Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Post Colonial Literature

Name:- Reema A. Kunvrani

Roll No:- 13

Semester:- iii

Paper No:- E.E. 305  The Post Colonial Literature

Year:- 2011

Topic:- “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon

Submitted to:- Dr. Dilip P. Barad
Department of English,
Bhavnagar University.


            “The critical analysis of the history culture, literature and modes of discourse that are specific to the former colonies of England, Spain, France and other European imperial powers”, Post-colonial studies have focused especially on the Third World countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean islands, and South America, in words of M.H. Abrams.

            Important works in establishing Post-Colonial Theories are “Orientalism” (1978) by Palestinian American Scholar Edward said and critique of discourse called “Cultural Imperialism” by Michel Foucault. A major concern of these and other Post-Colonial studies is to disestablish Eurocentric norms of literary and artistic values, and to expand the literary ‘Canon’ to include colonial and Post-Colonial writers. The works like “The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in post-Colonial Literatures” (1899) by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffins stressing the idea of hybridization, while the works like “Can The Subaltern Speak?” by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak  and “The Black Skins, white Masks” by Frantz Fanon deal with psychological statuary of  the Colonized people.

Black  Skin,  White  Masks    - Frantz  Fanon :-

Frantz Fanon (20th July 1925 – 6th December, 1961) was a Martinique Algerian psychiatrist philosopher, revolutionary and writer. His works “The Wretched of the Earth” and “Black Skin, White Masks” are influential in the fields of Post-colonial studies as well as criticism and Marxism.

Black Skin, White Masks” was published in 1952 originally in French as “Peau noire, masques blancs”. Fanon supported the Algerian struggle for independence and became member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. Hence, his works have incited and inspirited anti-colonial liberation movements. “The Wretched of The Earth”(1961) with preface by Jean Paul Sartre became a key test for radical students and Black Power Movements in the United States. Similar to “Black Skin, White Masks” it focuses on psychological colonization. His works have burning desire for change the very emotion that motivated Fanon to set said from Martinique and participate in Algerian Independence Movement.

1)  Psychoanalysis, tool of Explosion for Fanon :-

“Black Skin, White Masks”  is the silent scream of all the marginalized people whose cultures, knowledge and life-style or language have been ridiculed, demonized, declared inferior and irrational or even eliminated. Fanon’s book is expression or over-whelming reaction of universal fury against oppression in general and the perpetual domination of the Western Civilization in particular.

  Fanon uses psychoanalysis and other theories to explain the feelings of dependency and inadequacy that Black people experience in a White World. His work “Black Skin, White Masks” is a guarded anger, directed at a specific, long term desire. In the introduction he pens that,

“The desire itself is grounded in self-consciousness: when it encounters resistance from the other, self-consciousness undergoes the experience of desire-the first milestone on the road that leads to dignity”.

Black Skin, White Masks” offer a particular definition of dignity.

Chapter – 6

The Negro and Psychopathology:-

Fanon applies the psychoanalytic theories by Freud, Jung and Adler to understand and explain ‘the man of color’s view of the world’ (white – world?). He describes family and as the miniature of the nation and gives the theory of “psychic circumstances and object”.

He gives a statement that, “A normal Negro Child, having grown up within a normal family, will become abnormal on the slightest contact with the White-world”. The Jungian idea of “Collective Unconscious” and Rene Menil’s views are combined in this Chapter’s final part that, “the consequence of the replacement of the repressed [African] spirit in the consciousness of the slave by an authority symbol implanted in the subsoil of the collective group and charged with maintaining order in it as a garrison controls a conquered city”.

Fanon employs Freud’s theory to demonstrate Antellion Negro’s repressed desire and theory of Oedipus Complex.

The argument that, given the unfortunate historical conflation in European civilization of evil with the color black, the Negro has been tragically equated in the collective unconscious of Europe with the absence of Good and Beauty.

In Europe, the black man is the symbol of evil… His body is black, his language is black, and his soul must be Black too…”

The moral dirtiness makes him equal to sin.

As a result, Fanon suggest that, “European culture has an image of the Negro which is responsible for all conflicts that may arise”. Hence, he quotes Lacan that,

“The real other for the White man is and will continue to be the Black man, and conversely. Only for the white man. The other is perceived on the level of the body image, absolutely as the not self –that is the unidentifiable, the inassimilable. For the Black man….historical and economic realities come into picture”.

Thus, the color discrimination is internalization of racism which is processed via cultural indoctrination.


2)  The Negro and the Language :-

Black Skin, White Masks”, was originally titled “An Essay for the Desalination of Blacks” has the similar thematic concerns as “The Wretched of the Earth”, which Stuart Hall describes as,

“the Bible of the decolonization movement”.

He begins with the words that, “I ascribe a basic importance to the phenomenon of language”. It provides the elements in the colored man’s comprehension of the dimension of ‘the other’. The self-division is result of colonialist subjugation in the Negro, which leads him to behave differently with the Negro and the White man.

“The mastery of language affords remarkable power”.

e.g. Fanon writes that the Negro of the Antilles becomes proportionally White, when he speaks French.

Fanon himself becomes language conscious in his book, in the introduction he modifies the question asked by Humanists that, “What does a man want?” into “What does a black man want?” He uses the word “man or woman of color” instead of Negro or Black man, more oftenly.     
“A man who has a language consequently possesses
the world expressed and implied by that language”.

Every colonized people have allowed penetrating the inferiority complete through the language and culture of civilizing nation. He gives Lynnais example in Paris and boasts that:

“Know Paris and die…”

 the power of language will fascinate the people here, even if they have nothing to do with Paris.

But the Black man, who lives in French, undergoes the genetic change in himself,” a definite and absolute mutation”. Fanon concludes this chapter with an illustration of a mother scolding her son for not asking Creole or French:

“…..that Child will be a disgrace to the family, that Child will be a curse.
Shut up I told you must speak French
the French of France,
the Frenchman’s French
French French”.

            It shows the emphasized importance of language in decolonizing the mindset of colonized people.

Chapter – 8

By Way of Conclusion:-

Fanon includes a quotation from “The Eighteenth Brumire” by Karl Mark that:

“The Social Revolution…cannot draw its poetry from the past,
but only from the future…. In order to find their own content,
the revolution of the nineteenth century has to let the dead
bury the dead. Before, the expression exceeds the content!
Now, the content exceeds the expression”.

Frantz Fanon also points that his approach is subjective in this work. In a case, that, “Scientific objectivity was barred to me, for the alienated, neurotic, was my brother, my sister, my father”. He rejects the idea if Negro to be the slave, even of past time. They are no more to be considered “Black man” but “Man”. The author finally turns to the complete transformation of Man and Society, he tries to Clarify that,

“The Negro is not. Any more than the White Man”.

The Aim of “Black Skin, White Masks”:-

                        The works like “Black Skin, White Masks”, The Wretched of the Earth”, “Toward the African Revolution” reverberate the immiseration of the colonized world. This titles echo no political spirit, but simple idioms used for moral outrage. Fanon’s language the English Refusal, in the words of Homi Bhabha

“Black Skin, White Masks” exposes an utterly naked
Declivity where an authentic upheaval can be born”.

In reply of  “Why to write this book?”  Frantz Fanon says that his work follows a way,

“Towards a new humanism….
Understanding among men….
Our colored brothers….
Mankind, I believe in you….
Race prejudice….
To understand and to love….”

He satirizes European Humanism and provides ‘deep hunger’ for ‘New Humanism’ among his readers.