A Fanonian Philosophy of Race
- Armond TownsArmond TownsDepartment of Communication Studies, University of Richmond
Frantz Fanon was one of the most important voices in decolonial and black liberation struggles of the mid-20th century. Writing about race and colonialism in Martinique, France, and Algeria, he articulated the importance of blackness to Western frameworks of the human. The black studies scholarship influenced by Fanon has continued in a similar vein, arguing that much of modern, Western thought either does not discuss race at all or considers race as an add-on to the larger discussion of Western subjectivity. Alternatively, Fanon and his interlocutors argue that race is the central function of the larger fields of Western philosophy and science, even if race is not mentioned at all. To make this claim, they largely point toward two tendencies in Western thought. First, Fanon and his interlocutors often examine the centrality of time and space in modern Western philosophy. Indeed, much of Western philosophy and science has implicitly and explicitly examined time as a linear trajectory that is largely monopolized by the Western European and North American white male subject; alternatively, space has been theorized as the static and nondynamic measure of the Western subject’s capacity to progress. Second, Fanon and his interlocutors also critically interrogate the related discussion of mutual recognition that is assumed in much of Western thought. As such, Western thinkers have often contended that, historically, the self recognizes itself in the other, and vice versa, and that self/other relationship is the basis for concepts of subjectivity. Yet, Fanon and his interlocutors have also pointed out that the lack of recognition of black people as human or as subjects has done little to foreclose whiteness as the position overrepresented as the human. Rather than recognition, white people have historically enacted racial violence against black bodies as a central mode through which to enter into humanity. As such, time and space and the lack of recognition as outlined by Fanon and his interlocutors suggest that nonwhite bodies have always provided a crisis for Western concepts of universality and subjecthood.