Frantz Fanon

De-COLONISING THE MIND

From the Caribbean – Europe – the Continent of Africa – USA.

Frantz Omar Fanon, was born 1925 in Martinique, a French colonial island in the Caribbean Sea. In a short life span – died in 1961 at the age of 36 – he was one of the most important political theorists, for anti-colonial liberation struggles in the 20th Century.

His works have deeply influenced a area, and range of studies, including psychology, philosophy, political theory, poetry, and psychiatry.

Believing he is French, Fanon travelled to Paris, where he decided to attend medical school in the city of Lyon. Known not to welcome Black Foreigners, in the years of difficulties there, he wrote the revolutionary book – ‘Black Skin White Masks.’

He was now engaged in a journey of self-discovery. As the Black African internalise social and cultural values, that are not their own. They become someone, or something that is alien to their true identity, in appearance, speech, attitudes, and behaviour.

The self image, and status of the Black persona is severely affected, and damaged. As the Black skin, is now wearing a White mask. The true identity of the individual remain unknown, even to the person wearing the mask.

Fanon refers to this type of alienation, as a condition where the Black individual, living in white dominated space, is estranged from self, and immediate surroundings. They are only able to identify with Whiteness, and not their own Blackness.

Searching for solutions, Fanon began making attempts to destroy the idealogical frameworks of colonialism, removing the debasement, and exclusions from the mind of Black African. Not hidden, the results of his studies where published.

Algerian Women.

ALGERIA & ALGERIANS

After leaving medical school, in the late 1940s, Fanon began working in a refugee camp as a psychiatrist. The majority there were from Algeria – a French colony.

Many Algerians were becoming ill, from a unknown cause. The French doctors, had no real ideas about the illness of the Algerians, they claim it was the ‘North African Syndrome.’ Lazy, work shy, and insolent.

Utilising social therapy, Fanon diagnosed the Algerians illness, and argued it was caused through their demeaning experiences, a sense of isolation, segregation, and racism. From his diagnosis, e discovered the connections between, political oppression and mental health. The racist misconception of the French Medical profession, was the alarm for Fanon to seek opportunities in a different place.

Algerian Militants.

Fanon travelled to Algeria in December 1953, after eleven months living there, the revolution for independence began. He became involved with the National Liberation Front – FLN, by offering medical services to their activists.

The involvement with the FLN independent struggles, informed many areas of his iconic book, ‘The Wretched of the Earth.’ He explained, traditional psychology was founded and established, without the unique experiences of Black people in mind.

To de-colonise the mind, is the only way to avoid assimilation, and alienation of self.

North Africa

The years living in North Africa, Fanon considered himself an Algerian. He was employed at Blida-Joinville hospital, to treat French soldiers, and their Algerian victims.

When the war for independence started, Fanon used the hospital grounds, to train FLN activists to become medics and nurses.

An active member in the war for independence, he was expelled from Algeria in 1957, for his political activities. He returned to North Africa, and joined FLN fighters in neighbouring Tunisia.

From Tunisia, he was sent to Ghana as an ambassador, by the provisional government of Algeria. Under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana had achieved independence from Britain.

A Biography

BIOGRAPHY of a REBEL

From Fanon analysis, relating to the lived experiences of Black people, engulfed in a white racist world. To navigate this terrain, mind fields of emotions, and feelings.

Fanon extracted inspiration from psychoanalysis, medical terminology, philosophy, literary texts, concepts of negritude, political consciousness, and cultural references.

By recounting the lived experiences of the individual, he was able to assist in balancing the psyche of patients, who were mentally disturbed, and suffering emotional trauma.

Fanon made it clear, there could be no psychiatric treatment for problems of racial, and social alienation. Only a total transformation of society, and social relations, would cure colonial subjects of their illnesses.

In his Psychiatry of colonised subjects, Fanon developed a sociogenic approach to treating neurosis and pathologies. Sociogenic is what emerges from social world, in which the patients inhabits on a daily basis. Including culture, history, language, and economics.

WAR & VIOLENCE

French Soldiers in Algeria

Often accused of promoting violence, Fanon explained, that the nature of colonisation is extremely violent. It is the only language the colonisers understand.

The subjected and oppressed have no alternative, and can only use violence to gain independence. Freeing themselves from the yoke, and tyranny of the colonisers.

Fanon wide range of studies and deep insights, are often overlooked, due to the sensational tag of violent revolutionary. On closer reading of his works, his views on violence are not one-sided.

Fanon also gave gave warnings, on the colonised reactions to violence. During the war for liberation, in the desire for revenge and retribution, the anti-colonial fighters also commit violent atrocities. These acts remain deep in the psyche, affecting the mind. At times in haunting nightmares, some acts are not easily removed from memory.

During a FLN mission in Morocco, Fanon was badly wounded. He was treated in a hospital in Rome, Italy. With his health declining, his doctors from Russia urged him to seek treatment in the USA.

The USA government, realising Algeria would soon gain independence. CIA agent Oliver Iselin organised the trip, as a goodwill gesture, where Fanon would be treated for Leukemia. Waiting in a hotel room, Fanon contracted double pneumonia. He died in Bethesda, Maryland USA, on the 6th of December 1961. Pascal Emile.