Fanon’s Idealism: Hopeful Resignation, Violence, and Healing

In: Bandung

The Spirit of Bandung is marked by its idealism, a state of mind few associate with the revolutionary Martinican physician and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, who is perhaps best known for Les damnés de la terre, in particular its opening chapter on violence. And yet, Fanon’s work, too, is marked by a keen sense of hope as he urges himself and his readers, “[to] make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create a new man.” As a clinician and philosopher who combined phenomenology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis in his work, Fanon draws our attention to the importance of healing the physical, affective, and epistemological wounds of anti-black racism by attending to the social relations that produce them. This paper takes as a point of departure Fanon’s “Letter to the Resident Minister (1956),” in which he resigns from his post as Médecin-Chef de service at the Psychiatric Hospital of Blida-Joineville in war-torn Algeria. More than a gesture, I argue that Fanon’s active withdrawal as a representative of French colonialism enabled Fanon to write Wretched of the Earth and raises the question of what role hopeful resignation can have in achieving decolonial healing.

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