A Critical Assessment Of Colonialism, Violence And Emancipation In Frantz Fanon

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

A Critical Assessment Of Colonialism, Violence And Emancipation In Frantz Fanon


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background Of The Study

The phenomenon of violence, which occurs in our society almost on a daily basis, together with the works of some scholars on colonialism and emancipation, was what provoked this research work. My interest in embarking on this work was also captured by the colonization of Africa and Africa’s struggle for emancipation, which were approached from different dimensions by some African scholars. Some of these African scholars fought for their independence through dialogue, while others got theirs through intellectual protest or physical violence. Frantz Fanon, among other African scholars, advocated violence for the emancipation of Algeria, hence he advocated the same approach for Africa as a whole. But why would Fanon opt for violence?

The above question can well be answered if we reflect on how Africans were treated during the era of colonization. The abolition of the slave trade in the nineteenth century ushered in another form of enslavement of Africans called colonialism. This was made possible by the 1885 Berlin Conference that brought about the sharing and partitioning of Africa among some European countries, like England, France, Belgium, Portugal, and Germany. The decisions and actions of these European countries”… were taken without any reference to the wishes and aspirations of the people about whom they took their decision.”1 The Africans resisted, but the imperialists were able to subdue them. Africa, however, became a colony of the Western States. The Africans were considered by Westerners as having no soul, or, in other words, living tools. They were oppressed, suppressed, marginalized, molested, discriminated against, treated as savages, and lastly, as inanimate objects. The Africans lost their rights, dignity and freedom.

Freedom as a phenomenon is paramount in every person’s life. When it is denied to any person or group of people, there is a tendency for them to fight back to regain their freedom. It is possible that regaining this freedom will be a violent process. Far from reclaiming freedom through violence, one could argue that violence is a phenomenon that appears to exist in society on a daily basis. According to John Odey, “… all human society has some roots of violence within its structure, which often tends to polarize individuals into two primary groups: the oppressors and the oppressed.” 2 Violence is a phenomenon that occurs naturally in the lives of some human beings. It might manifest itself either psychologically or physically. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or sex is an example of psychological violence. As physical violence, it may take the form of brutality, aggression, cruelty, and fighting. According to Adebola Ekanola, “violence in its various manifestations is a constant feature of society; people appear to be too quick to resort to violence as a means of achieving desired ends without exhausting all non-violent alternatives.” 3 Naturally, every human being would want to fight back when he or she is stroked or when his or her rights are violated. To this end, some see it”… as not only inevitable but necessary in society,”4 and it is also an argument that,”… social progress can not be recorded without violence.”5

Uprisings and violent revolutions are on the rise around the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Violence can be seen in African countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia, and Sudan. Ethnic enmity and its consequent physical conflicts, violent revolutions for emancipation, and political assassinations are all common causes of violence. What is the justification for violence? Must all fights or conflicts be settled with violence? are some people more violent than others? Is it ever possible to attain a goal through nonviolence? Where is the justification for violence if Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. used nonviolence to achieve their goals? Isn’t it wise to use violence to achieve a goal from time to time? In our world and Africa today, is it wise to adopt violence to settle disputes? How many individuals of today will be willing to pursue a course through violent means? Is it possible to use dialogue to resolve conflicts and disputes? How far can it go if it can?

Fanon was uninterested in dialogue, and he was equally uninterested in nonviolence. He chose physical violence instead, and his main thesis was the struggle against oppression, with colonialism as the target of his rage. Fanon’s attention was piqued by his harrowing experience in Algeria. His philosophy of violence began with his treatment of wounded Front Liberation Nationale (FLN) rebels, whom he joined and later became their journalist. His military experience also led to him advocating violence as a solution to colonialism. He faced discrimination on a grand scale while serving in the army. White French troops were separated from black West Indians who were intended to be French residents there. Black African soldiers were also separated from French troops, as were Arab Africans, whom the French despised and treated as pariahs on their own soil. Fanon’s army service occurred at a time when France was confronted with German fascism. As an adolescent, he fought in the war with all of these memories fresh in his mind. The impact of segregation on his understanding of violence was indirect. He referred to racism as “the psychiatric disorder of colonialism.” 6

All of these experiences led Fanon to advocate for increased violence as a means of combating the violence that is colonialism. He stated it clearly that, “Colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence. “7 He, therefore, called on all Africans to indulge in decolonization through the violent process, since violence and cruelty are the major features of colonialism. To put it succinctly, Fanon argues that true emancipation of Africa from colonial dominance must be accomplished by violence. The question is whether physical violence can be utilized to emancipate ourselves in today’s Africa, despite the fact that we are still subject to neocolonialism. Can our weapons compete with those of our so-called neocolonizers? How can we effectively free ourselves from the isolation of violence? This research tries to identify the most effective alternative to violence in the face of conflicts and disputes.


1.2 Statement Of Problem

In essence, every human being values his or her freedom and rights. When an individual’s freedom and rights are violated, it becomes a problem because that individual will fight to reclaim his freedom and rights. The question now is how to reclaim one’s freedom. What methods can be used to achieve freedom? Though it is said that man is a free animal, this does not imply that man’s freedom is unlimited. The beginning of one’s freedom coincides with the beginning of another’s. As a result, it is frequently stated that “one’s freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins.” As a result, it is inhuman for man to enslave or colonize another. Colonization has the inherent feature of depriving colonized peoples of their rights and freedom. It goes hand in hand with oppression, dominance, subjugation, exploitation, and discrimination. Those who rebelled against the colonizers were brutally dealt with or silenced. Those who were unable to resist died in silence. The brutal method of suppressing the colonized is through force, and thus through violence. Because of the colonizers’ attitude toward Africans, Fanon proposed violence as a solution to decolonization. Is violence then justified? Some authors and scholars argue that the primary causes of violence are injustice, denial of another’s freedom, and oppression. They argue that when a man suffers injustice, he often responds with violence, which is Fanon’s position. Can’t there be other ways to settle disputes or conflicts without resorting to violence, given that injustice breeds violence? Is it necessary to resort to greater violence? The purpose of this research is to address the issues raised above.


1.3 Purpose Of Study

The Africans were subjected to savagery and dehumanization at the hands of the Colonialists. Africans’ freedom was trampled on, and their rights were snatched away from them. It is an undeniable fact that man is a free being by nature. Mondin has nailed it.

Aside from intelligence, man is also extremely free. As a result, freedom is another title for his excellence and nobility, and it represents yet another great window into the mystery of man, with the goal of gaining a more correct, complete, and adequate understanding of him. 8

J.Omoregbe adds, “man is by nature free; freedom is part of his very nature as a rational being.”9 This rationality in man allows him to understand and see justice in the fact that his freedom is limited and that his freedom ends where another person’s freedom begins. When someone’s freedom is taken away from him, he naturally wants it back. The process of regaining this freedom may result in violence. This portrays injustice as a source of violence. With regard to the colonization of Africa and the European relationship with Africa, which is exploitative, oppressive, and discriminatory, Fanon advocated for greater violence to be used in violence. He writes, “Their existence together, that is to say, the exploitation of the natives by the settlers, was carried on by the dint of a great array of bayonets and cannon.”10 This led Fanon to see colonialism as “violence in its natural state.”11 Some people will not even wait to be provoked before resorting to violence. Some long for it and take pleasure in displaying it.

Thus, from a philosophical standpoint, this work seeks to analyze and appraise Fanon’s concept of violence, with the goal of concluding that violence is not the solution to every crisis, conflict, or provocation, but rather that nonviolence or dialogue could be used to actualize freedom or emancipation.


1.4 Significance Of Study

The significance of this study lies in Frantz Fanon’s concept or notion of violence. Frantz Fanon’s conception of violence was not derived from the blues. It was the result of the settlers’ heinous treatment of the natives. According to Fanon, the natives lost their dignity and freedom, and in order to emancipate themselves, they had to resort to violence.

Today, there is a wave of violence in some parts of Africa and even the rest of the world. There are cases of tribal wars and conflicts, civil wars, secessionist attempts, and conflicts between nations over land and natural resources such as crude oil in some contemporary African states. This research is critical in today’s world, particularly in this region, where uprisings and violent revolutions are wreaking havoc. It is also essential for social and political analysts interested in conflict resolution and peace. It is also brutal because it will expose, criticize, and refine Fanon’s violence by rejecting its nature and embracing dialogue as a prelude to re-educating Africans.


1.5 Scope Of Study

This research is a philosophical examination of Frantz Fanon’s ideas about colonialism, violence, and emancipation. It also focuses on physical, psychological, and structural violence, particularly physical violence, as proposed by Frantz Fanon to counter colonialism, which is a nature of violence in and of itself for the emancipation of Africa. It should also investigate the rationale for the use of violence in the emancipation of Africans from their Colonial Masters.


1.6 Methodology

In this study, our method will be to present, through critical analysis, Frantz Fanon’s conception of colonialism, violence, and emancipation in four chapters, while the chapter five will be for critical evaluation and conclusion. Our data for this research work was collected from both primary and secondary sources. In the primary sources, this study made use of the works entitled Wretched of the Earth, Black Skin, White Masks, and Toward the African Revolution, all by Frantz Fanon. In the secondary sources, it made use of journals and articles both published and unpublished, newspapers, magazines, and philosophical works by some philosophers on Frantz Fanon’s notion of colonialism, violence, and emancipation. This study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one attempts to give a background of the work. It also presents the background of the study of philosophy of violence. This chapter also looks into the problem we are set to solve, the purpose of our study, the scope of our study, the significance of our study and lastly the method we adopted. Chapter two reviews literature on violence, colonialism and emancipation. In this chapter also we shall look at other philosophers and thinkers’ views on colonialism, violence and emancipation, see their positions with or against Frantz Fanon’s view, presents Fanon’s conception of colonialism, and presents Fanon’s view of violence. chapter three looks at Fanon’s view of emancipation. While chapter four dwells on the critical appraisal of violence as postulated by Fanon. It also examines the merit and demerits of Fanon’s notion of colonialism, violence and emancipation. Lastly chapter five presents the critical evaluation and conclusion.


1.7 Definition Of Terms

Violence:

Violence could be seen in Marxist philosophy in the dethronement of the capitalist (bourgeoisie) by the proletariats with the aim of establishing a classless and stateless communist society.

Colonialism:

Colonialism may be seen as the establishment of a colony or colonies in another country by a superior country.

Emancipation:

This could be defined as the act of setting free from the power of another, from slavery, subjection, dependence, or controlling influence; also, the state of being thus set free; liberation


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A Critical Assessment Of Colonialism, Violence And Emancipation In Frantz Fanon

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