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Frantz_FanonLUMPENPROLETARIAT—If ever a thinker, a theorist, threatened the ruling classes with opening the eyes of the oppressed and the dispossessed, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon has done so to the extent he has been read.  In award-winning director Spike Lee‘s satirical film, Bamboozled (2000), the revolutionary resistance to racism and white supremacist oppression is symbolised by an underground, militant rap group called the Mau Maus, which tragicomically proclaims:  As Frantz Fanon put it, you’re lucky I ain’t read Wretched yet.  The obvious implication is that once the oppressed read Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, the gloves would come off, so to speak, because the truth shall set us free.

Helping us put the life and work of Frantz Fanon into context and focus is an important book from Dr. Peter Hudis entitled Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the BarricadesDr. Hudis joined free speech radio’s Sasha Lilley to discuss the book.  Listen (or download) here. [1]

Messina

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[Working draft transcript of actual radio broadcast by Messina for Lumpenproletariat and Against the Grain]

AGAINST THE GRAIN—[28 MAR 2016] “Today on Against the Grain:  The revolutionary and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon, was arguably the greatest philosopher of anticolonialism.  At a time when activists are turning a spotlight on racial oppression, he’s never been more relevant.  I’m Sasha Lilley.  I’ll speak with Peter Hudis about Fanon’s writings on nationalism, race, humanism, and violence.  That’s after these news headlines.”  (c. 0:47)

[KPFA News Headlines omitted by scribe]    (c. 5:45)

SASHA LILLEY:  “From the studios of KPFA in Berkeley, California, this is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio.  I’m Sasha Lilley.

“The writer, philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary, Frantz Fanon, has had an enormous impact on how we see racial and national oppression today from the inside out, how it shapes, both, coloniser and colonised, victim and perpetrator.

“His books, The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks, were best-sellers in their time and are now classics.

“As a new generation discover Fanon, how do we sift through his legacy, which has been shaped by problems of translation and appropriation?  Peter Hudis has taken on the task of answering that question in his book, Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades, published by Pluto Press.

Hudis teaches philosophy and humanities at Oakton Community College and is also the author of Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism.

“Peter, what were Frantz Fanon‘s origins?”  (c. 6:51)

DR. PETER HUDIS:  “Frantz Fanon was born in the French colony of Martinique in 1926.  He grew up in a lower-middle class family of people who spoke mainly Creole.  Although, in his own home, he was encouraged to speak French by his mother, especially, who insisted on him getting as good an education as possible. He had a relatively unremarkable childhood.  (c. 7:14)  [SNIP] ”  (c. 8:28)

SASHA LILLEY:  “And, then, he ends up, actually, participating in the efforts to roll back fascism in France, or the Vichy regime.  How did that transpire?”  (c. 8:39)

DR. PETER HUDIS:  “Fanon had the attitude—he was 17 years old at the time—that, as he wrote to his brother, an indignity to one human being, in one part of the world, is an indignity to human beings in all parts of the world.”  [2]  (c. 8:53)  [SNIP]  (c. 9:47)

SASHA LILLEY:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

DR. PETER HUDIS:  ”  [SNIP]  ”  (c. 10:25)

SASHA LILLEY:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

DR. PETER HUDIS:  ”  [SNIP]  ”  (c. 11:00)

SASHA LILLEY:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

DR. PETER HUDIS:  ”  [SNIP]  ”  (c. 11:57)

SASHA LILLEY:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

DR. PETER HUDIS:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

SASHA LILLEY:  ”  [SNIP]  ”

DR. PETER HUDIS:  “”  (c. 19:16)

SASHA LILLEY:  “Peter Hudis is my guest.  He is the author of Frantz Fanon: Philosopher of the Barricades.  And we’re speaking about the Martinican philosopher, psychiatrist, and revolutionary today.  You are listening to Pacifica Radio.  And I am Sasha Lilley.

“So, you started to talk about his work, Black Skin, White Masks.  That was published in 1952 and has had an enormous impact on how people see race and society.  And I wonder if you could tell us about the core argument, that he makes in Black Skin, White Masks.”  (c. 19:52)

DR. PETER HUDIS:  “The core argument is that—to sum it up—is that:  It’s not race, that produces racism.  It’s racism, that produces race. [3]

“In other words, race is a social construct, a product of specific socioeconomic conditions, such as the rationalisation for the economic imperatives tied to the European transatlantic slave trade.

“And racism, over time, although it has these socioeconomic roots, takes on a life of its own.  And it infects and informs the very way, by which individuals, both, black and white see each other and see themselves.  And it shapes and constructs the identity of individuals in ways, that they are not aware.

“What his fundamental argument, in posing this, is to seek out, one, how this kind of ways of seeing, this shaping of how we understand each other through these categories of race, that are products of racist practices block mutual recognition of individuals because racism, according to Fanonis the ultimate form of viewing a person as an object, as a thing, instead of an actual, as the full human being, that they are.

“So, one of the ramifications of viewing a person, or treating another person, or a class of people as objects, as things, instead of as human subjects, this, he argues, leads to profound alienation.

“Now, alienation is a very important phrase for Fanon.  He gets it, of course, very much from a discussion within Marx‘s work and, also, in the French intellectual scene in the aftermath of World War II.

Alienation is not the same as exploitation, although they overlap.  Exploitation is kind of a visible expropriation of, let’s say:  You put in so many hours of labour.  You’re not paid for the value of your labour.  You’re exploited.  You’re ripped off.

“But alienation is a much deeper psychic phenomenon as well.  It has deeper internal dimensions.  You’re alienated, not just from the product of your labour.  That is, in the sense that you don’t obtain the wages you deserve for your work.  You’re alienated from your very being.

And [Fanon] saw that victims of racism become alienated from their very being by being viewed as objects and things.  So, there’s a profound alienation, that infects the victim of racism, which is why Fanon very famously argues in the first pages of the book:  The black man and woman inhabits a zone of non-being.  A very puzzling phrase, at first sight, but what he means is that our being is taken away from us.  We are turned into mere instrumental objects. [4] (c. 22:31)

“His interest in focusing on this is to figure out how to get out of this alienation.  He, actually, originally wanted the book to be entitled An Essay on the Disalienation of the Black Person.  But his editor, François Jeanson, thought that wasn’t an adequate title.  So, he suggested the title Black Skin, White Masks.

“That is, still, kind of an adequate title for what’s happening in the book because one of the dimensions of alienation is that you feel, on the one hand, you want to be acknowledged by the other for who you are, as a human being.  Every human being wants to be recognised for who they are.  We thirst for recognitionWe thirst for contact with the other.  But, when we’re denied that contact and that recognition from the other because of the way we’re viewed in terms of racialistic terms, that very often produces a sense of inferiority.  We blame ourselves.  We say:  Well, why am I not getting the recognition I deserve.  There must be something wrong with me.  It must be my black skin.  It must be my gender.  It must be my ethnic heritage.  It must be my accent.  Etcetera.

“So, what happens is that we internalise this alienation; and we become fixated on getting acceptance from the other by trying to deny the very attributes, that we possess, that we’re being discriminated against for having.

“So, [Fanon] argues, the black very often tries to mimic the white in order to get recognition by pretending to be other than they are.  You try to straighten your hair.  You try to lighten your skin.  Perhaps, you try to marry outside your race.  You try all sorts of maneuvers in order to be accepted and get the other not to see you for how they’re seeing you.

“But, as Fanon of course notes, this is an inherently futile process because, as he argues, the black is over-determined from the outside.  That is, you are over-determined by the perception others have of your epidermal [i.e., phenotypic] appearances.  So, any effort to escape this alienation by begging for acceptance from the other, by denying who you really are, is fraught with an impossible outcome.  You can’t achieve it.  And this leads to, on the one hand, terrible frustration.  But it could also lead to a recognition of an alternative route to liberation, in which you reject this entire paradigm and say:  I am going to fight this refusal to give me recognition, not by begging for this recognition from the other, but by standing up for who I am, demanding I be recognised for who I am, first of all, among those of my own kind, so, I could obtain the kind of solidarity and social strength to overturn the social conditions, that give rise to this problem in the first place.”  (c. 25:14)

[SNIP]

[SNIP] (c. 59:59)

Learn more at AGAINST THE GRAIN.

[This transcript will be expanded as time constraints, and/or demand or resources, allow.]

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Blak is Black” by Mau Maus

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[1]  Terrestrial radio transmission, 94.1 FM (KPFA, Berkeley, CA) with online simulcast and digital archiving:  Against the Grain, this episode hosted by Sasha Lilley, for Monday, 28 MAR 2016, 12:00 PDT.

Fanon_Philosopher_of_the_BarricadesPluto Press wrote:

“Few figures loom as large in the intellectual history of revolution and postcolonialism than Frantz Fanon. An intellectual who devoted his life to activism, he utilized his deep knowledge of psychology and philosophy in the service of the movement for democratic participation and political sovereignty in his native Martinique and around the world.

With FranzFanon, Peter Hudis presents a penetrating critical biography of the activist’s life and work. Countering the prevailing belief that Fanon’s contributions to modern thought can be wholly defined by an advocacy of violence, Hudis presents his work instead as an integrated whole, showing that its nuances—and thus its importance—can only be appreciated in light of Fanon’s efforts to fuse philosophical theory and actual practice. By taking seriously Fanon’s philosophical and psychological contributions, as well as his political activism, Hudis presents a powerful and perceptive new view of the man and his achievement.

This brief, richly perceptive introduction to Fanon will give new force to his ideas, his life, and his example for people engaged in radical political theory and taking action against oppression around the world today.”

[2]  One is reminded of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara‘s letter to his children, to be read upon his death, wherein he urged his children to always be capable of feeling in the most profound sense any indignity committed against anybody anywhere in the world because that is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.

Or, perhaps, one may be reminded of the age-old labour motto of the workers of the world:  An injury to one, is an injury to all.

[3]  Here we come upon an important theme for many of us familiar with the distinction between the unscientific notion of race, which fallaciously presupposes subspecies, as Dr. Ashley Montagu, the British-American anthropologist who popularized the study of topics, such as race and gender and their relation to politics and development, and wrote the important book, Man’s Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race, New York: Harper, 1942.  What we think of as race, is actually a social construct, which conflates phenotype with genotype.  Phenotype reflects the superficial variation within a species, such as the human species, Homo sapiens sapiens.  This phenotypic variation in humans is also known as ethnicity.

Thus, we may speak of ethnicity and ethnic discrimination.  But we cannot speak of race or racial discrimination without presupposing that different races constitute different subspecies, which is simply inaccurate, incorrect, and wrong, scientifically-speaking.  To speak of race, rather than ethnicity, is to use the language of racism and to, thereby, re-entrench and perpetuate the language of race and to perpetuate the assumptions, which feed into paradigms of racism, racial hierarchies, and white supremacy.

[4]  Here we are also reminded of the Marxian concept of reification, also the concept of objectification.

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[Image entitled “Frantz Fanon” by Source used via Fair Use]

[30 MAR 2016]

[Last modified  12:19 PDT  30 MAR 2016]

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