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Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon is perhaps the preeminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonisation and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements throughout the world for the past forty two years.

Fanon was born in 1925 on the Caribbean island of Martinique, then a French colony and now a French département. He was born into a middle class black family and received a typical assimilationist education. At the age of 18, Fanon enlisted in the French army and saw active duty in France. In 1944 he was wounded in battle and received the Croix de Guerre medal.

In 1945, after recovering from his wounds Fanon returned home to Martinique, a decorated war veteran. Already disillusioned with colonialism and the black man's place in it, Fanon stayed long enough to complete his baccalaureate and then returned to France where he took up the study of medicine. In 1953 he obtained his qualification as a psychiatrist and travelled to Algeria, then a French colony, to take up a position at the Blida-Joinville hospital.

The previous year, Fanon had published one of his seminal works Black skin, White Masks an analysis of the impact of colonial subjugation on the black psyche. By now Fanon had made a clean break with his French assimilationist upbringing and education. Once in Algeria, Fanon threw in his lot with the FLN rebels, who were fighting to liberate Algeria from French colonial rule. It was during this time that Fanon produced his greatest works, A Dying Colonialism and perhaps the most important work on decolonization yet written, The Wretched of the Earth. In The Wretched of the Earth Fanon lucidly analyses the role of class, race, national culture and violence in the struggle for national liberation. In this seminal work Fanon expounded his views on the liberating role of violence for the colonised; as well as the general necessity of violence in the anti-colonial struggle. Both books firmly established Fanon in the eyes of much of the Third World as the leading anti-colonial thinker of the 20th century.

In 1961, at the age of thirty-six, Fanon was diagnosed with leukemia and he died in December of that year, while undergoing treatment in Washington, D.C, in the United States.

Fanon has been both criticized and lionized for what is perceived as his use and defense of revolutionary violence, his absolute scorn for nonviolent activism. Despite these somewhat inaccurate interpretations of his works, Fanon has had an enduring and inspiring impact on anti-colonial and liberation movements throughout the world.

Major works:

See also Amilcar Cabral, Race Theory