Born In: Fort-de-France, Martinique
French-West Indian psychiatrist, political philosopher, and independence activist Frantz Fanon is remembered for his immense contribution to areas such as Marxism, post-colonial studies, and critical theory. A Pan-Africanist, he explored the psychopathology of colonization and the connection between colonialism and the mind. While working as a psychiatrist in Algeria, Fanon became an ardent supporter of Algeria's War of independence against France. He often treated both the revolutionaries and anti-colonial activists who were tortured and the officers who were forced to torture them. While treating patients and secretly supporting the activists, he ended up joining the Algerian National Liberation Front and was later exiled to Tunisia. He died fighting leukemia while being treated for the disease in the US. Of his many impactful books, The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skins White Masks are the most notable and have inspired later scholars.
Also Known As: Frantz Omar Fanon, Ibrahim Frantz Fanon
Died At Age: 36
Spouse/Ex-: Josie Fanon (m. ?–1961)
father: Félix Casimir Fanon
mother: Eléanore Médélice
children: Mireille Fanon Mendès-France, Olivier Fanon
Born Country: Martinique
place of death: Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Notable Alumni: University Of Lyon
Cause of Death: Leukemia
education: University Of Lyon
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Frantz Omar Fanon, better known as Frantz Fanon, was born in Fort-de-France, in the French colony of Martinique, on July 20, 1925. His father, Félix Casimir Fanon, who was a customs agent, had directly descended from African slaves. His mother, Eléanore Médélice, a shopkeeper, had Afro-Martinican and white Alsatian roots.
Frantz was the third of four sons of his family. He had four sisters, too. He was extremely close to his sister Gabrielle, who died quite early in life.
He initially attended Lycée Schoelcher, one of the most reputed schools in Fort-de-France, Martinique, where author and poet Aimé Césaire was one of his instructors. In 1943, at the tender age of 18, Fanon left Martinique and joined the Free French forces.
He was thus associated with the French resistance against the Caribbean’s Vichy regime. He was also against the Nazis in France.
Following World War II, he went to Lyon to study medicine and psychiatry at the University of Lyon. After completing his studies, Fanon fought against colonialism and was influenced by African freedom fighters who went to France to gather support for their cause.
After completing his residency in France, Frantz Fanon practiced psychiatry at Pontorson, near Mont Saint-Michel, for a year. In 1953, he joined the Bilda-Joinville Hospital in Algiers as the head of the psychiatric department.
In Algeria, he was stunned by the difference in the quality of life between the European colonizers and the local population. He also witnessed a lot of racism there. He worked at the hospital till he was deported later.
Soon after the Algerian revolution broke out in November 1954, Fanon got acquainted with Dr. Pierre Chaulet at Blida, in around 1955. The 1954 Algerian revolt was countered and suppressed with torture, physical abuse, and mass killings of Algerians by the European colonizers.
While working at the French hospital in Algeria, Fanon treated distressed French soldiers and officers who were forced to torture the revolutionaries in order to counter the anti-colonial resistance. Fanon also treated many Algerian torture victims.
Fanon's methods of psychiatric treatment involved innovative processes such as socio-therapy to connect with the patients and their cultural backgrounds. He trained nurses and interns, too.
For two whole years, Fanon secretly supported the revolutionaries. In 1956, he quit his job at the hospital and joined the Front de Libération Nationale, or the National Liberation Front.
Hounded out of Algeria, he then moved to Tunis, where he was exiled for a long time and established the Moudjahid, or Freedom Fighter, magazine. He soon became a leading figure and spokesperson of the Algerian revolution.
He traveled throughout Africa and propagated his anti-colonial views. He also served as an ambassador to Ghana for the Provisional Algerian Government, or the GPRA. Though from the Antilles, Fanon often identified himself as Algerian.
Frantz Fanon’s major works include masterpieces such as Black Skins White Masks, The Wretched of the Earth, A Dying Colonialism, and Toward the African Revolution. Black Skins White Masks, which was published in 1952, did not become recognized till the late 1960s. Considered a pioneering work in the analysis of the psychology of colonialism, the book had Fanon exploring how the colonizer internalizes colonialism and its ideologies, and how colonized people internalize their inferiority and start aping their oppressors. The book thus serves as a significant treatise in racism and imperialism.
A Dying Colonialism is more of a historical work, which offers a first-hand account of the Algerian revolution and showcases how the Algerian people successfully countered the French colonial government. Toward the African Revolution is primarily an anthology of essays and letters.
The Wretched of the Earth, which was published just prior to Fanon’s death, featured a preface by Jean Paul Sartre. It showcases a social-psychological analysis of colonialism, stressing on the connection between colonialism and the mind.
The work showcases his support of a marked revolt against colonial control. The book also shows his belief in socialism and his urge to rebuild national culture. The book focuses on a psychoanalytic analysis of mental disorders, linking them with the colonial mindset. The same idea of a connection between the mind and global politics was carried forward by later scholars such as Ngugi wa Thiongo.
His major ideas included concepts such as double consciousness and colonial alienation. Belonging to the schools of Marxism, Black existentialism, and existential phenomenology, he wrote on topics such as decolonization, postcolonialism, and the psychopathology of colonization.
His works have inspired liberation movements and other political revolts and organizations in countries such as Sri Lanka, Palestine, South Africa, and the US. His idea of community psychology stressed on the impact of integration of the mentally ill with their families and community members to cure them. He also contributed to the development of institutional psychotherapy while working at Saint-Alban during his residency, under the guidance of Francois Tosquelles and Jean Oury.
Frantz Fanon died after a struggle with leukemia, on December 6, 1961, in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. He was 36 years old at the time of his death.
He had, apparently, also traveled to the Soviet Union for his treatment but later moved back to Tunis. The CIA later arranged for his treatment at the National Institutes of Health in the US.
At the time of his death, he had assumed the name Ibrahim Fanon, a pseudonym he had used to enter a Roman hospital after being wounded in Morocco while fighting for the Algerian National Liberation Front.
His body initially lay in state in Tunisia, before he was buried in Algeria. His body was later moved to a martyr’s (Chouhada) graveyard at Aïn Kerma in Algeria.
Frantz Fanon was married to a French lady named Josie. The couple had a son, Olivier Fanon. Fanon also had a daughter named Mireille Fanon-Mendès France from a previous relationship.
In 1989, Josie committed suicide in Algiers. Mireille taught international law and conflict resolution and also served as the president of the Frantz Fanon Foundation.
Olivier served as the president of the Frantz Fanon National Association in Algiers since 2012.
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