Here is the abstract for my final paper. My intention is to offer a reading of Fanon’s concept of violence that shows that it is intelligible. Likewise, I want to undermine the simplistic, dismissive critiques of Fanon’s concept of violence all the while considering the more thoughtful or serious critiques. His critique of colonization is fundamental to his program of decolonial/revolutionary violence and I would like to show how this relates to other critiques of oppressive systems and revolutionary programs-particularly Mikhail Bakunin’s-but I’m not sure how much space/time the first part will take up.
Colonial Violence, Revolutionary Violence:
Understanding the Role of Violence in Frantz Fanon’s Work
In “Algeria Face to Face with the French Torturers” (1957), Frantz Fanon asserts that the Algerian revolution will liberate the colonized people; by destroying the colonial order, the Algerians can replace it with a new just social order. In particular, Fanon focuses his energy on highlighting that the use of torture is not an anomaly to the colonial order, but is fundamental in maintaining that relationship: “Colonialism cannot be understood without the possibility of torturing, of violation, or of massacring” (Toward the African Revolution, 66). Some French intellectuals assert that if the use of torture ceased, then Algeria would not be ‘lost’; however, this rests on a misunderstanding of the colonial relationship. Torture is implicit in the colonial logic because the colonizers who torture are not in contradiction with the “values” of their group and the system they are defending and, in fact, torture is a necessary facet of colonization. The Algerians would not stop resisting the French if they stopped using torture because French colonization is torture.
It is with this understanding of the violence inherent in colonial situations or in the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized that Fanon’s claim about the fundamental role of violence in all decolonial struggles can be properly understood. The intention of my paper is to trace Fanon’s argument from his illumination of the violence that is fundamental to colonization, yet seems to be ‘hidden’ or rather legitimated, to his argument that violence is fundamental in decolonial struggles. It is only in this light that his revolutionary violence can be fully understood. Although Frantz Fanon writes specifically about violence inherent in the colonial order and decolonial methods of resistance, I argue that his analysis can be used to illuminate violence inherent in our own social order and perhaps, we can generalize Fanon’s program of resistance (or revolutionary violence) to destroy other forms of oppression.
To summarize the paper quickly, I want to look at what Fanon intends by his employment of the term violence. I think he is doing at least two things: (1) designating the physical struggle necessary to remove the colonizer, (2) outlining a sort of meta-physical violence (I’m not sure ‘meta-physical’ or ‘meta-violence’ is the term I want to use; this is something I need to flesh out). Physical violence is self-explanatory, but the second has at least three components: (a) the first is about the structure of the social order is violent because it does not include the colonized, (b) and then, any effort to be recognized, or ‘break into’ the ethical, social, and political order is an act of violence, which then gives way to (c) the transformation of people through action, through this violent process. Torture is the crucial example of both the forms of violence he talks about; it is physical, but also meta-physical and has debilitating consequences for both sides. Therefore, we need to overcome this situation via revolutionary action.
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
—A Dying Colonialism
—Toward the African Revolution
—The Wretched of the Earth
Ward Churchill, Acts of Rebellion
—Pacifism as Pathology
Lewis R. Gordon, Fanon and the Crisis of European Man
Emmanuel Hansen, Fanon: Social and Political Thought
Hoppe and Nicholls, Fanon and the Decolonization of Philosophy
B. Marie Perinbam, Holy Violence
Gerald E. Tucker, Machiavelli and Fanon