Frantz Fanon – Black Skin, White Mask

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Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask, Grover Press, 1967.

As we have seen it from his other book, The Wretched of the Earth (1961), what Fanon had pursued and hoped to build, through the struggle against colonialism or the colonizers, was “a new humanism” (p. 178). We can find its sprout from the introduction of his 1952 book, Black Skin, Whit Mask: “toward a new humanism” (p. 7). Why this new humanism is important to him and to all the endeavors to be liberated from the colonial status? In The Wretched of the Earth, he repeatedly persuades the colonized to lean on violence to overcome the colonial subordination and to liberate them from the colonial domination: “Violence can thus be understood to be the perfect mediation. The colonized man liberates himself in and through violence”(p. 44). I believe that this sort of vision in anti-colonial struggle is resulted from his previous practice as a physician and the “psychoanalytical interpretation of the black problem” (p. 10) which was done in Black Skin, Whit Mask.

He seems to believe that colonial status is not only supported by the domination of material resources and physical suppression onto the colonized, but also supported by the mental control over the colonized through a kind of “inferiority complex,” which is “the outcome of a double process”: “economic” and “the internalization of this inferiority” (p.11). Based on his own memory, he deeply investigates the internal mechanism of inferiority of the Blackness: “already I am being dissected under white eyes, the only real eyes. I am fixed” (p. 116). This being fixed under white eyes was already inscribed in the white’s cry, “Look, a Negro!” The fact of blackness was not created by the black, but was constructed by the white’s look, their gaze, as a trauma on the black. Before the cry of “Look, a Negro!,” there existed no realization of blackness. The internalized look, i.e. gaze, from the white is what makes the black locked in the circuit of shame.

This kind of explanation is based on Lacan’s theory of mirror stage. The black people’s subjectivity is formed by the recognition of themselves through the images reflected on mirror, through the Other’s eye. What they (or us) can recognize is not what they (or we) are, but the image of themselves which is not constructed by them. If we accept this psychoanalytic theory as the principle of the construction of the colonized subject as well as black subject, it might be useful in explaining the mechanism of internal mechanism of inferiority of the colonized and Blackness. However, according to Fanon, this internalized inferiority is actually the reflection of the white’s physical inferiority to the black: “it is in his corporeality that the Negro is attacked” (p. 163).

Fanon’s psychoanalytic interpretation on the construction of the inferior blackness seems to contribute to the “active” reconstruction of the blackness, not to the “reactive” response to the white’s gaze. Nonetheless, how his assertions on the psychoanalytic theory of blackness reaches the conclusion of “the only solution: to fight”(p. 224) might be more explained. 

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