Frantz Fanon

  • Psychoanalyst and social philosopher from Martinique (1925-1961)
  • Wrote influential works: Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth

Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

Original text (translation):

Excellent summary:

  • In order to understand racism, we must ask what “man” wants and what “the black man” wants
  • Seeks to understand the relationship between white and black people
    • Argues that both groups are trapped within their own racial identities
  • Argues that psychoanalysis is a useful tool for understanding the black experience
    • Through analysis, it is possible to “destroy” the enormous psychological complex that has developed as a result of colonialism
  • Concludes with an appeal to open-mindeness, and he will always be “a man who questions”

Chapter 1: The Black Man and Language

  • Describes experience of black Antilleans and become “whiter” via assimilation
    • They return to homeland and are treated as superior, encouraging them to act haughtily
  • Black people try to “prove” intelligence to whites but intelligence alone “never saved anybody”
  • White people speaking to black people in pidgin is a subtle way to remind them of the colonial order
    • White people fear educated black people, such as those that read Karl Marx
  • Notes that some say Aime Cesaire has more skillful command of French than any white Frenchman
    • Cesaire was the founder of the Negritude movement
    • If true, shouldn’t be surprising, since people of French colonies are just as “French” as white Frenchmen

Chapter 2: The Woman of Color and the White Man

  • Examines Mayotte Capecia’s autobiography I Am a Martinician Woman
    • About a black women obsesseds with marrying a white man
    • Mayotte was taught to believe they can “save” their race by making themselves whiter
    • Disapproves of it because it advocates for “unhealthy behavior”
  • Looks at Abdoulaye Sadji’s novel Nini
    • Biracial Sengalese woman rejects black man’s advances b/c she wants to marry a white person
    • Argues that Nini shows how black women internalize racist ideas

Chapter 3: The Man of Color and the White Woman

  • Examines Rene Maran’s autobiography A Man Like Any Other
  • About a black Antillean named Jean Veneuse who lives in Bordeaux, France
  • Jean is in love with a white woman, and his white friends approve if he renounces his blackness
  • Fanon argues black men want to “dominate a European woman”
  • Argues that Jean suffers from abandonment neurosis, as described by Germaine Guex

Chapter 4: The So-Called Dependency Complex of the Colonized

  • Analyzes Octave Mannoni’s The Psychology of Colonization, which analyzes the psychological relationship between colonizer and colonized
  • Fanon rejects Mannoni’s claim that inferority complex of colonized people originates from childhood–instead originates from colonization
  • Examines how different ethnicities/nationalities/religions are encouraged to feel superior to each other
  • Rejects idea that best sides of European culture are not responsible for colonialism-instead, all of Europe is implicit in colonial violence
  • Rejects claim that Malagasy people didn’t have sense of identity prior to colonization-colonization destroyed their sense of identity

Chapter 5: The Fact of Blackness

  • Fanon describes sitting on a train and hearing a white child exclaim: “Look! A Negro!
  • Describes how racism can cause a feeling of alienation from one’s own body
  • Quoting from Jean-Paul Sartre: Jewish people can downplay or renounce their Jewishness, but black people can never escape their blackness.
  • Examines history of how science was used to justify racism: “science should be ashamed of itself”
  • Critiques Negritude b/c attempt to regain precolonial black culture won’t help black people right now
    • Ironically, some aspects confirm racist sterotypes

Chapter 6: The Black Man and Psychopathology

  • Argues that psychoanalytic theories don’t hold for people of color b/c racism and colonialism affect their family lives and early childhood
  • Affirms the existence of “collective unconsciousness” of black people
  • Argues only way for black people to heal from colonialism is through “collective catharsis
  • In the case of negrophobia (fear of black people), problem is rooted in racist colonial culture, not childhood
  • Agrees with psychoanalysis that phobia is ultimately sexual in nature–anti-black violence is often sexual
  • Concludes with case study of white woman who suffers from tics, which was diagnosed as a symptom of her fear of black people

Chapter 7: The Black Man and Recognition

  • Considers the work of Alfred Adler
  • Fanon argues that whole of Antilles is “neurotic society” as result of colonialism
  • Considers ways in which psychological dynamic of master/slave still exists today

A Dying Colonialism (1959)



Having a gun is the only chance you still have of giving a meaning to your death.

  • Account of Algerians during the Algerian Revolution
    • People of Algeria changed centuries-old cultural patterns / embraced certain cultural practices
    • Long derided as “primitive” by colonialists
    • Adopted to destroy those oppressors
  • Algerians adopt the radio (only way to receive news b/c of censorship), becoming a unifying force
    • Previously a tool/symbol of oppression
  • Uses 5th year of revolution as a point of departure for an explication of the inevitable dynamics of colonial oppression

The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

Original text (translation):



  • Written by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Removed by Fanon’s widow after Sartre supported Israel in the Six-Day war

Concerning Violence

  • Begins with explanation of violence within “colonial situation”
  • Act of decolonization will always involve violence
  • Decolonization cannot occur with “gentleman’s agreement” as colonialism is steeped in violence
  • Colonial world is a “Manichaean World” divided into light and dark
    • White colonizers are seen as the light
    • Black colonized individuals are seen as dark / evil
  • Constant “atmospheric violence” in colonial society-colonized seem to inherently know that their liberation can only be achieved through violent means

Spontaneity: Its Strengths and Weaknesses

The peasant masses are the only spontaneously revolutionary force in the country.

  • Masses of colonized country and country’s nationalist political parties are not on the same page
  • Parties are comprised of colonized intellectuals-urban proletariat
    • Represent <1% of actual population
    • Stand to lose everything through decolonization
    • Constitute the national bourgeoisie
  • Peasant masses live traditional lives in outlying villages
    • At complete odds with national bourgeoisie
  • Lumpenproletariat are the absolute lowest rung of society
    • Criminals, prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, and the like
    • Most valuable and the “urban spearhead” of the rebellion.

The Pitfalls of National Consciousness

  • In newly independent nation, national bourgeoisie take political control and replace colonial power
  • Run a limited economy and keep profits under a system of neocolonialism
  • Leads to increased ethnic tensions, racism, persecution, single-party system, and dictatorship
  • Government must be decentralized and run by peasant masses
  • After independence, the cultural class (formerly colonized intellectuals) fight for “the recognition of a national culture and the right to exist”
  • Colonial racism assumes black nations are devoid of culture and intellect
  • Colonized intellectual toils tirelessly to prove this isn’t true
    • Reclaims black culture on a “continental scale”
    • Advocate for creation and acceptance of “Negro” culture
    • “Black world” stretches from Africa to Caribbean to the USA

On National Culture

  • These cultures only commonality is being defined wrt whites
    • Culture is national, not continential
  • Culture is created through developing national consciousness of newly independent nation

Colonial War and Mental Disorders

  • Colonialist oppression and violent struggle for liberation leads to a slew of mental disorders
  • Fanon includes several case files from patients from Algerian War of Independence


The USA is a monster where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions.

  • Calls an end to all (neo)colonialism
  • Urges developing nations not to look to Europe
    • USA looked to Europe centuries ago
  • Developing African nations should start a new history with a “new man” and a “new way of thinking”