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Frantz Fanon’s Call to Anti-Colonial Violence
(Released October 2011)

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  by Erin McCoy  

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Whether Colonial Violence Persists

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Today, the world’s former colonial powers have been greatly diminished. Yet that is not to say that Fanon’s theories on oppression and racism and the proper response to each have lost their relevance. His evaluation of the emotional and sociological impact of racism is still reflected in psychological studies today — as is his definition of racism as a form of violence.

“Exposure to racial discrimination should be considered as a form of violence that can significantly impact child outcomes and limit the ability of parents and communities to provide support that promotes resiliency and optimal child development,” writes Kathy Sanders-Phillips in a study of children’s exposure to racism published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review in 2009.

Map of colonized areas post World War II
World map of colonialism at the end of the Second World War in 1945 a little over 60 years ago.

Zulfiqar argues that an anti-colonial mentality persists among Islamic militants, including those who commit violent acts against the West or others they perceive are attempting an economic or cultural dominance over Islamic tradition. The perceived attempts at dominance may be very current or decades old.

“Fast forwarding to our current age, we find that although ‘territorial’ colonialism has largely disappeared, the embers of this anti-colonial resistance continue to persist against different enemies, both real and imagined. … Often times, the reasons for Islamic militancy arise out of violence itself, which was committed, directly or indirectly, against an aggrieved population. Many instances of militancy are examples of a cycle of violence that may have been unbroken for decades” (1, 6).

Religion is the glue that unites Islamic militants against their perceived oppressors — and in this way they diverge from Fanon’s description, Zulfiqar writes. “Apart from symbolic references to religious vocabulary (i.e. jihad or mujahid) that proved helpful in waging an independence struggle, the Algerian movement against the French, unlike, say, the Libyan movement against the Italians, was devoid of the religious motivations that define contemporary Islamic militancy,” Zulfiqar states (9). However, violence also serves as that glue, and this echoes Fanon’s prescription for an anti-colonial uprising.

“It may seem strange to suggest that these militants consider themselves ‘colonized’ since the nations where they reside achieved independence many years ago. However, although the same type of foreign presence does not exist in their lands as it did during colonialism, the anxiety over what ‘foreign’ presence exists, both physical and psychological, results in a reaction similar to anti-colonial resistance from native populations,” Zulfiqar explains.

Meanwhile, some believe the old guard has been replaced by a new breed of colonizer.

As Bhabha writes, “There is an immediate argument to be made that suggests that the economic ‘solutions’ to inequality and poverty subscribed by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, for instance, have ‘the feel of the colonial ruler,’ according to Joseph Stiglitz, once senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank.”

Bhabha adds that “Fanon’s demand for a fair distribution of rights and resources” has justified movements that insist upon people’s right to affordable treatment for such diseases as HIV and AIDS, and has fueled calls for debt forgiveness or relief for third-world countries (xviii).

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