Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Legacy of Frantz Fanon: culture, class & the psychology of oppression

by Shane William Hopkinson

This thesis discusses the work of the revolutionary social theorist and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon.  Recent appropriations of his work have been in the area of postcolonial discourse analysis while his earlier popularity rested on his contribution to debates about class and revolutionary social change.  This thesis seeks to rehistoricise Fanon by examining his work in the colonial context and the ways it has been appropriated since then.  Part One provides the reader with an overview of the complete range of Fanon’s work.  Part Two looks at a number of appropriations of Fanon’s work and finally Part Three begins the process of assessing Fanon’s contemporary relevance.

Part One surveys of the scope of Fanon’s thinking and emphasises the psychiatric and phenomenological aspects of his work as an implicit critique of more recent psychoanalytic readings.  Fanon developed a dialectical analysis of cultural change arguing that there are three cultural stages – assimilation, reaction and fighting stages.  This thesis then applies this analysis to explore a variety of contexts.  Part Two tests Fanon’s analysis beginning with the immediate postcolonial period in Algeria.  It looks at his contemporary in Africa, Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the liberation struggle from Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau.  Then it turns to the United States of America in the 1960s with the Black Panther Party and to Iran with Ali Shari’ati, the progressive ideologue of the Iranian revolution in the 1970s.  Finally his most recent appropriation into colonial discourse analysis in the 1980s is examined.  Part Three uses his cultural theory to examine what Fanon might make of contemporary Algeria.  Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen draw out Fanon’s contribution to contemporary debates around class and gender.  The next two chapters look at the question of violence and Fanon’s sociogenic approach to the question of agency.

After this elaboration of the whole of Fanon’s work this thesis concludes that a willingness to engage with the entire range of his thought makes him a theorist of great contemporary relevance.  It identifies three unifying themes that allow his work to be read as a whole namely culture, class and the psychology of oppression.  In an age where issues of identity politics and globalisation are pressing Fanon’s cultural theory is a useful tool in analysing the contemporary situation.  His discussion of the role of class and organisation in social change and the limits of nationalism, while flawed, still raises the key issues for developing a progressive social agenda.  His analysis of gender, which by focusing on issues not identities charts a path to a forming a political practice that is not woman-centred but remains critical in an increasingly globalised world.  Finally it draws out his theory of the self as an ensemble of social relations which are always located in specific contexts.  This model of the self is a useful counter to overly individualised models that tend to predominate in psychology and serves as a means of linking identity and structure in a more fruitful way

Click here, here and here to download this thesis.