Posters went up in my part of London a few weeks ago advertising a talk on Frantz Fanon and decolonisation. As the war rages in Israel and Gaza, Fanon is once again invoked, as he has been many times since his death in 1961, for his insights into the plight of the colonised and the role of revolutionary violence. In this wonderful new biography, Adam Shatz argues for the inseparability of Fanon’s political, literary and psychiatric activities, while also exploring the many afterlives of his thinking and writing.
Frantz Omar Fanon (1925-61) was one of the 20th century’s most influential anti-colonial and anti-racist thinkers. Soldier, revolutionary, psychiatrist and philosopher, he addressed in his work the lasting disfiguring effects of racial oppression and was widely read across liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s. He is known to many for his support for violence in The Wretched of the Earth, but Shatz makes a powerful case for a more complex reading.
What accounts for Fanon’s lasting appeal? First, and most obviously, the injustices he railed against – colonialism and racial and class oppression – are still very much with us. Second (and perhaps disappointingly for those looking for easy answers), Fanon keeps you coming back to him because nothing is ever