Fanon’s book, “The Wretched Of The Earth” like Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” question the basic assumptions that underlie
society. Both books writers come from vastly different perspectives
and this shapes what both authors see as the technologies that keep
the populace in line. Foucault coming out of the French intellectual
class sees technologies as prisons, family, mental institutions, and
other institutions and cultural traits of French society.
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) born in Martinique into a lower middle class
family of mixed race ancestry and receiving a conventional colonial
education sees the technologies of control as being the white
colonists of the third world. Fanon at first was a assimilationist
thinking colonists and colonized should try to build a future
together. But quickly Fanon’s assimilationist illusions were destroyed
by the gaze of metropolitan racism both in France and in the colonized
world. He responded to the shattering of his neo-colonial identity,
his white mask, with his first book, Black Skin, White Mask, written
in 1952 at the age of twenty-seven and originally titled “An Essay for
the Disalienation of Blacks.
” Fanon defined the colonial relationship
as one of the non recognition of the colonized’s humanity, his
subjecthood, by the colonizer in order to justify his exploitation.
Fanon’s next novel, “The Wretched Of The Earth” views the
colonized world from the perspective of the colonized. Like Foucault’s
questioning of a disciplinary society Fanon questions the basic
assumptions of colonialism. He questions whether violence is a tactic
that should be employed to eliminate colonialism.
He questions whether
native intellectuals who have adopted western methods of thought and
urge slow decolonization are in fact part of the same technology of
control that the white world employs to exploit the colonized. He
questions whether the colonized world should copy the west or develop
a whole new set of values and ideas. In all these questionings of
basic assumptions of colonialism Fanon exposes the methods of control
the white world uses to hold down the colonies. Fanon calls for a
radical break with colonial culture, rejecting a hypocritical European
humanism for a pure revolutionary consciousness.
He exalts violence as
a necessary pre-condition for this rupture. Fanon supported the most
extreme wing of the FLN, even opposing a negotiated transition to
His book though sees the relationship and methods of control
in a simplistic light; he classifies whites, and native intellectuals
who have adopted western values and tactics as enemies. He fails to
see how these natives and even the white world are also victims who in
what Foucault calls the stream of power and control are forced into
their roles by a society which itself is forced into a role.
also classifies many colonized people as mentally ill. In his last
chapter he brings up countless cases of children, adults, and the
elderly who have been driven mad by colonialism. In one instance he
classifies two children who kill their white playmate with a knife as
insane. In isolating these children classifying there disorders as
insanity caused by colonialism he ironically is using the very thought
systems and technologies that Foucault points out are symptomatic
of the western disciplinary society.
Fanon’s book filled with his anger at colonial oppression was
influential to Black Panther members Newton and Seale. As students at
Merrit College, in Oakland, they had organized a Soul Students’
Advisory Council, which was the first group to demand that what became
known as African-American studies be included in the school
curriculum. They parted ways with the council when their proposal to
bring a drilled and armed squad of ghetto youths onto campus, in
commemoration of Malcolm X’s birthday, the year after his
assassination, was rejected. Seale and Newton’s unwillingness to
acquiesce to more moderate views was in large part influenced by
Fanon’s ideas of a true revolutionary consciousness.
Fanon’s efforts to expose the colonial society were successful in
eliminating colonialism but not in eliminating the oppression taking
place in the colonized world. Today the oppression of French
colonialism in Algeria has been replaced by the violence of the
civil war in Algeria, and the dictator of Algeria who has annulled
popular elections, a the emergence of radical Islam which seeks to
replace colonial repression with religious oppression. But this
violence might be one of the lasting symptoms of Frances colonial
brutality which scared the lives of Algerians and Algerian society;
perverting peoples sense of right and wrong freedom and discipline.