Sunday, July 25, 2021

Good Summary: Toward the African Revolution By Frantz Fanon

Toward the African Revolution is a collection of essays written by Frantz Fanon , published posthumously in 1964. The book's essays were written from 1952 to 1961, before his most famous work, The Wretched of the Earth . Fanon addresses in this book the themes of racism, decolonization, African unity and the Algerian Revolution .

The essays in In Defense of the African Revolution are divided into five sections, grouped roughly by topic. Here is a summary by chapter of Toward the African Revolution:

The problem of the colonized

The first section of the book (French: Le colonisé en question ) deals with the views that foreigners hold of North Africans. Fanon ostensibly wrote only two other essays on this topic, but one of them, "West Indians and Africans," was actually written by Pierre Chaulet. 

In his essay "The North African Syndrome," Fanon challenged French doctors' prejudices against Algerians and other North Africans, whose complaints of illness or pain were often dismissed as lamentation or laziness.  Many European psychiatrists concluded that Africans were destined to be less intelligent and less emotionally stable than Europeans, and this approach tarnished their professional practice.Written while Fanon was still studying to become a psychiatrist, it constructs the stereotyped imagery of Arabs in the minds of French doctors, who considered themselves more civilized:"Who are they, these creatures hungry for humanity who are pushing against the borders (though I know them from experience as terribly distinct) of full recognition?" This is one of Fanon's early works and represents part of his original thinking about the institutional and social nature of colonialism.

racism and culture

The second section, "Racism and culture" (French: Racisme et culture ), is a unique speech given by Fanon in 1956 at the first Congress of Black Writers and Artists, and was originally published in a special issue of Présence Africaine [Your The central point is that racism "is only one element of a larger whole: that of the systematized oppression of a people". 

to Algeria

This brief section (in French: Pour l'Algérie ) consists of a set of letters Fanon wrote to French residents of Algeria detailing the problems of how they viewed the country. The first, "Letter to a Frenchman," explains the "essential ignorance" the French had of native Algerians, whom they generally considered helpless beasts and with whom they never had a close relationship. This was probably sent to R. Lacaton, a French psychiatrist who worked at the same psychiatric hospital as Fanon in Blida . 

The second half of this section is the resignation letter that Fanon sent in 1956 to announce that he could no longer practice psychiatry for the French colonial government.  The central problem he faced was, as one scholar put it, "the futility of practicing psychiatry in such a colonial situation". Fanon saw no practical benefit in helping individual Algerians when the colonial system in which he worked was undermining the mental health of the entire population. Working at the hospital probably accelerated or influenced his decision to formally abandon the colonial enterprise and join the FLN, as his duties at the hospital forced him to see firsthand the mental and physical effects that war, especially the torture used by the French, had on the Algerian independence fighters. 

Towards the liberation of Africa

Twenty of Fanon's essays explaining the movement to oppose colonialism and actively work to end it, in Algeria and elsewhere, are collected in a section entitled Towards the liberation of Africa (in French: Vers la libération de l' Afrique ), which takes up most of the book. Most of these essays were originally published anonymously in El Moudjahid , both to protect their identity and as "an expression of revolutionary solidarity". 

Of particular concern to Fanon in this part of the book is the use of torture by French colonial authorities against Algerians.  He argued that torture was not an exceptional failure of the war, but "an expression and a means of relationship used by the occupiers". Torture was an extreme feature of the colonial relationship, but there was no way to justify colonialism without tacitly accepting the use of torture, according to Fanon. Torture creates, in Fanon's words, "a vast dehumanization of French youth."

Fanon warned in other essays about the dangers neocolonialism posed to nominally free states: European leaders exhibited "the acceptance of nominal sovereignty and the absolute refusal of royal independence" when their colonies tried to break up. Economic domination would replace formal political control, so that the former colonies would still survive at the mercy of the former powers, and this would be justified under the preservation of the colonists' rights.

African Unity

The final section, "African Unity" (French: Unité africaine ), includes two works on the ways in which African nations could work together militarily during and after the end of formal European colonialism. The first part is a record of Fanon's travels through Africa while working as an FLN diplomat during the Algerian War. He concludes that colonialism can only be totally defeated through a commitment to African unity and Marxist ideologies or the powerful citizens of each newly independent country will wage war with each other: "The triumphant middle classes are the most impetuous, the most enterprising, the most annexationist in the world".

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