Saturday, 25 June 2011

Fanon's Dialectic of Experience by Ato Sekyi-Otu

With the flowering of postcolonialism, we return to Frantz Fanon, a leading theorist of the struggle against colonialism. In this thorough reinterpretation of Fanon's texts, Ato Sekyi-Otu ensures that we return to him fully aware of the unsuspected formal complexity and substantive richness of his work. A Caribbean psychiatrist trained in France after World War II and an eloquent observer of the effects of French colonialism on its subjects from Algeria to Indochina, Fanon was a controversial figure--advocating national liberation and resistance to colonial power in his bestsellers, Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth.
But the controversies attending his life--and death, which some ascribed to the CIA--are small in comparison to those surrounding his work. Where admirers and detractors alike have seen his ideas as an incoherent mixture of Existentialism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, Sekyi-Otu restores order to Fanon's oeuvre by reading it as one dramatic dialectical narrative.Fanon's Dialectic of Experience invites us to see Fanon as a dramatist enacting a movement of experience--the drama of social agents in the colonial context and its aftermath--in a manner idiosyncratically patterned on the narrative structure of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. By recognizing the centrality of experience to Fanon's work, Sekyi-Otu allows us to comprehend this much misunderstood figure within the tradition of political philosophy from Aristotle to Arendt. 

Ato Sekyi-Otu is Associate Professor in the Division of Social Science and the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought at York University, Ontario.

Harvard University Press (June 1996)