. The violence to which he refers is a major force of the psychological madness that constitutes the political system and culture justified by colonial oppression.

The very pathological disease of colonialism spreads from the colonizer to the colonized driving the latter to a state of dehumanization. The pervasive disease of colonialism must be stopped and humanism has to be restored. He proposes the conditions under which the colonized masses must achieve national liberation. This liberation, for Fanon, entails a complete restructuring of human relations and the emergence of new values to a wholly redefined humanity.

National consciousness, however, must be awakened in the masses in a particular way. The struggle of the colonized masses must culminate to collective mobilization that will lead to the destruction of the very pillars or structures that feed power into colonial dominance. The colonized artist and/or intellectual, who eventually will lead the mobilization of the masses undergoes three phases of consciousness.

What is implicit in Fanon’s argument is that generally these intellectual elites struggle through a process developing a double consciousness that allows themselves to see through both the colonized native perspective as well as through the gaze of colonizers and their system of (mis)recognizing the colonized as the “inferior” other. In other words, by enduring through the “three phases,” from assimilation to self-affirmation, and finally to mobilization, the colonized intellectual comes to not only learn about the methods and expectations of the colonizers but also directly experience the pain and traumas of being the object of victimization. Finally, the ones endowed with special knowledge and skills are able to reach a point of identification with the colonized masses, thereby obtaining the capacity to mobilize towards resistance and perhaps even revolution.

The book engages readers into the rethinking of cultural discourse. Fanon introduces a claim regarding a particular kind of national culture, which he requires for emancipation. The culture he refers to is not a return to the traditions of pre-colonial era. Culture is the struggle of the present, and includes any representation, reflection, and/or performance of the struggle to awaken from colonial hegemony and destroy it all together with the ultimate goal of freedom in mind. All literature, artworks, and rhetoric should be combative and address the colonized people. The colonized intellectuals have reached a point in which it is necessary not only to radically change the conventions and themes of literature, but also imagine, and more importantly, engage a new audience. The storyteller is inspired to innovate the methods of narration and the artist to diversify aesthetic strategies. This leads to the changes in the messages carried across all forms of media and profoundly restructures perception of the messages to be geared towards collective struggle.

Fanon invests in psychoanalytical research to assess the effects of violence in the colonial context. He keeps records of his patients being treated for psychological trauma. The cases he chronicles in the book are of those suffering through the wars declared by the colonialists on liberation movements. He studies, treats, and cares for victims of colonial war on both sides. These shocking studies reveal the violent disturbances and traumatic blow the psyche of the human as a result of colonialism. The presentation of his research in combination with his propositions for movement towards liberation has the capacity to provoke all collectives still victim to imperial domination. He especially urges the thinkers and artists to reinvent the use of their media, whether it is literature, carvings, or even dance, to send a message or call to communion for new human relations.

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