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LITS3303 Notes 04B Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961): Chapter 1 "Concerning Violence" Shakiela Alleyne and Sharon Babb Frantz Fanon was born on the island of Martinique on July 20 1925, and died in W ashington D.C in the United States (where he was being treated for leukemia), on December 6 1961, at the age of 36. At the time of Fanon's birth Martinique was a French colony, and the racial abuse inflicted on the locals by the French soldiers stationed there impacted on him greatly. Fanon because of his middle class upbringing , (his father was a Government official and his mother ran a shop),was one of the few black children able to attend the prestigious Lycée Schoelcher high school where he was taught by Aimé Césaire, who later becam e his mentor..Fanon's contempt for institutionalized racism created by colonialism, is reflected in his first published novel Black Skin, W hite Masks. Fanon's final novel, The Wretched of the Earth, was written while he was extremely ill in Tunis several weeks before his death and was published posthumously. "Concerning Violence", the first chapter in this text is the focus of this sum mary. In this chapter Fanon writes about the need for the "natives" or the "colonized" to engage in a battle with the colonizer for control of their homeland. The colonizers who are usually European have taken control of the land through force and have created social divisions both physically and mentally. The settlers feet are "protected by strong shoes" (30) and they live in neighbourhoods in houses made of "stone and steel" with garbage cans and asphalt paved roads (30). In contrast the native lives in squalid conditions, "starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal, of light" (30). In order to change this imbalance in society Fanon appears to be advocating the use of violence in order to achieve decolonization. Fanon argues that no matter what decolonization is called "National liberation, national renaissance, the restoration of nationhood to the people, commonwealth" it can only occur through the use of violence (27). Decolonization according to Fanon "is the meeting of two forces" (28) and must include violence because the "exploitation of the native by the settler occurred through the use of bayonets and cannons (28). Thus if the native became colonized through violence, decolonization can only take place through the use of similar violence. The settlers use violence to maintain their social position of supremacy over the native through the use of their agents who "speak the language of pure force" (29). These agents are the soldier and the policeman who use guns and biological weapons to oppress and dominate the natives under the guise of peacemaker. Fanon argues that the colonial world is "divided into compartments" (29) one for the settlers and one for the natives, similar to that which exists in apartheid era South Africa (29), and the United States.( Fanon wrote this text during a period in world history where the struggle for Civil Rights was at the forefront in America and even though schools and buses were desegregated legally, black people still faced severe racial abuse daily. )These divisions include housing, schools and in order to eliminate these compartments and the prohibitions which emanate from such "absolute violence" (29) must be used. Fanon uses a well known phrase "the last shall be first and the first shall be last" (28) to describe the struggle for decolonization and this illustrates the need for violence in order to achieve a re-


LITS3303 Notes 04B ordering of society. It is important to note that Fanon is not only concerned with physical violence but also the mental violence inflicted on the natives. As a psychiatrist in French controlled Algeria, Fanon understood the psychological problems of "natives" being treated as second class citizens in their homeland Fanon posits that to the colonizer, the colonial


world is a "Manichaean world" (31) which according to the American heritage Dictionary is a "dualistic philosophy dividing the world between good and evil principles". According to Fanon the colonizer dehumanizes the native, who is thought to be "absolutely evil" (32). For Fanon, the Christian Church in the colonies is the settler's church, which is used to oppress the native by conforming him or her to the ways of the master (32). The church eliminates from the native any sign of "evil" which is really any sign of resistance towards the colonizer. From this one can see Fanon has a Marxist view of colonial society. He refers to the "colonialist bourgeoisie" (36) who have taken the best of society for themselves, and in so doing have marginalized the "peasantry" (47). The false consciousness of the colonized bourgeoisie who emulate the "m anners and forms of thought" (37) of the colonialist bourgeoisie reflects a Marxist view of society. To Fanon, the settlers brought violence with them in order to gain control of the colonies and it is this legacy of violence which has been assimilated by the natives, and which must be used to effect any type of decolonization.


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