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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 what is undoubtedly the most influential text to come out of this genre of anti-colonial literature, Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, which was written from the perspective of the Algerian struggle against French domination. The discussion this week will focus on the diagnosis Fanon offered of the historical legacies created by colonialism, and examine his subsequent legacies.

Seminar/Essay Questions

  1. Is Fanon simply 'celebrating' revolutionary anti-colonial violence?
  2. Discuss the significance of Fanon's statement 'The colonial world is a world cut in two.'
  3. 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'?
  4. Is Fanon our 'contemporary', or is he a thinker 'of his time' rather than ours?

Core Readings

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (London, 1965). LibraryLink opens in a new window. Please read the whole book if you have the time. If you don't have the time, then make sure to read any three chapters of your choosing. (My recommendations: chapters 1, 2 and 3).

WATCH (if time permits):

The Battle of Algiers (dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966). Available on Amazon Prime and Youtube.

Further Reading

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

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

Said, Edward, Orientalism (London, 1978).

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

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

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