I knew there was something I was meant to do Sunday. I’ll get the hang of this “blog post every week” business eventually! I swear!
I loved this book, inasmuch as I’ve read (at like page 150, almost there). It’s funny, because I find equal amounts of validity and plain crap in both Freud and Fanon, but Fanon was an immensely pleasurable read. He does the kind of scholarship that I would like to do (‘disjointed’ according to Jon, and ‘not very rigorous’ according to a translator’s footnote; wonder what that says about me). It’s work born out of real feeling, authentic passion.
I identified very strongly with the accounts of the black children and the comic books. In fact, the entire drive to be white is one that typifies a lot of my childhood desires, and I don’t think it’s uncommon. I was raised on a diet of pop culture that was mostly anglocentric. I was the only brown kid in a school full of athletic white, blonde haired, blue eyed kids; compare soft, doughy, short me. None of the girls I liked ever found me particularly attractive, with probably more factors beyond just colour; still I did feel this urge to be white. I even at one point that white was ‘default’ human. Another brown friend of mine, who like me was reared on a lot of anime, once told me that he spent many of his years wanting to be a thin, Asian boy. He grew up in Richmond. Hmmmm.
And Chapter 5, despite its difficulty, I found amazing. Prose-poetry scholarship. Brilliant. I feel like it allowed me to comprehend the alienation of ‘the black man’ viscerally in a way that I don’t feel I would if it was written more traditionally. It worked through impression, not through explanation, and achieved its goals better for that, especially given its literal central position in the book. It’s sort of the nexus of the book (and as Jon said, functions as an allegory for the rest of it too, a functional synecdoche) and really grounds the emotional anguish of the rest of the arguments. I think that lends a certain level of validity to the text, even the parts I disagreed with.
Still, I did have some qualms with the book. For one, Fanon really does fail to substantiate a lot of his sources. He often will quote a passage, and from there repudiate it without thorough critique, and use that as a jumping off point. Chapters 2 and 3 also, in my opinion, overpoliticize interpersonal relationships, which is a big problem I have with a lot of things. Also, in reference to Chapter 5, though it allowed me to identify with ‘the black man’ it conversely dehumanized ‘the white man’. And, as I tried to humorously suggest with my title, where are the Arabs, Asians, and Jews that Fanon always references yet makes no attempt to integrate? Fanon acknowledges this himself, but these are still important parts of the discussion that remain to be addressed, because without them, it can turn into a binary that is every bit as stifling as the racialised structures Fanon decries, and becomes the zealotry he wants to avoid.
Also, Jon, did you write the Newsweek quote on the cover, because your lecture and that quote basically said the same things: you even used the word ‘melange’! Still, great lecture.