Spectres of Fanon: Theorizing Violence in the Postcolony
Half a century after his death, the specter of Frantz Fanon haunts the field of postcolonial studies and his reflections on decolonization, nationalism and violence seem more poignant than ever. Part of the reason is that instead of a successful transition into a nation-state, a majority of the ex-colonies have now become sites for gruesome conflicts in the name of ethnicity, race, power, religion and territory. Thus, in the current context of relentless postcolonial wars, it becomes imperative to re-read Fanon’s disturbing, embedded prophecy about the way the “postcolony” would develop in the years that followed. Fanon states, “Obviously the violence channeled into the liberation struggle does not vanish as if by magic after hoisting the national colors.” He calls the new, independent nation a “muzzled nation” that continues to be drenched in a bloodbath. Is Fanon, living on the cusp of independence articulating a theory of postcolonial violence and its potential ramifications upon the future? Homi Bhabha observes, “Fanon’s description of the ‘crude, empty fragile shell’ of emergent national histories quickens the long shadows cast by the ethnonationalist “switchbacks” of our own times, the charnel houses of ethnic cleansing: Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Gujarat, Sudan.” This paper examines what can be termed as a violent rupture during this complex historical moment and its relationship to the present states of bloody, civil strife in most of the previously colonized spaces. The predictions of the occasionally messianic Fanon, the astute Cabral and the prophet of non-violence, Gandhi are juxtaposed with present-day theorists to draw up a paradigmatic framework within which the contemporary postcolonial violence can be situated.
Keywords: Fanon, Postcolonial
Comparative Literature, City University of New York