Tuesday, 18 February 2014

'The exact instant at which I began to slip' - Frantz Fanon, 'Black Skin, White Masks'

I myself have been aware, in talking to certain patients, of the exact instant at which I began to slip.... Examining this seventy three year old farm woman, whose mind was never strong and who is now far gone in dementia, I am suddenly aware of the collapse of the antennae with which I touch and through which I am touched. The fact that I adopt a language suitable to dementia, to feeble-mindedness; the fact that I "talk  down "to this poor woman of seventy-three; the fact that I condescend to her in my quest for a diagnosis, are the stigmata of a dereliction in my relations with other. What an idealist, people will say. Not at all: It is just that the others are scum (1967, p. 32-33).[1]

[1] There is a similar sense of an ongoing striving in Nomboniso Gasa’s recommendation that we “listen, listen very hard to what is said and to that which remains unmentioned, unmentionable and has been rendered invisible” – a commitment that, she stresses, may place one “in a vulnerable position in relation to established academic voices” (2007, p. 132).