“…colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking, a body endowed with reason. It is naked violence and only gives in when confronted with greater violence”
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, p. 23
- Born in the French colony of Martinique in 1925, Fanon was a subject of France in the broadest sense of the word, as he was held in an oppressive state of life along with all the other natives on the island.
- World War II served as a major catalyst for Fanon’s intellectual growth, as Martinique was used by French naval forces after France fell to the German invasion. Fanon fled Martinique and volunteered with the Free French Forces, where he was sent to North Africa and France to fight against the Nazis. It was in the service the Fanon continued to receive and recognize racial oppression on the part of the French, with his regiment ultimately being purged of non-whites during the later years of the war, notably after Fanon had been wounded defending the county that had worked so hard to oppressed him and his people.
- A brief stay in Martinique after the war was followed by attending school in France, where his focus on the effects of colonialism began to take shape. It was here that he wrote his first book Black Skin, White Masks.
- Fanon wed a white Frenchwoman in 1952, a somewhat contentious issue for some of his modern-day supporters given his ardent stance against colonialism. However, this event brings up an interesting point in Fanon’s intellectual work, in that he stressed an end to colonialism through whatever means necessary, but did not necessarily advocate for a separation of the races.
- Fanon officially became a psychiatrist in 1953 after his schooling in France and was offered the directorship of a hospital in Mozambique, but he instead chose to go to Algeria to pursue better psychiatric facilities.
- Fanon arrived in Algeria at a critical juncture, as the revolution was beginning to occur and the French and Algerians were beginning to butt heads. Fanon initially tried to remain out of direct involvement in the conflict, but this proved to be too difficult:
“During the day he treated the French torturers and by night he treated the Algerian tortured. By 1956 this double life was becoming impossible. There was terror all around him; his nurses were beginning to disappear, and he began to feel that he was becoming less effective. In the circumstances he resigned”
Hansen, Emmanuel. “Frantz Fanon: Portrait of a Revolutionary Intellectual” Transition 46.1 (1974): p. 32
- This resignation proved to be a forced one, as Fanon was expelled from Algeria for striking with other doctors who were sympathetic to the plight of the Algerians. His expulsion from Algeria proved to be the ultimate catalyst, as Fanon became a full-fledged revolutionary in neighboring Tunisia and offered to assume any role necessary in order to force the colonial forces out of Algeria. It was here that he published the majority of his most well-known essays and works regarding colonialism, using his knowledge of psychology as an effective means of backing up his ideals with the knowledge of how the system of colonialism worked to oppress its subjects through psychological means.
- Up until his death in 1961 from leukemia, Fanon was an ardent revolutionary and strong supporter of the fight against all colonialist powers.