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  • Sasha Durakov Warren

Healing in a “Non-Viable Society”: A Short Intro to Frantz Fanon’s Psychiatric Thought

I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introducing invention into existence. In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself. -Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Frantz Fanon is best remembered (and sometimes despised) for the central role he gave to violence in the struggle for decolonization in the first chapter of The Wretched of the Earth. His observations there, based on years of experience giving material and psychological support to the Front de libération nationale (FLN) militants in Algeria, have led some to paint Fanon as something of a patron saint of violence or even nihilism. Even some of his former interns felt estranged and disturbed by his interest in revolutionary violence (Cherki, 172).

This reputation, whether recounted in a laudatory or slanderous fashion, suggests a version of Fanon that stands at considerable distance from his day-to-day practice as a doctor concerned with healing psychic wounds. The study and practice of medicine, and specifically psychiatry, was a central part of Fanon’s life since his mid 20s, and, as his psychiatric writings reveal, he saw no opposition between his militant political activities and his commitment to a practice of healing. His thinking and approach to medicine do not coalesce into a coherent system existing outside of his politics, but evolved in step with his involvement in struggles for decolonization. Fanon’s intervention into psychiatry is inextricable from these growing engagements with radical politics. It should come as no surprise, then, that the systematic accounts of Fanon’s psychiatric writing have taken the form of political and intellectual biographies (See: Gibson and Beneduce, Bulhan, and Cherki). Fanon stayed true to an ethic of growth and change grounded in material reality; his "final prayer" forever remained "O my body, make of me always a man who questions!" (Black Skin, White Masks, 181)

This very short introduction to Fanon’s psychiatric thought is intended only to paint in broad strokes the outlines of Fanon’s career as a psychiatrist, the major problems he grappled with, how these reflect or contrast with the major problems of his political thought, and his relative position in the broader field of the psy-disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, and psychoanalysis) at the time. Its discrete purpose is to serve as the introduction to a series of articles exploring specific themes in more depth to be published in the weeks to come. Two are in progress at the moment: one on confession and forensic psychiatry, and a second on Fanon’s complex usage of the concepts of madness and psychiatry as they relate to alienation.

Seeds of Trouble

In 1943, at the age of 18, Fanon signed up for the French Free Forces and left his native Martinique to fight the forces of fascism in North Africa. This turned out to be a humiliating and disillusioning experience for the young Fanon, who found that he and the other the Black soldiers, far from being recognized as comrades in a common struggle by their white peers, “without their berets […] were treated as wild savages, and, with them, as domesticated servants” (Bulhan, 27). The anti-Blackness of his “allies” only increased in vehemence when stationed the next year on the European front lines. On the occasion of major victories, Fanon and his Caribbean compatriots were excluded from the festivities and reminded that not even spilling blood for France or the US was enough to win the love or even the reciprocal acknowledgement of common humanity from white citizens (Bulhan, 28).

In 1947, Fanon decided to travel to Lyon, France to study medicine, which was then a center for radical political activities. Out of his dual training as a student of medicine and frequent experiences of anti-Black racism in France, he produced two major works in the early 1950s: his dissertation Mental alterations, character modifications, psychic disorders and intellectual deficit in spinocerebellar heredodegeneration: A case of Friedreich’s ataxia with delusions of possession and his more well-known phenomenology-tinged psychoanalytic analysis of anti-Blackness, Black Skin, White Masks. The former text’s reputation has suffered perhaps in part due to its unwieldy and dry scientific title, which seems to promise an intervention into an obscure medical debate. One cant help but compare it to the immediacy and force of the title, the autobiographical elements, or the analysis of race relations of Black Skin, White Masks.

But the title of his dissertation is, at least in part, a smokescreen for a deeper object. By choosing a topic located at the difficult and often contentious boundary between psychiatry and neurology, Fanon draws us into a series of problems actuated by the disorder —that is to say, he directs our attention to the ontological and philosophical presuppositions of his discipline. Although presented as a work on an uncommon neurological disease and its potential effects on the psyche, Fanon seeks within this short and barely complaint medical dissertation to undermine another target: mechanical or biological reductionism in medicine. While ostensibly setting out to account for the relationship between psychiatric symptoms in patients with Friedrich's ataxia, Fanon quickly bemoans the "many possibilities of interpretation" in the literature "that nevertheless do not manage to satisfy us." This dissatisfaction "arises from the fact that our thinking is scarcely able to liberate itself from the anatomo-clinical." What tradition is he referring to by the "anatomo-clinical?" The tradition that reduces all bodily and mental processes to the biological, purely mechanistic processes of the body: "We think in terms of organs and focal lesions when we ought to be thinking in terms of functions and disintegrations. Our medical view is spatial, where it ought to become more and more temporal." (Alienation and Freedom, 215) In his eyes, the "anatomo-clinical" tradition is one that reduces the body and mind to their physical properties in space as viewed under a microscope, or, in other words, frozen in place and divorced from the tumultuous passing of time. "Every human problem" he asserts more forcefully in Black Skin, "must be considered from the standpoint of time." (5)

The task for Fanon is to view psychic disintegration, wounding, and healing not only as living, breathing processes developing over time, but additionally as concretely situated in specific human interrelations. Unlike a tree that can be adequately described by stating basic facts about its attributes and position in space (it is on a hill, it has red leaves), a human being "is here with other humans and, in this sense, alterity is the reiterated perspective of his or her action" (Alienation and Freedom, 218). In both his dissertation and Black Skins, Fanon differentiates his own method from that of the psychoanalysts by first praising Freud and Jung for their understanding of the unique individual factors that form the basis of the personality and its disintegrations (what is called the psychogenesis of disorder), and then pointing out their failure to adequately account for the social or historical factors involved. His contention that "[b]eside phylogeny and ontogeny stands sociogeny" (Black Skin, 4) is his way of inscribing the organism and its individual personality into history. He regarded the psychoanalysts as remarkable cartographers of personality complexes, but as paltry historians.

Here we arrive at the beginnings of a Fanonian dialectic of madness and sanity, which in general does not consistently oppose stable and discrete diagnostic entities to a state of normality but is located instead in the realm of existential states of being in relation, namely states of alienation and connectivity in a social world. Already in the dissertation, madness is used to refer to the human's social relations rather than entities: "[u]ltimately, the mad person is someone who can no longer find his place among people. Either he feels superior to them, or he feels unworthy of entering the category of the human. In both cases, he feels he is different to them" (224). The framing of madness as an alienation of people in a social world brings us quite far from the symptom checklists so popular in contemporary psychiatry.

All that is not to suggest that he repudiated the organic plane, but only that he held that madness is irreducible to observable physical attributes and conditions (Khalfa, 174). This view was characteristic of the psychiatric milieu Fanon chose to associate with as well. In 1952, after finishing his studies in Lyon, Fanon worked as an intern with a pioneer of institutional psychotherapy, François Tosquelles, at Saint-Alban, which was then the hub for a group of alternative figures like Jean Oury who would go on to found the radical La Borde clinic that attracted a whole generation of radical heretics of the dominant psy-regimes like Fernand Deligny and Felix Guattari. Fanon likely felt a strong attraction to Tosquelles who fought with POUM in the Spanish Civil War and shared his vision of psychiatry as a practice of dis-alienation (Marks). Tosquelles and the milieu were as concerned above all with challenging bio-essentialism/reductionism and the power dynamics of the hospital system. Alice Cherki succinctly described Tosquelles' practice as the tendency that aimed "not to muzzle madness but to question and listen to it in order to create the conditions for new structures" (21). Fanon remained interested in bio-therapeutics like ECT and drug therapy at least through the 1950s, but he viewed them in light of their capacity for preparing a subject for therapy, rather than therapeutic in themselves (Khalfa, 186). In two papers authored with Tosquelles, the Bini method (ECT) is viewed optimistically for its capacity to dissolve—they call it "annihilation therapy"—a patient's learned reactions, and open them to reconstruction. They are aware of the negative possibilities, and recount them bluntly, and Fanon at least is certainly less sanguine after later bearing witness to his colleagues using it in the service of torturing political suspects in Algeria. His approach here, however—writing before the wider rejection of the method—is not far from one common among the alternative and critical psychiatrists of today who recognize the long-term harmful effects of psychotropic drugs, but still might offer them as a provisional means of calming someone or inducing sleep.

Even as an intern and student, the young Fanon was already totally uninterested in bio- and neuro-psychiatric orthodoxy and was regularly consorting with leftist radicals who would go on to usher in the wave of anti/critical/alternative psychiatric sentiment in the 60s and 70s in Europe. But Fanon had his own path—parallel but divergent—to go down, responsive to the peculiar position of psychiatry in the colonies.

Illuminations in Failure

The pavillion of Blida-Joinville hospital where Frantz Fanon was medical direction from November, 1953 until 1957.
Blida-Joinville hospital in 1933.

In the worst of conditions, Fanon still attempted ambitious experiments, some adopted from his experience with institutional psychotherapy, others increasingly in response to local need. In November 1953, Fanon was hired to head the psychiatric team at the Blida-Joinville hospital in colonized Algeria. Blida-Joinville was then segregated by gender and ethnicity with distinct "European" and "native" wards.

The ethnopsychiatric establishment in Algeria was marked by vulgar racial stereotypes sufficiently advanced to be congealed into medical orthodoxy. Fanon takes direct aim at this school of thought in a short article from 1955 titled "Ethnopsychiatric considerations." In Algeria, Antoine Porot and his "Algiers school" of psychiatry attempted to locate the North African as a racial group into standards of mental acuity and wellness. Porot identified his main characteristics: no emotional life, naturally untrustworthy, prone to forgetting, mistakes, and accidents; in other words, he claimed that the North African as a general type occupied the place of the "idiot" on the traditional European scheme for degeneracy (Alienation and Freedom, 406). For Porot, this is not at all a political statement, but a scientific and medical fact: the North African is not culturally primitive, but constitutionally. Supposed differences in the nervous system provide a biological justification for modes-of-perception borne of the colonial relationship—"[primitivism] has far deeper foundations and we even think it must have its substratum in a particular disposition of the architectonics, or at least of the dynamic hierarchizing of the nervous centers" (Alienation and Freedom, 407). In 1954, these ideas gained international recognition with the publication of John Colin D. Carothers' The African Mind in Health and Disease: A Study in Ethnopsychiatry by the World Health Organization. Carothers —without formal psychiatric training— was hired by WHO in 1954 to study the psychological condition of Black Africans in English-speaking Africa and concluded that the African naturally had little frontal lobe activity, and was therefore equivalent to a lobotomized European (Alienation and Freedom, 408). In Fanon's eyes, the psychiatrist in the colony was tasked with pathologizing and medicalizing both the noxious effects of colonialism and naturalizing the vulgar stereotypes of the settler-colonists (see: Bulhan, 90-92), easing their conscience and justifying brutal occupation.

As director at Blida-Joinville, Fanon set out straight away to implement some of the key principles of "sociotherapy" adopted from Tosquelles and institutional psychotherapy in an attempt to establish another model of treatment. According to Tosquelles, the pathway to disalienate the mad person is to integrate them as much as possible into a social world; in this sense, the hospital itself was in large part a deterrence and could even make people more sick, i.e. more alienated from the world outside (Gibson and Beneduce, 131). In this sense, the hospital Fanon found himself directing was certainly not well: first-hand accounts describe decrepit conditions, overcrowding, and the liberal use of restrains. A popular story says that Fanon himself went around like a latter-day anti-colonial Pinel and personally removed the chains from patients before introducing himself to every patient personally (Bulhan, 214), though this story seems to only be partially true: he did begin removing restraints immediately, but not all at once with some remaining in straitjackets for an indefinite time (Khalfa, 189). Fanon and his staff introduced film nights with discussions, a journal for the patients to publish in, a music club, bi-weekly ward meetings, reading groups and more in an attempt to give patients increasing opportunities for participation and self-directed activity (Cherki, 68).

These early experiments with sociotherapy were only successful for the European women's ward while the Algerian ward responded largely with indifference and passivity. Why didn't it work for the Algerians? is the central question Fanon and his intern Jacques Azoulay try to answer in their paper "Social therapy in a ward of Muslim men: methodological difficulties" published in 1954. Among the many problems the two authors outlined there, they emphasize above all the barriers that language, culture, and politics created in the therapeutic relationship and placed the blame for their failure in the foolish belief that they, from a position of authority could, speaking French, introduce a French therapeutic model in a ward of colonized Arabic-speaking Muslim men. Worse, by employing an interpreter, Fanon and his colleagues resembled the dreaded judicial interpreter or government officials with whom nothing good is associated (Alienation and Freedom, 367-8). For all intents and purposes, the hospital staff (regardless of their racial or religious make-up) represented the colonial order and reproduced the colonizer-native relation, since the "colonized perceives the doctor, the engineer, the schoolteacher, the policeman, the rural constable, through the haze of an almost organic confusion" (A Dying Colonialism, 121).

What follows is characteristic of Fanon's psychiatric writing after he began practicing in Algeria: a topic is introduced in a standard, intentionally simplified, way (here, he rather facetiously claims he was innocently trying to apply this European model on the Muslim ward), he encounters a major setback or problem (like the Muslim men refusing to participate) and seizes upon the chance to redirect the reader's attention to the structure of colonial domination. In accounting for their failure, Fanon and Azoulay employ a central Fannonian concept: reciprocity. In the colonial situation, there is no reciprocity, for when the Algerian is asked to adopt European culture, "It is up to one entire culture to disappear in favour of another" (Alienation and Freedom, 362). By briefly outlining the ways French settlement has dissolved traditional Algerian social relations and forced the locals into poverty and hunger, they make it clear that assimilation means nothing to the colonial French settlers, but signifies acquiescence to destruction for the Algerian. "It is not possible," he wrote elsewhere, "for the colonized society and the colonizing society to agree to pay tribute, at the same time and in the same place, to a single value" since, when the colonized recognizes any benefits of Western medicine, this person is perceived to be "successfully integrated" and grateful for their domination (A Dying Colonialism, 126).

Alice Cherki suggests that Fanon was actually partly pleased with the failure since it was "as a positive sign of resistance by a culture that refused to bend when faced with its own denial" (69). The centrality of reciprocity was already apparent in his first published work on "The North African Syndrome" published when he was 26 in 1952:

If you do not want the human being that is before you, how am I to believe in the human that may be in you? If you do not demand the human, if you do not sacrifice the human that is in you so that the human on this earth can be more than just a body, more than a Mohammed, by what sleight of hand might I acquire the certitude that you too are worthy of my love? (Toward the African Revolution, 16)

The impossibility of mutual recognition between colonizer and the colonized, the impossibility of seeing the Other as human when the former excludes the latter from their "moral universe" is the central issue of Fanon's psychiatric thought in this period.

Is a Revolutionary Psychiatry Possible in a Colony?

What is the possibility of a genuine practice of disalienation in such a context? In the "Medicine and Colonialism" chapter of 1959's A Dying Colonialism, Fanon explains the "ambivalent attitude" towards doctors like himself in the colonies. The colonial doctor, he explains, cannot even pretend to be dedicated solely to the art of healing as they might in Europe. European doctors, being settlers, had a vested interest in the maintenance of colonial society, principally in maintaining their property rights. Their complicity manifested in the form of false autopsy reports clearing colonial officials of foul play, as expert consultants in the methods of torturing suspects, as reports given to colonial authorities of private medical information (A Dying Colonialism, 135-8). They could never be perceived as neutral agents of healing; they represented nodes in a vast surveillance network, the handmaidens of torture, and sometimes even its direct perpetrators: some psychiatrists in Algeria used ECT to weaken suspects resistance to confession, for example (A Dying Colonialism, 138). Mutual distrust and lying form the core of a toxic therapeutic relation and foreclose the possibility of care.

How could a practice of healing be constituted in a context of widespread violence and domination? The more involved he became with the FLN and anti-colonial resistance, the more Fanon expressed the sentiment that such a practice was not truly possible. Between 1954-56, Fanon regularly went out in the field alone or with interns to observe local methods of conceiving of and treating madness, believing it vital to "to go from a position in which the supremacy of Western culture was evident, to one of cultural relativism" (Alienation and Freedom, 363). From the end of 1956 to the end of the decade, his optimism for cultural relativism within a colonial society waned and ceded ground to his commitment to the active resistance to colonial domination as the basic foundation for a true therapeutic relation. He harbored rebels at home and in the hospital, procured needed medicines for networks of isolated militants, provided basic medical care for the wounded, and advised criminal suspects on the best ways to prepare the mind and body both for being tortured and for committing acts of violence against colonial administrators (Bulhan, 237-8).

As the war intensified, it became increasingly impossible to be both a revolutionary and a colonial psychiatrist. It was only a matter of time before these contradictions became too intolerable to sustain. Fanon finally broke in December 1956 and submitted his resignation from his position at Blida-Joinville with the forceful "Letter to the Resident Minister." He begins by bluntly expressing his desires (summarized in the previous section) to oppose ethnopsychiatric "doctrinal bases opposed daily to an authentic human perspective" and to attenuate the violence of colonialism asking in turn

what are a man’s enthusiasm and care if daily reality is woven with lies, acts of cowardice and scorn for humankind? What are intentions if their embodiment is made impossible by an indigence of heart, sterility of spirit and hatred for this country’s natives? (Alienation and Freedom, 434)

His vision of psychiatry as the "medical technique that sets out to enable individuals no longer to be foreign to their environment" was finally grasped as an impossible task in "a state of absolute depersonalization" where "lawlessness, inequality, and multiple daily murder of humanness were erected as legislative principles" (Freedom and Alienation, 434).

With this shift in perspective and emphasis comes a significant fold in the concept of madness as alienation. Years of the double experience as a psychiatrist and as a Black man in a colonial context troubled his ideal of psychiatry as a healing from alienation: in the colony,where psychiatry was a cause of alienation and "normal" meant the acquiescence to brutal domination and torture, "going mad" appeared more ambivalent. In his lectures on "Social Psychopathology" in Tunis he gave in 1959 after fleeing Algeria, his characterization of the relationship between madness and psychiatry acquired a radically different guise: "The mad person," he says,

is one who is ‘foreign’ to society. And society decides to rid itself of this anarchic element. Internment is the rejection, the side-lining of the patient. Society asks the psychiatrist to render the patient able again to reintegrate into society. The psychiatrist is the auxiliary of the police, the protector of society against... The social group decides to protect itself and shuts the patient away. (Alienation and Freedom, 517)

Madness is here initially referred to not as a state of alienation, but as an anarchic element the psychiatrist, as an auxiliary cop, seeks to defend society against. Who is normal? he further wonders, answering that it is often thought to be "one who does not make trouble" (Alienation and Freedom, 518). “Is the aim of a human being never to present a group with problems?” he asks. The rest of his lecture is taken up with various instances of violent normality like when a Black American appears to the white person as just a bundle of racial stereotypes (Alienation and Freedom, 522-3) or when a worker manages to acclimate himself to the directives of constant surveillance and time management (Alienation and Freedom, 522). In such cases, the psychiatrist's role is in normalizing ultimately alienating social relations, or in reintegrating the broken-down back into a sick relationship.

A Violent Awakening

If the entirety of a social world was alienating, if one found oneself in a "non-viable society" that was, in essence, a "systemic dehumanization" and a widespread attempt to "decerebralize a people," (Alienation and Freedom, 434) what hope for there was healing outside of a "program of complete disorder?" (The Wretched of the Earth, 36) Fanon's final works on madness and medicine, the 1959 chapter on medicine and colonialism in A Dying Colonialism and the final chapter of The Wretched of the Earth on "Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders," argue just that: the only hope for a psychiatry as disalienation in the colony —a "factory where madness is manufactured" (Mbembe, "Frantz Fanon")— is through decolonizing revolution. As all social relations are transformed through revolutionary struggle, the "notions about ‘native psychology’ or of the ‘basic personality’" Fanon spent so much time trying to discredit "are shown to be vain" (A Dying Colonialism, 145). When describing the role of the native doctor, a pitiable figure is sketched: she/he is one who constantly has to Europeanize him or herself, who is forever sucking up to whites and dramatically forsaking traditional means of healing to prove her or his merit among the colonizers. Such a doctor, like everyone else in a colonial society, is constantly hardened against change, finding her or his thought and practice ossified by social context. It is only when revolution breaks out that new possibilities open up. Former antagonisms collapse and bulwarks are abolished: medical techniques can be appropriated without suspicion or the expectation of assimilation, and native doctors are integrated into the struggle as active members, now free from having to prove themselves to a settler bestowing legitimacy (A Dying Colonialism, 143).

The final chapter of The Wretched of the Earth, "Colonial Wars and Mental Disorders," has been relegated to near invisibility in the shadow of the opening chapter on violence. This is a grave mistake: the two belong together, as bookends of a single thread weaving together political activity with psychological states. The basic premise of Fanon's thought on violence is laid out quite clearly in the first pages of The Wretched of the Earth: the colonial encounter is founded and maintained in visceral acts of brutality and violence; murder, torture, and all manner of mutilations and humiliations are everyday parts of life. Surrounded —indeed, actually constituted— by violence, the colonized is fated to turn their own psychic frustrations and muscular tensions against themselves, animated by a hatred for circumstances that offer only suicidal actions for an outlet (The Wretched of the Earth, 52). With the threat of imminent death and imprisonment closing in with every step, the native carries an implacable guilt divorced from the chain of cause-and-effect and dreams only of revenge in bed at night.

The illumination of the colony's terrible diagnosis shocks and repulses many readers, as does Fanon's equally clear prognosis: the colonized will either appropriate the violence of the native-settler relation and turn it against the colonizer or be daily degraded by the twin violence of the police baton and their own minds in what amounts to a gradual annihilation. The Fanonian theory of decolonial violence is equally about the practical political necessity of committing acts that will be characterized as violent and destructive as it is about the psychological/existential necessity of appropriating overwhelming violence, directing it outwards towards its source so as not to be extinguished by it:

After centuries of unreality, after having wal­lowed in the most outlandish phantoms, at long last the native, gun in hand, stands face to face with the only forces which contend for his life—the forces of colonial­ism. [...] The native discovers reality and transforms it into the pattern of his customs, into the practice of violence and into his plan for freedom. (The Wretched of the Earth, 58)

Fanon affirms, in no uncertain terms, that "liberation must, and can only, be achieved by force" (73). The creation of a new "species," or the complete replacement of one form of human interaction with an entirely different one can only be the result of widespread breakdown and disorder.

Recognizing violence as a necessity does not constitute a celebration, as some have suggested. There is no trace of a morbid fascination with weapons and bloodshed here. Quite the contrary: Fanon's final words on madness and sanity in the last chapter of The Wretched of the Earth betray a certain therapeutic pessimism (Gibson and Beneduce, 233) about the psychological outcome of the struggle against colonialism: "we will have to bind up," he concedes, "the many, sometimes ineffaceable, wounds that the colonialist onslaught has inflicted on our people" (243). Decolonization is neither the immediate unburdening of the conflicts that animate the struggle nor the magical smoothing of scars, but an "indispensable condition for the existence of men and women who are truly liberated" (310), the struggle for which creates such "ineffaceable wounds."

Throughout the war, before he went in exile in Tunisia, Fanon received many patients carrying these wounds at Blida-Joinville whose short case studies constitute the bulk of the final chapter. These patients are the victims of what Fanon calls "reactionary psychoses," by which he means, in less clinical terms, that "the events giving rise to the disorder are chiefly the bloodthirsty and pitiless atmosphere, the generalization of inhuman practices, and the firm impression that people have of being caught up in a veritable Apocalypse" (251). Gone is the appeal to interventions on the body (ECT, drugs) or to limited social interventions in the tradition of institutional psychotherapy. Instead, Fanon, who at the beginning of the book identified counter-violence as the foundation of a decolonized psyche, now recounts cases of lost souls who engaged in just such violent acts. After a lifetime of disillusionment and disappointment in his field, the professional Fanon here offers no panacea or even consistent relief and confesses his belief, for one case, that "time alone can bring some improvement to the disrupted personality of this young man" (264).

In a footnote, he recalls a young man who bombed a cafe, which was " a meeting place for notorious racists" who was later haunted by his action after meeting some friendly nationals of the colonial state. His thoughts swirled down into a vortex as he realized he may have inadvertently murdered some potential friends. Unable to shake the terror of vertigo, he became his own harshest judge, even though his country was now independent (see: Gibson and Beneduce, 233-5). "In other words," writes Fanon,

we are forever pursued by our actions. Their order­ing, their circumstances, and their motivation may perfectly well come to be profoundly modified a posteriori. This is merely one of the snares that history and its various influences sets for us. But can we escape becoming dizzy? And who can affirm that vertigo does not haunt the whole of existence? (253)

The idea that The Wretched of the Earth argues that torture victims, children who murdered their French classmate, men who fell into a frenzy and killed French nationals, militants and bombers would be miraculously healed through mass acts of violence deliberately ignores these more difficult complimentary passages. As Gibson and Beneduce put it, in the midst this intense and risky text testing the limits of the contemporary political imaginary, Fanon the psychiatrist “could not forget the wounded society on which the new nation would be built” (232).

Violence is a dangerous eruption, a force with "a dimension of incalculably" that forms part of its strength and capacity for regenerative forms; it is simultaneously "that which was liable to save and that by which the peril penetrated the abode." (Necropolitics, 129). Our mental and emotional states, our very sense of self, are tethered to history's tumults. The unbound energy and creative force of revolt must contend with the wounds the dominated carry with them in their blood and bones, whether in colonial Algeria or in the US.

Franz (sic) Fanon Banner outside the Minneapolis Police Department fourth precinct following the officer-involved shooting of Jamar Clark on November 15, 2015. Photo: Tony Webster, Creative Commons


Bulhan, Hussein Abdilahi. Frantz Fanon and the Psychology of Oppression. Plenum Press, 1985.

Cherki, Alice. Frantz Fanon: A Portrait. Cornell University Press, 2006.

Fanon, Frantz. Alienation and Freedom. Edited by Jean Khalfa. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Pluto Press, 2008.

Fanon, Frantz. “Medicine and Colonialism.” A Dying Colonialism. Grove Press, 1965.

Fanon, Frantz. "The North African Syndrome." Toward the African Revolution. Grove Press, 1964.

Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press, 1963.

Gibson, Nigel C. and Roberto Beneduce. Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics. Rowman and Littlefield, 2017.

Khalfa, Jean. “Fanon, revolutionary psychiatrist.” Alienation and Freedom. Edited by Jean Khalfa. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

Marks, Sarah. "Institutional Psychotherapy in France: An Interview with Camille Robcis." Hidden Persuaders.

Mbembe, Achille. "Fanon's Pharmacy." Necropolitics. Duke University Press, 2018.

Mbembe, Achille. " Frantz Fanon and the Politics of Viscerality." Duke University.

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