Note-taking for the Second Part of Class (Week 4)

Why does Fanon’s discussion use binaries?

 Fanon discusses colonization in terms of binaries should be read within the context of Hegelian dialectics. According to Hegel, there is a thesis and an anti-thesis which are in opposition. Eventually, the thesis and anti-thesis will combine to form the synthesis, a process called sublation. This synthesis is supposed to be a form of progress.

 At the same time, such binaries really did exist in colonized lands. For example, the colonizer and the colonized are distinguished as “citizens” and “subjects” respectively. In that sense, the colonized do not have the same rights as the colonizer, as being “subjects”, the Social Contract does not apply to them. The arms of the government, the police, the army and the Law thus were obliged, by the Social Contract, to protect the colonizers (citizens), but not the colonized (subjects). The police, army and the Law thus quite literally compartmentalize the colonized lands by dividing it into two, the land of the colonizer and the land of the colonized. 

 Why does Fanon call for violence?

 Fanon’s call for violence stems from two general ideas.

 Firstly, there is the idea that the colonizer inflicts incredible violence on the native, but that act of violence is covered up. The idea of the Social Contract in terms of the “civilizing mission” is all well and good, but whether it was applied needs to be questioned. Instead of teaching the “barbaric natives” civilization (rationality, for example), the colonizers seemed instead to have taught them violence and to teach them to internalize an image of themselves as “inferior” and “barbaric”. For example, in A Passage to India, the natives often try to change their habits and manners to satisfy the colonizer’s values of what is proper, which illustrates that they have internalized the colonizer’s idea of what is “good” and what is “bad”. This is an act of violence because the colonized have internalized an image of themselves set by people (the colonizers) who do not have their best interests at heart. At the same time, actual violence is acted out upon the colonized. Aziz, for example, was arrested for a crime he did not commit. Significantly, the moment Aziz is arrested, his voice is no longer heard (quite literally) within the text. That could be an example of the colonizer’s violence against the colonized being covered up.

 Secondly, Marx’s ideas of a “class struggle”, strongly influenced by Hegelian dialectics, suggest that change can only be made through violence. This could explain Fanon’s dissatisfaction with the new class of “colonized intellectuals”. Essentially, the colonized intellectuals have internalized the values of the colonizer, and will try to resolve issues between the colonizer and the colonized peacefully. Thus whatever “new” system they form will merely be a replication of the colonizer’s system. There will thus be no change and no progress.

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