To Dream of Fanon: Reconstructing a Method for Thought by a Revolutionary Intellectual


  • Anjali Prabhu Wellesley College



Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, Black Skin, White Masks, intellectual, Gramsci


The half-century, which is the time that has elapsed since the publication of Wretched of the Earth, seems such a short period when one imagines its author in all his intellectual magnificence, his anguish, and the many details we all know of his short-lived reality. Dare one say, after the concept has long been declared “dead” that we imagine him as having been a live “author”? As I write this, the idea of various notable intellectuals and revolutionary movements could come to mind in order for them to serve as interesting comparisons as we discuss and remember Fanon, his analyses of the colonial aftermath, and his many predictions, both explicit and implicit. However, the “death” of the author is, in fact, as Barthes’ polemical essay showed, a premise that empowers the text in its full potentiality well beyond the deism by which the identity of the author becomes the authority. Here, the liberation of the text joins up the enunciation with its “content” so to speak, or in Barthes’ words, reveals how Fanon “made of his very life a work for which his book was a model.” It is from this idea that I wish to see Fanon as incomparable. The reason to do so does not stem from some esoteric form of admiration, but rather a conviction that Fanon’s narration itself is both indicative and exemplary of a process of thinking that, for me, remains unparalleled in theorizing the role of the intellectual. Such a conviction requires us to read beyond the content of Wretched and be “reborn” in the Barthesian sense as readers. In essence, it is to simply follow the way Fanon himself allows us to actually trace how he dreams of “the native” or “the people” and thus accomplishes an affective leap, arguably, more completely than any other intellectual. This reading is, thus, an invitation to dream – even momentarily – of Fanon.

Author Biography

Anjali Prabhu, Wellesley College

Anjali Prabhu is Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Wellesley College, where she teaches courses in the French Department and the Cinema and Media Studies Program. She is the author of Hybridity: Limits, Transformations, Prospects (SUNY, 2007). She has also authored articles on postcolonial theory and the cinema of Africa and the African diaspora. As well, she is completing a book entitled Contemporary Cinema of Africa and the Diaspora (Blackwell).