mardi 21 décembre 2010

Frantz Fanon's thesis of violence: What relevance for modern Africa ?

By: Tongkeh Joseph, June 2008


The struggle against oppression was the central thesis of Frantz Fanon's revolutionary philosophy. And colonialism was the target of this fury. Fanon condemned colonialism in the most bitter terms and advocated violence in its most extreme form to confront this plague. In his words, "colonialism is not a thinking machine nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its most natural state ... and will only yield when confronted with greater violence." This revolutionary outlook is reflected in many of Fanon's works, among which include: Black Skin White Masks, A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution and The Wretched of the Earth. The latter book, acclaimed as Fanon's most accomplished work, has been described as the "bible of decolonization" because of its radical impact on, and eventual success of the anti-colonial struggle.

Half a century after Fanon's death, his thesis of violence still remains an object of heated debate. This controversy is increasingly fanned by the undying contradictions within postcolonial Africa. Dr. Homi K. Bhabha questioned the relevance of Fanon's radicalism in contemporary Africa. "Is The Wretched of the Earth now only a historical and scholarly artifact?" he asked. Continued he, "In the era of globalization is it a relic of naturalistic struggle? Or do Fanon's insights transcend the particulars of his time? Might they help us make sense of today's political and economic tensions?" Dr. Bhabha's doubts suggest both the climate of tension and uncertainty in Africa on the one hand, and the almost-futile search for solutions to the innumerable problems infecting the continent. All of these calamities always boil down to conflicts of one form or another. Where is Fanon's place in this violence-plagued continent ?

Judged against the background of current upheavals in Africa, one requires a deeper reading and then a second interpretation of Fanon. These twin tasks can only make sense when we strive to understand the climate of Fanon's time and compare it with that of today. Given that Africa alone currently accounts for more than 35% of the world's conflicts, Fanon still has many questions to answer. Firstly, did Fanon in the middle of his rage ever prescribe an end to violence in Africa in the foreseeable future? Secondly, what is the difference between the unabated spiral of violence in Africa and the colonial-type violence? Put in other words, is violence in contemporary Africa a mark of change or is it of continuity? Thirdly, is half a century not time enough for Africa to reconsider its reverence for violence? And consequent upon these questions, is the struggle lost for Africa ?

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