Matthew's Reviews > Black Skin, White Masks

Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
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Jul 12, 08


As someone without much formal training in psychology or sociology, and (more significantly) as a white middle-class male, it difficult for me to find a comfortable vantage from which to discuss this book -- and perhaps that uneasiness is part of the point.

Fanon's exegesis of the impact of colonialism on colonized peoples, and the psychological displacement and cultural violence that arises from such interactions, is compelling and exact. Although his interpretations largely stem from a fairly elementary Freudian model, his approach transcends the psychoanalytic as he brings personal experience, anthropological fragments, and a rich epistemology (rooted loosely in Hegel, and decidedly influenced by phenomenology) to bear on his analysis.

In some ways, reading Black Skin, White Masks is similar to reading Freud: so many of the concepts introduced here have become commonplaces that it's at times difficult to discern their originality. Notions like "wounded identity" (eg, attachment to an injurious sense of self and history), cultural hegemony, and "post traumatic stress" are all here in nascent form, and should be counted among Fanon's contributions to our understanding of the self.

A powerful, difficult book that (unfortunately) remains all to relevant today.
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