Seminar 
Frantz Fanon Today
14th August, 2012

A Report

The Centre for Contemporary Theory organized a Half-Day Seminar on the theme Frantz Fanon Today on 14th August 2012 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm at the Centre.  Academicians, professionals from different walks of life and students of various streams attended the Seminar.

The welcome address was delivered by Professor Prafulla Kar, Director, Centre for Contemporary Theory. He welcomed Mireille Fanon-Mendes France and introduced her. He recalled that he met Ms. Mireille during the international meeting of the Caribbean Philosophical Association held in the St. Augustine campus of the University of West Indies, Trinidad  where he received the 2012 Nicolas Guillen Award for Philosophical Literature of the Caribbean Philosophical Association.  He felt grateful to her that she could come to Baroda and spend few days with us. He showed the importance of Fanon in the intellectual discourses and events of the Forum on Contemporary Theory. He also discussed some ideas of Fanon like violence and colonization in the Seminar.

 

Ms. Mireille and Professor Kar at the Seminar

Ms Mireille Fanon-Mendes France thanked Professor Prafulla Kar for giving her a warm welcome to the city and to the Seminar at the Centre for Contemporary Theory before beginning her lecture. She said that it was a good opportunity for her to come to the Centre. She presented some reflections on the thinking on Fanon after fifty years of independence and under the impact of globalization in the lecture delivered by her. She also presented a trajectory on Fanonian thought on independence, decolonization, violence and so on in different sections of her lecture. In the discussion held after her lecture she said that violence is still going on and there is neo-colonialism in the present age. In these discussions she raised the issues of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, human rights. She also pointed out that we are going on dividing the problem without coming to any conclusion and she said she is very pessimistic about the role of the grassroot movements and the social movements.

Ms Lajwanti Chatani was given the responsibility of introducing Fanon in the Seminar. She teaches the ideas of Fanon in a course on post colonial studies at M. S. University , Vadodara. She said that Fanon in a political sense appears to be one among the anti-colonialist theorist who propagated violence and contributed to the post colonial theory. She pointed out that he projected the psychological aspect of colonization, the psychological dominance and hence to that extent it is cultural. She argued that the identity is the most important facet of one’s life. Ms Lajwanti was of the view that in Black Skin White Masks, Fanon uses his own experience where he elaborates the way in which the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized were normalized.  She said that the relationship of dominance comes up and it is very dominant in terms of colour of skin. She also said that in his study, Fanon also speaks about racism, colonialism, alienation and feminism. She highlighted the role of language in the context of colonization. She also mentioned the book, The Wretched of the Earth and talked about Fanon’s view on violence. She also talked about the national bourgeoisie. She brought out the difference between independence and liberation by saying that the dependence is still there in independence. This is not freedom. Freedom will come when we will get liberation from colonial culture.

Udayprakash Sharma and Somika Sinha made a presentation on Fanon’s view on decolonization based on the reading of The Wretched of the Earth in their paper titled “Understanding the Violence of Decolonization” and “Fanon on Decolonization”  respectively. Udayprakash Sharma was of the view that Fanon advocated decolonization has always been a violent phenomenon and the violence that the native undertakes unifies the people and it is in action all-inclusive and national. Fanon says hat it implies that it is closely involved in the liquidation of regionalism and of tribalism and after decolonization the minimum demands of the native are “the last shall be the first”.  Fanon also argues that during the struggle for freedom a marked alienation is also observed and the native discovers the reality which is transformed into the pattern of his customs, into the practice of violence and into his plan for freedom. Udayprakash Sharma concluded by saying that in the present age we observe colonization of the native by the native.

Somika Sinha pointed out that Fanon chooses to speak of a phenomenon which characterizes all decolonization at the outset. Fanon argues that decolonization which sets out to change the order of the world is a programme of complete disorder. According to him, it is a historical process where individualism is the first to disappear. He is of the view that the native intellectual destroys all his idols of egoism, recrimination that springs from pride and the childish stupidity of those who always want to have the last word. Further, Fanon finds the idea of compromise to be important in the phenomenon of decolonization as it involves the colonial system and the young nationalist bourgeoisie at the same time. He views diplomacy inaugurated by the newly independent people as not an affair of nuances, of implications and of hypnotic passes but as a diplomacy which never stops moving, a diplomacy which leaps ahead in strange contrast to the motionless and petrified world of colonization. On neutralism, Fanon says that some equate it with a sort of tainted mercantilism which consists of taking what it can get from both sides. He argues that neutralism produces a state of mind in the citizens of the Third World which is expressed in everyday life by fearlessness and an ancestral pride which strangely resembles defiance.

 

The audience attending the Seminar

Shipra R.Upadhyay in her presentation on Reading Black Skin White Maskssaid that human existence on this earth approximately goes back to six million years back and in the sojourn of civilization there happen to be great encounter among men of different, races and ethnic groups. She is of the view that there are various testimonies where we come across a silent cry, suffering and suffocation of black people which was noticed for a long time and even now there exists a stereotype with regards to people of black race/skin. She pointed out that history witnessed that they were tortured in an inhuman way by the white people, the one who claims they were/are to be superior because of their white skin and blue eyes. Shipra argued that white has always been associated with superiority and nobility whereas black always been looked upon as inferior and substandard. She also argued that pondering over the pathetic socio, political and cultural scenario of the world today, we feel that Fanon, his ideas and ideologies are more relevant and contemporary than ever. She pointed out that the philosophical text Black Skin White Masks talks about the desperation for black people to attain the superiority and nobility.

The presentation of Bini B.S on “The Necessity and Inevitability of Violence: An Analysis of the Writings of Fanon” emphasized that Fanon should not be understood as a messiah of violence who recommend mindless brutality. She argued that according to Fanon, anti-colonial violence is the only language that colonialism understood and responded to. Fanon’s conviction that the violent uprising against the colonists would have a cathartic effect on colonized people who were dehumanized and alienated by the epistemic, psychological and physical violence inflicted on them by the colonial rule. She also pointed out that collective violence restores the colonized to sanity and solidarity required for decolonization and paves the way to national consciousness and liberation of the mind. In Fanon’s view, decolonization is not merely political but predominantly cultural: it is a process that gets rid of the white masks worn by the blacks. Nationalist bourgeoisie can not possibly tear off the white masks through their dream of non-violent settlement because they are, in Fanon’s opinion, thoroughly indoctrinated. She also substantiated that Fanon never recommended proliferation and perpetuation of violence; after decolonization, peace and socialism should prevail.

The participants in different capacities enjoyed and benefitted a lot from the active deliberations on various relevant aspects of the Seminar.

Somika Sinha delivered the vote of thanks by expressing her gratitude to Ms. Mireille on the behalf of the Forum on Contemporary Theory and on her own personal behalf for accepting the invitation for visiting the Centre and initiating the deliberations on Frantz Fanon Today. She said that the Centre is thankful to the paper presenters for enriching the understanding on Fanon and to each one who was a part of the discussion. She closed her speech in the belief that everyone who was present there would be a part of the events of the Centre in future as well.

Report by:

Somika Sinha, Academic Fellow,

Centre for Contemporary Theory, Vadodara.