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“His thinking was far from linear or singular.” Read an excerpt from the introduction to Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics

The revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon was a foundational figure in postcolonial and decolonial thought and practice, yet his psychiatric work still has only been studied peripherally. That is in part because most of his psychiatric writings have remained untranslated.

With a focus on Fanon’s key psychiatry texts, Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics considers Fanon’s psychiatric writings as materials anticipating as well as accompanying Fanon’s better known works, written between 1952 and 1961 (Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution, The Wretched of the Earth).

Both clinical and political, they draw on another notion of psychiatry that intersects history, ethnology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The authors argue that Fanon’s work inaugurates a critical ethnopsychiatry based on a new concept of culture (anchored to historical events, particular situations, and lived experience) and on the relationship between the psychological and the cultural. Thus, Gibson and Beneduce contend that Fanon’s psychiatric writings also express Fanon’s wish, as he puts it in The Wretched of the Earth, to “develop a new way of thinking, not only for us but for humanity.”

Nigel C. Gibson is Associate Professor of Postcolonial Studies at Emerson College. He is author of Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa (2014), and the editor of Rethinking Fanon (1999) and Living Fanon (2011). He is the editor of the Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Roberto Beneduce is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Turin. He is the founding director of the Frantz Fanon Center in Turin. His recent publications include a collection of Fanon’s psychiatric writings in Italian, Decolonizzare la follia, Scritti sulla psichiatria coloniale (2011), and L’histoire au corps (Embodying History) (2016).

Read an excerpt from the introduction to Gibson and Beneduce’s astute book, as published in The Con Magazine, here:

1952 to 1961: in the space of less than ten years, Frantz Fanon defended his medical thesis in France, took up his post as a psychiatrist at Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria, wrote three books, and produced articles for Esprit, Consciences Maghribines, L’information psychiatrique, La Tunisie Médicale, Maroc Médicale, and El Moudjahid (the organ of the National Liberation Front).

In this incredibly short period of time the accelerating pace of events seems to have imposed on his writing its own unique, peremptory rhythm — almost as if the author was somehow unconsciously aware of his own impending death, at only thirty-six years of age.

Fanon wrote his first book, Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks) (1952) and his last book, Les damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth) (1961) within the same timeframe.

And while there is no epistemological break between these two works, no simple correlation can be drawn between them either.

We confront in Fanon’s writing, both the openness of his thought and the specificity of its contexts. Between Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched, we can situate Fanon’s work as a psychiatrist committed to a broad criticism of colonial epistemology.

Like the political articles he wrote for El Moudjahid, many of his psychiatric articles are specific, situational, and concrete. In this sense, they are less developed theoretically than his major works, and many are viewed as peripheral to Fanon’s three books and the collection of his political writings that has been available to English readers since the mid-1960s.

In what sense, then, can we consider Fanon’s psychiatric writings part of his oeuvre?

Continue reading here.

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