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Frantz Fanon
​On Fanonian Theory
​Josie Fanon
​    Mireille Fanon


Commentary & Editorial                                                                                                                                                                        Fanon Global
& Editorials

Why is it possible now to speak of Fanonism just when it seems that organizations dedicated to liberation of the working class have been dissipated; when neither socialist nor capitalist African or Caribbean nation-states have rescinded the borders bequeathed to them by their colonial masters and formed new unions? Why is it possible to speak of Fanonism when anti-black racism is nowhere on the wane? What then are some parameters of a decolonizing psychology and sociological dimensions of Fanon's approach to the human sciences?. 

It is arguable that Fanonism is like an apparition, a specter in or memories analogous to Jacques Derrida's understanding of Marxism in Specters of Marx: a haunting in memory, empowered to shape our identity but empty as a theoretical source describing who or what we are, the why of our predicament or the what of our particular theater.   

Is Fanonism, like Derrida's Marxism, a quaint collection of interesting theory, a historical memory, available as enriching discourse without a further presumption of its direct applicability, explanatory power, or predictive efficacy? Is Fanonism a feature of our haunting past, an apparition, a skull?. 

Since the publication of the Wretched of the Earth, Fanon has been without question on of the most influential figures in Third World revolutionary thought--equaled in influence only, perhaps by Karl Marx. From the last years of his life to the present day, a form of intellectual production has evolved which we shall refer to as "Fanon Studies"

Fanon Studies can be characterized in four stages. The first stage consisted of the various applications of and reactions to his work. This stage was represented by such revolutionary thinkers as Fidel Castro, Che' Guevara, Huey Newton, Paulo Freire, and many others on the one hand, and reaction texts from such diverse figures as the liberals as Hannah Arendt and Sidney Hook and the Marxist-Leninists Nguyen Nghe and Jack Woddis on the other hand.

The second stage was primarily biographical. This stage is best represented by the biographical writings of Irene Gendzier, Peter Geismar, and David Caute, among others. As should be evident, Fanon's life was extraordinary. An unfortunate consequence was that some of his biographers felt that that warranted extraordinary explanations. Bulhan's study provides point-by-point dismissal of a number of extraordinary efforts to explain how Fanon "came into being," as it were.

The third stage was one of intensive research on Fanon's significance in political theory. The work of Hussein Adam, Emmanuel Hansen, and Renate Zahar stand out in this stage. The impact of their scholarship and of several determined political scientists is that the importance of Fano's writings has been recognized by political science departments and other political theorists. 

The fourth stage, which is still under way, is linked to the ascent of post-modern cultural and post-colonial studies in the academy. This stage is represented by such scholars as Edward Said; Homi K. Bhabha; Abdul Jan Mohammed, Gayatri Spivak, Benita Parry,  Henry Louis Gates Jr.,  and from a Marxist perspective by Cedric Robinson. Two striking features of postcolonial studies treatment of Fanon are (1) the extent to which, with the exception of Said, JanMohamad and Parry, Fanon has been attacked under a number of fashionable designations such as misogynous, homophobic, anti-black, anti-Caribbean, anti-Arab, and petit-bourgeois.

These attacks, particularly in their postmodern manifestation, have taken the form of familiar Lyotardian clichés that characterize denigration of liberation theorists in this milieu. In a nutshell, liberation theorists, especially the 1950s and 1960s variety, are either structurally "modern" and hence passe, or prescriptively "totalizing" and hence terrorizing. A particularly popular turn has been to earmark their modernity and totalizing tendencies as exclusionary in practice and hence militating against marginalized groups--especially women. ..Fanon devoted 
a number of pages to discussions of feminist theory and resistance that were in fact ahead of their time. 

Postcolonial studies have fortunately not marked the final stage of Fanon studies, if it makes sense to speak of a "final stage." Today, there is a fifth stage of Fanon scholarship. This stage consists of engagements with the thought of Fanon for the development of original work across the entire sphere of human studies. Its purpose is neither to glorify nor denigrate Fanon but instead to explore ways in which he is a useful thinker. 

It took some time until the fifth stage gathered steam. The fifth stage can said to have been fully under way by 1995, by virtue of the publication of Tsenay Serequeberhan's The Hermeneutics of African Philosophy, which is greatly influenced by Fanon's work, and Lewis R. Gordon's Fanon and the Crisis of European Man, followed by Ato Sekyi-Otu's Fanon's 
Dialectics of Experience. A key feature of these works is that even in cases where Fanon's name is prominent in the title, the objectives are ultimately the disciplines themselves: African philosophy, philosophy of human sciences, and phenomenologies of experience.   

This volume of the Fanon Reader, encourages ongoing critical dialogue in Fanon studies across a variety of disciplinary fields and is rooted in the fifth stage of Fanon Studies. It is the first collective effort of an interdisciplinary group of scholars. 

In closing, we would like to dispel one popular conclusion that may be drawn from our discussion.  It is our view that the  tendency to read Fanon in terms of what we shall call "​theoretical decadence," where Fanon's thought is expected to be reduced to one discipline rather than another, should be avoided in the interest of learning how to read him with imagination and clarity. 

Fanon was not only a psychiatrist or a philosopher or a revolutionary . He was a complex man who utilized all the disciplinary resources, whether literary or scientific at his disposal. He was therefore, in the truest sense a radical thinker. It was Fanon who insisted in 1952, at the threshold of the threshold of the upheaval that was his career, that his body should make him of him, always, a man who questions. So it has been been.    

The Fanonian Possibility
& The Five Stages of Fanon Studies 
from the Fanon Reader 

by Leonard Harris, Carolyn Johnson, Lewis Gordon, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting & Renee White
Cornel West Frantz Fanon, One of the Great Revolutionaries of the 20th Century 12.06.2021
​Fanon's Enduring Legacy
TheNewYorker 11.29.2021