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Week 9: Anti-Colonialism and Political Thought

The terminal crisis of European empires in the interwar and postwar period was marked by tremendous political churning in colonized countries, as new mass movements and ideologies emerged in opposition to imperialism in Africa and Asia. One of the striking features of this churning was the emergence of new forms of political critique, some of which focused specifically on the ‘psychology of colonialism’, exploring the layered effects of colonial domination on colonizer and colonized alike. The session this week will focus on texts by two unusual thinkers who worked in this domain, Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon. Both thinkers wrote their most influential work in the context of the violent disintegration of the French empire in North Africa. Memmi’s The Colonizer and Colonized emerged from his location within a crumbling imperial order in Tunisia, whereas Fanon’s extremely influential The Wretched of the Earth was written from the perspective of the Algerian struggle against French domination. The discussion this week will focus on the diagnosis these two thinkers offered of the historical legacies created by colonialism, and examine their subsequent legacies.

Seminar/Essay Questions:

1. Is Fanon simply 'celebrating' revolutionary anti-colonial violence?

2. Where do Fanon and Memmi's emphases converge and where do they diverge?

3. Discuss the significance of Fanon's statement 'The colonial world is a world cut in two.'

4. What does Fanon mean when he writes 'This is why Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched every time we have to do with the colonial problem'?

5. Why does Memmi focus at such length on the question of the 'leftist colonizer', or 'the colonizer who refuses'?

6. How does 'the colonizer who refuses' face a different predicament from 'the colonizer who accepts'?


Core reading:
1. Albert Memmi,  The Colonizer and the Colonized (NY, 1974) (extracts TBA)
2. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London, 1965)

Further Reading:

1. Frederick Cooper, Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (California, 2005)

2. Edward Said, Orientalism (London, 1978)

3. Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (London, 1994)

4. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (London, 1986)

5. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (Oxon, 1994)

6. David Macey, Frantz Fanon: A Biography (London, 2012)