Frantz Omar Fanon was a Martinique born Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and writer whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory, and Marxism. As an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization, and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization.
Fanon was born in the city of Fort-de-France in Martinique to an upper-middle-class family on July 20, 1925. He was one of eight children of Casimir Fanon, a customs official, and Eléonore Médélicè, a French-born immigrant who operated a small clothing boutique out of her home.
He attended the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, where he became a student of the legendary Martinican writer Aimé Césaire, then a literature teacher. Césaire was a strong influence on both Fanon's political thinking and his eventual writings. He attended medical school at Lyon, France, from 1947 to 1951, and began a residency in psychiatry.
In 1943, while Fanon was in high school, he came in contact with the Caribbean Free French Movement, which was working to liberate Martinique from the Vichy Army that had invaded the island. Tired of abuse at the hands of the invading army, Fanon joined the movement and went on to Dominique to receive military training. After the eventual liberation of Martinique, Fanon volunteered to go to Europe, and served with the Free French Forces in North Africa and France. He was wounded during the war and received the Croix de Guerre.
After the war ended, he returned to the Lycée in Martinique, where he graduated in 1946. That same year, he and his brother Joby worked on the election campaign of Aimé Césaire, who was running as the Communist Party candidate for the French Parliament. In 1947 his father died and Fanon obtained a scholarship to study in France. He decided to study dentistry and went to Paris with three of his friends. Just a month after enrolling in dental school he left his studies, discouraged by the mediocrity of his classmates. He transferred to the University of Lyon, where he underwent a year of pre-medical courses and pursued his medical studies, but also became involved with several left-wing student organizations that were active at the university. At the same time, he also developed an interest in psychology and social psychiatry.
In 1952 Fanon graduated from the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy and presented an impressive thesis on social psychiatry.
He returned briefly to Martinique, where he established a small medical practice in the town of Vauclin. His early work in Martinique reaffirmed his beliefs that most medical illnesses have a social basis. In his view physical illnesses in his small island were often caused by malnutrition, which in turn was triggered by poverty and by the French colonial oppression of the people of Martinique. Frustrated and angry with Martinique's social and political climate, Fanon returned to France during the summer of 1952. When he arrived in France, he married Marie Josephe Dublé, a journalist from Lyon. Together they had a son named Olivier.
In Lyon he enrolled in a medical residency program at the Hospital of Saint Alban under the supervision of Francois Tosquelles. Tosquelles, his teacher and mentor, was a prominent physician who specialized in the field of social psychiatry and believed in the concept of communal psychiatry. At the time, most psychiatric patients were isolated within the hospital and were treated as terminal cases with no hope for recovery. Tosquelles believed that the integration of the patients into a community like structure led to the normalization and improvement of their mental illnesses.
Fanon also published his first book, Black Skins White Masks, in 1952. The ideas set forth in the book were heavily influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Fanon's friend Jean-Paul Sartre and the ideas of Marx and Freud. The importance of this book lies in the novel nature of the arguments and theses developed by Fanon who claimed that the process of colonization has a substantial emotional, psychological, and psychosocial impact on the indigenous population. As the metaphorical title of the book suggests, Fanon states that people who are subjected to colonial and imperial nations are forced to take on a "false" white identity and disregard their own black ones. There are two ways in which this process occurs.
First, the people are provided with a series of dominant and false ideologies that force them to identify with the history, mores, and traditions of the empire, while at the same time they are taught to devalue and disregard their own customs and values because these are seen as worthless or inferior. Second, Fanon noted that the ruling classes and their power elites require native inhabitants to give up their language. In the process, he hypothesized, they give up their very selves. The sum of these two processes leads to the development of a series of mental illnesses and pathologies that affect the way in which black people function in those colonial societies, creating fear, insecurity, instability, and psychosocial chaos.
The nature of these arguments had powerful political and sociological implications for the many Caribbean societies that were subjected to French and British colonial forces. The roots of Fanon's observation came not only from his training as a physician but from his own experience under French rule in Martinique, where he was forced to speak French and disregard his native Creole and where the schools stressed French standards over island values.
After finishing Iris psychiatric training and passing the rigorous medical examinations required by the French government, Fanon became a licensed psychiatrist. He eventually accepted a position at a psychiatric hospital in Blida, Algeria, where he moved with his family. His stay in Algeria is significant because it marked the serious development of his political thought and the beginning of his practical work in politics. During the three years he stayed at the hospital (1953-1956), he undertook major changes in the management of psychiatric patients. He structured the units following the concepts that he had learned from Tosquelles but stressed the importance of imparting a sense of egalitarianism to medical treatment. He mixed the native patients with patients of French origin and stressed the importance of giving the same quality of treatment to all regardless of race, religion, or economic status. He also broke down some of the boundaries that existed between the doctors and nurses because he perceived that hierarchical orders hindered the quality of care. He opened the halls and allowed patients with good behavior to move freely throughout the hospital. Fanon preferred tire use of medical sedation and tried to abolish the much used straightjackets and drains.
There is considerable debate over the reasons behind Fanon's enhance into the revolutionary politics of Algeria. Many of his friends say that he went to Africa to become a revolutionary. Others claim that he became enamored with the revo-lutionary movement that broke out in Algeria during Iris time there in 1954 . The important point is that eventually Fanon became a member of Algeria Front de Liberation Nationale and resigned his position at the hospital in 1956 to join them. As a result, the government of Algeria expelled him and he settled in Tunisia, where he found another job in a psychiatric hospital in Monouba. From Tunisia, Fanon worked restlessly on behalf of the Algerian revolutionaries. He helped them to structure a support route through the southern part of the country, participated in many international conferences where he used his political ideas to defend the Algerian cause, and was an ambassador of the Algerian Front to Ghana.
A radical theorist of political liberation, in all its dimensions. Fanon, following Lenin, elaborated a theory of liberational violence in which the role of the avant-garde well distinguished from those of the lumpenproletariat, the masses and the collaborators. His political philosophy is marked by dartre's and other existentialists commitment to •reedom.
: In 1960, Fanon was diagnosed with leukemia. He went to the Soviet Union and received treatments with the drug Myleran, which forced the disease into remission and allowed him to finish writing his book The Wretched of the Earth. In this book, he saw armed revolution and violence by poor people as the only effective way to end class oppression and class discrimination. He became ill again in 1961 and went to Washington, D.C., where he was eventually admitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. He was given experimental treatments at the NIH but died on December 6,1961, shortly after his arrival.
Philosophers & Thinkers
Sartre. Hegel. Marx and Lenin.
He married Marie Josephe Dublé, a journalist from Lyon. Together they had a son named Olivier.