With the flowering of postcolonialism, we return to Frantz Fanon, a leading theorist of the struggle against colonialism. In this thorough reinterpretation of Fanon’s texts, Ato Sekyi-Otu ensures that we return to him fully aware of the unsuspected formal complexity and substantive richness of his work. A Caribbean psychiatrist trained in France after World War II and an eloquent observer of the effects of French colonialism on its subjects from Algeria to Indochina, Fanon was a controversial figure—advocating national liberation and resistance to colonial power in his bestsellers, Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth.
But the controversies attending his life—and death, which some ascribed to the CIA—are small in comparison to those surrounding his work. Where admirers and detractors alike have seen his ideas as an incoherent mixture of Existentialism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, Sekyi-Otu restores order to Fanon’s oeuvre by reading it as one dramatic dialectical narrative. Fanon’s Dialectic of Experience invites us to see Fanon as a dramatist enacting a movement of experience—the drama of social agents in the colonial context and its aftermath—in a manner idiosyncratically patterned on the narrative structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. By recognizing the centrality of experience to Fanon’s work, Sekyi-Otu allows us to comprehend this much misunderstood figure within the tradition of political philosophy from Aristotle to Arendt.
The goal of this often brilliant and always engaging book is to ‘read Fanon’s texts as though they formed one dramatic dialectical narrative’; the principal subject of this dramatic narrative, according to Sekyi-Otu, is ‘political experience’. It is his deployment of a dialectical analysis of Fanon’s ‘dramatic personae’ that permits Sekyi-Otu’s fresh and insightful readings to take place.
Ato Sekyi-Otu departs from the postmodernist paradigm and ushers in an alternative hermeneutic that primarily considers Fanon’s texts as forming ‘one dramatic dialectical narrative,’ that is a narrative whose complexity is correlative of the intricate configurations of African social experience during the post-independent era… [His] book is an invaluable contribution that offers broader scope for a new appreciation of Fanon’s political thinking.
[I]mportant… The author succeeds in…revealing the complexity and nuanced character of Fanon’s thought.
Those who would dismiss or exult Fanon as the high priest of revolutionary violence will be chastened by this patient and completely convincing exposition of his work. Sekyi-Otu produces a reflexive, ‘Gramscian’ Fanon who, working as a ‘detective of the politics of truth,’ has produced insights that need to be taken over into the core of democratic political thought.
Sekyi-Otu breaks with all the existing criticism of Fanon by restoring the centrality of the category of experience to Fanon’s thinking. The consequences of his approach are that Fanon’s work gains in coherence and increases in relevance to contemporary controversies. This book offers an objective lesson in reading in a field—postcolonial studies—where posturing has displaced critical skills. This book offers a reassessment of a major figure.
- 288 pages
- 6 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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