Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fanon and space: colonization, urbanization, and liberation from the colonial to the global city

by Stefan Kipfer, Environment and Planning: Society and Space,  2007, volume 25, pages 701 - 726.

Stimulated by recent controversies about the headscarf in France, this paper offers a fresh look at the spatial and urban dimensions of the work of Frantz Fanon. While there is widespread agreement that the work of Fanon (which preceded the so-called `spatial turn' in social theory) includes powerful spatial dimensions, there is no consensus about the status of `space' in Fanon's texts. Postcolonial theorists, whose reading of Fanon dominated the Anglo-American academic world until recently, have applauded the prevalence of spatial metaphors in Fanon's work as a sign for the latter's discomfort with dialectical thought and matters of historical transformation and thus as a sign for `third-space' thinking. Representing a new, heterodox wave of Fanon interpretation and insisting on Fanon's Hegelian-Marxist, radical Black, and phenomenological preoccupations with liberation, other readers have detected a shift from spatial to temporal concerns in Fanon's work. While building on this latter reading of Fanon, I argue that the spatial aspects in Fanon's work are neither a function of a philosophical imperative of nonrepresentability nor in contradiction with his concerns about temporal transformation.

Fanon analyzed everyday racism as an alienating spatial relation, treated colonization as spatial organization, and viewed decolonization in part as a form of reappropriating and transforming spatial relations in the colonial city and through the construction of nationwide sociospatial alliances. Fanon's complex historical-geographical perspective on everyday racism, the colonial issue, and national liberation makes it possible to link his work to Henri Lefebvre's insights into the processes by which postwar French urbanization mediated a shift from colonial war to the `colonization' of everyday life in the

Given the growing role of controlling urban space in the core and peripheries of our neo-imperial world, excavating an urban and spatial Fanon is promising for strategies to emphasize the urban dimensions, microaspects and macroaspects, and multiple scales of what colonization means today.

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