Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Peau noire, masques blancs

Rate this book
A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world, Black Skin, White Masks is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a vital force today. “[Fanon] demonstrates how insidiously the problem of race, of color, connects with a whole range of words and images.” — Robert Coles, The New York Times Book Review

205 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1952

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Frantz Fanon

81 books1,785 followers
Frantz Fanon was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary, and author from Martinique. He was influential in the field of post-colonial studies and was perhaps the pre-eminent thinker of the 20th century on the issue of decolonization and the psychopathology of colonization. His works have inspired anti-colonial liberation movements for more than four decades.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
6,864 (47%)
4 stars
5,027 (35%)
3 stars
1,996 (13%)
2 stars
344 (2%)
1 star
119 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 790 reviews
Profile Image for Dusty.
775 reviews184 followers
September 24, 2012
There is plenty to critique in this book, and I think the urge to critique is heightened by the author's ubiquity.

For one, Fanon is deeply misogynist and homophobic. He writes that it is in refusing to acknowledge the black man that the white man strips him of his subjectivity, and yet he writes nary a word about the black woman. The greatest irony of the book is that the chapter entitled "The Woman of Color and the White Man" is really a chapter about how black men perceive black women, and its central point is this: Black women bear the children of white men because they believe that by whitening their race they shall earn prestige, and in doing so black women abandon the role they should be playing assuring black men of their virility. (No wonder later writers like bell hooks would lash out against Fanon.) His remarks on white women and homosexual men are equally subjugating: They both want black men to rape them.

For another, Fanon is a trained psychiatrist, and as chapter titles like "The Black Man and Psychopathology" indicate, he is invested in using the psychoanalysic practices of people like the Freuds, Jung, and Lacan to analyze the relation between colonizing and colonized peoples. Perhaps it's just that psychoanalysis has run its course in cultural theory -- or perhaps that it's just become so banal, which amounts to roughly the same thing -- but I found the long passages on dream interpretations rather dull and not terribly persuasive. Appiah concedes this point in his introduction to the Grove edition.

These criticisms aside, however, what I think remains most valuable in Black Skin, White Masks is the fact that at heart it's a small, personal book -- a meditation on the author's own experiences as a black male intellectual -- that can't quite live up to the reputation it has earned as the record of an entire generation. Despite the "vintage" gender politics and analytic practices, Fanon's book conveys a palpable sense of subjective hurt, and also a surprisingly conciliatory desire to forge new, mutually beneficial relationships with white people. Of course, the second best reason to read the book remains its influence; after all, it's hard to read Glissant, Silverman, Hartman, or many others, without first making a pit-stop here. Recommended for literary and cultural historians.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
July 27, 2020
A Psychology of Disalienation

Nominally a psychiatrist’s assessment of racial hatred from the point of view of the colonial residents of the island of Martinique, Black Skins, White Masks is actually a phenomenology of racism as relevant today as it was when it was published more than 70 years ago. What starts as an analysis of the effects of racism on its victims, blossoms into a poetic expression of being black, including the psychological progression through the various stages of escape from the numerous traps of self-image created by a racist society.

What holds the book together is a crucial recognition, namely that the source of racism and its operational mechanism is language. There is no question but that, as the author says, “White civilization and European culture have imposed an existential deviation on the black man.” But his analysis does not begin with a history of colonialism or slavery or their physical horrors. Rather language is his primary focus as the existential ‘operator’: “We attach a fundamental importance to the phenomenon of language and consequently consider the study of language essential for providing us with one element in understanding the black man’s dimension of being-for-others, it being understood that to speak is to exist absolutely for the other.”

It is the imposition of European languages on colonised people which establishes the abiding ground rules of racism. Inability to speak these languages is a mark of inferiority, even among those upon whom they are imposed: “the more the black Antillean assimilates the French language, the whiter he gets—i.e., the closer he comes to becoming a true human being.” This is the hook which will never break free. Those colonials who do manage to master the master-language will even then be identified as the ‘remarkable black man who can speak French like a Parisian.’

Such success also has the additional advantage of fragmenting the colonial community into a hierarchy. Since there is obviously “mutual supports between language and the community,” the differential language skills within the colonised community provoke mutual antagonisms beneficial to the colonisers.

Fanon points out the generality of this phenomenon. It is not restricted to colonial empire: “Colonial racism is no different from other racisms.” The racism of America uses precisely the same linguistic tactics as that of France in Algeria and Madagascar and the Boers in South Africa.

Control of language gives the racist power over reason itself. This has the effect of alienating its victims in a particularly subtle but profoundly cruel way. The victim may be made to feel inferior physically, but he still has his mind. Nevertheless, “for a man armed solely with reason, there is nothing more neurotic than contact with the irrational.”

So the more the victim of racism recognises the irrationality of his environment, the more likely he is to become mentally unstable. Fanon captures the feeling rather dramatically: “The white man is all around me; up above the sky is tearing at its navel; the earth crunches under my feet and sings white, white. All this whiteness burns me to a cinder.”

Fanon also recognises the role of religion, particularly the Christian religion, in promoting racism. He gives a personal anecdote to make the point: “Recently, one of these good French folks declared on a train where I was sitting: ‘May the truly French values live on and the race will be safeguarded! At the present time we need a national union. No more internal strife! A united front against the foreigners [and turning to me] whoever they may be.’” Values, our values, our traditional values are coded terms. They allow the racist to blame the victim for the racist abuse they suffer. After all, don’t they have an essential moral and spiritual defect? And isn’t this shown by their inability to profess religion properly?

Fanon’s summary of the psychological ‘system’ of racism could have been written by Janes Baldwin: “The black man wants to be white. The white man is desperately trying to achieve the rank of man.”
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
March 26, 2017
Black Skins White Masks is a scary book. In it Fanon discusses the black man’s experience in a white world; he ironically, and justly, creates an image of the world through a black lens, so to speak.

“The N**** enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his superiority alike behaves in accordance with a neurotic orientation.”


The crux of the work resides on the black man’s experience and how he is perceived, and how he is forced to perceive himself. Fanon argues that language is the key and it had a profound effect to the human psyche. To speak the white man’s language is to crush a part of the African heritage. Fanon argues that “to speak is to exist absolutely for the other.’’ Fanon points out that for the black man to be considered equal in the white man’s culture, he must become whiter. This is achieved through a similar education and an acceptance of white culture. And here’s the rub: such a relationship creates a profound inferiority complex for the original culture of the black man; it is, in essence, repressed and destroyed.

Later in the book, Fanon suggests that these blacks who are trying to be whiter should stop in their endeavours. They should remember their heritage and recognise that differences will always exist between two cultures. He recognised that the black man, although embracing white culture, is still treated as inferior; therefore, there is little point in doing so because a patronising relationship will only be achieved. This is a stark observation, true, but also very idealistic. I don’t think it fully considers what the ramifications would be for one who living in white culture would be subjected to if they deviated from the norm. The racism would be even worse. Needless to say it’s a little bit of a loose loose situation, which will only be alleviated when people open their eyes.

As Fanon concludes:

“The N***** is not. Any more than the white man.

Both must turn their back on the inhuman voices which were those of their respective ancestors in order that authentic communication be possible. Before he can adopt a positive voice, freedom require an effort at disalienation. At the beginning of his life a man is always clotted, he is drowned in contingency. The tragedy of man is that he was once a child.”

Fanon’s answer to the alienation is an obvious one: stop being so stupid world! We’re all men: we’re all the same species. The sad thing is that a book like this actually had to be written. It bears a strong message, and the style is persuasive and emotionally engaging: the anger and injustice come bursting through the narration. Stylistically speaking, this book is remarkable. However, Fanon was a product of his time. He is misogynistic and incredibly homophobic. The females barely have a voice and the homosexuals are linked with women as an indirect insult. To be gay is to be no less a man. Womanhood has nothing to do with it.

It also deals with complex psychological matters, which I’m not going to go into, but it suggests how these relationships have been created within the human psyche. It’s a penetrating work, one that demands to be read once you’ve read those first few sentences:

The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon…or too late.

Profile Image for Adira.
431 reviews242 followers
January 4, 2016
I appreciate this book and the way it turned the mirror back on me and made me question certain practices I have in the context of my "Blackness" and how I've been conditioned to assimilate to certain European cultural practices that I can never truly be a part of by de facto. This book is a must read for those who study topics of race relations, cultural studies, and Black/African/Afro-Caribbean history.

My only negative comment is that I wish Fanon would have devoted real time to looking at the woman of color and her personal struggles with Whites, but alas, he is a man of color so he may not have been able to truly do it any better justice than he did in this book. Yet, I do find it increasingly frustrating that so many philosophers of color turn a blind eye to problems that women of color have in regards to the psychological pains that have been left over from Slavery, Colonization, and Imperial reign across the Diaspora, but I digress.
Profile Image for Odi Shonga.
89 reviews18 followers
February 8, 2014
This book is a must-read for any young person of colour who has found himself existentially agitated by, what one might call, his "condition". I don't mean that in a negative, medical sense; I mean it as in any condition, like the human condition. It's simply false to imply that it means nothing to be coloured in a post-colonial world. We can agree that it shouldn't mean anything, but it does, and so we have to grapple with that, and Frantz Fanon is a good way in.

It's written elegantly and it's simple to understand. The writer is clearly extremely well-versed in intellectual matters and provides an arsenal of sources and texts to analyse in order to prove his points. This doesn't make it tedious as you might imagine; it takes you on a journey through intellectual thought around the post-colonial race-relations situation, and reveals quite some interesting literature that you might not have known before.

A word of warning,though, and he mentions this specifically himself: his analysis is limited to the people of the Antilles, the Martinicans, the French-colonised Caribbeans. It's quite obvious that he wishes to push the envelope every now and again, to make more general claims, and sometimes they work and you connect profoundly with what is being said. At other times, not so much; but at those times you must remind yourself that this is an attempt at an intellectual work, not merely a rhetorical treatise, so you ought to consider that he is saying something specific about Martinique and France on those occasions.

Now, speaking of the intellectual aspect, what of that? It's a mixture of psychological analysis (mostly Freudian and psychoanalytic) and existential analysis. The existential aspects are delightful and are a pleasure to read. He gets poetic and brings in literature to emphasise his points. It is effective. The psychological aspects are a mixed bag: some of the Freudian analysis leads him to say downright awful things about women, but we have to remember the context in which he was writing, when psychoanalysis was still in vogue. That's not to say those parts don't detract from the book -- they do; I just mean we can put ourselves in a position to understand it. Other psychological points, however, are interesting to read and though the validity of the method of analysis could be questioned, you are given insight all the same.

So, final thoughts? The book is perhaps outdated in some respects: very relevant to 1950s Martinique/France, but perhaps not so much to 2014 UK (where I am writing from). Still, some of the more general points he makes seem still relevant, the writing is brilliant, and, I would say, it's a must-read for anybody interested in the history of race-relations and whoever wants a partial insight (with outdated aspects) of what it means to be coloured in a world where white is privileged.
Profile Image for chantel nouseforaname.
628 reviews314 followers
February 13, 2020
Honestly, I don’t know what’s pushing me to understand — okay, that’s a lie... hmm.. I am being pushed towards trying to understand the man. The black man. Myself and how I fit into that dynamic. Others. Older folks. Younger folks. Folks my age. Partners. Socialization. Conditioning of folks. International attitudes surrounding Blackness. I’ve got a lot of personal reasons this is intriguing me right now but it’s also, it’s black history/futures month, so I’m opening up black texts up around me and just trying to dive in..

Frantz Fanon — I bought this book late last year and sat on it and Soul on Ice until just recently.

There’s so many heavy heavy conversations and subject matter here. It’s so hard for me to get around the blatant disregard for black women in these black men’s texts. It’s troubling for me that the more I read, the more I think of my own life and interactions with black men, unnecessary burdens black women shoulder or just blatant disregard for us in place of the other — even with black men I love that are close to me..

These types of reads are ones that push you into you long and clear analysis of black life through the eyes of men and really there are so many emotions that took over me.. especially when it comes to the feeling of shared pain that is distinct in the black experience.

Black Skin, White Masks really takes you into a variety of viewpoints on blackness in relation to whiteness, and the black man’s pursuit of a type of equity/equality/freedom that Fanon sometimes manages to reduce down to singular yet multifaceted concepts that are complex as fuck. His words have so many layers of meaning on them that they look solid at first glance but when you intersperse your own experience and the current times and blackness as we know it today, you realize that his words and thought processes are totally quick sand when you want to step on them and test their validity.

I read so many things in here that I agreed with, so many indisputable things.. and then I read so many things that just gave me pause because they aren’t wrong but they only consider one half of the black community as if the black woman’s experience holds no weight as reflection of said community experience. For example:
"The black man is comparaison. That is the first truth. He is comparaison in the sense that he is constantly preoccupied with self-assertion and the ego ideal. Whenever he is in the presence of someone else, there is always the question of worth and merit." 68%

I find that quotes like that, when trying to be shared as a quintessentially amalgamated black experience, are debatable. However, if you’re speaking about just men then maybe it’s correct.

Anyway, this stirred my brain up and I feel like I could read this a slew of times and get different shit out of it every single time. For the rest of black history/futures month though, I think I’m going to open myself up to predominantly women/women’s work and change up the vibes.
Profile Image for Aubrey.
1,308 reviews757 followers
December 30, 2015
What is there to say? Purely and simply this: When a bachelor of philosophy from the Antilles refuses to apply for certification as a teacher on the ground of his color, I say that philosophy has never saved anyone. When someone else strives and strains to prove to me that black men are as intelligent as white men, I say that intelligence has never saved anyone; and that is true, for, if philosophy and intelligence are invoked to proclaim the equality of men, they have also been employed to justify the extermination of men.
This book is to The Wretched of the Earth for me as The Mandarins is to The Second Sex, meaning I came looking for brilliance and left with more cringe than awe. I'm giving this one more of a benefit of a doubt because it was never written with me, a white woman, in mind, as well as the simple fact that Fanon is worth reading period. For every contemptuous generalization and psychoanalytic obsession there is pure, inspiring, snarky genius that is as applicable to these Ferguson times as they were when they were written, and I won't hesitate to utilize all I can get my hands on, intended audience or no.
Once and for all I will state this principle: A given society is racist or it is not.
One thing Fanon does exceedingly well in this work is take all the defensive subjectivity that bigotry has been imbued with and give it back to those affected. However, his stating that he is not using the story of one to generalize for all doesn't help when every black woman is stripped of agency and every homosexual is defined as a mental illness. It is these particular aspects that, among others, show the triumphs and failures of the conversational style Fanon wrote this work in. When he is good, he stirs the heart and opens the future and lets the powers of mind and soul run free; when he is bad, he invokes the sort of internalized misogyny/cisnormativity that makes hooks and co's' criticism not only understandable, but amazing in its lack of kick-you-in-the-face. I know, I know, the angry black woman is a trope, but if this didn't result in anger, I'd be concerned.
To these objections I reply that the subject of our study is the dupes and those who dupe them, the alienated, and that if there are white men who behave naturally when they meet Negroes, they certainly do not fall within the scope of our examination. If my patient’s liver is functioning as it should, I am not going to take it for granted that his kidneys are sound.
Beyond the clitoral-vaginal-I don't even know what else was being thrown around to explain psychological development (which falls apart when confronted with the statistic that one/two in 1000 get surgery after birth to "normalize" genital appearance so good luck with your binary approach in a spectrum), there's a serious acknowledgement of history and culture and all the other things many black people the world do not have as firm an entitlement to as most folks of European descent. There's also a pointing out of "Yes, representation is good, but the people who are dying because of this shit get first priority," which bears reiterating in any neoliberal context. So, intersectionality. Ish. The prose is great, at any rate.
I wonder sometimes whether school inspectors and government functionaries are aware of the role they play in the colonies. For twenty years they poured every effort into programs that would make the Negro a white man. In the end, they dropped him and told him, "You have an indisputable complex of dependence on the white man."

It is not because the Indo-Chinese has discovered a culture of his own that he is in revolt. It is because “quite simply” it was, in more than one way, becoming impossible for him to breathe.
P.S. I cannot wait to get my hands on Notebook of a Return to the Native Land because of all of Fanon's glorious quotebombing. It was much like a Goodreads Review in that respect, which was interesting while it lasted.
Profile Image for Patrick.
28 reviews6 followers
April 12, 2014
As a black man, reading Fanon has had a profound, almost revolutionary impact on me. When I think about the past and how things were and how far we have come I shed tears of remorse for those of whom have fallen victim, been destroyed, been hated, been cast out, been taught to self hate,under the condescending eye of the white man.

But again as an individual, as an intellectual, and as a Christian there are principles that have come to define the philosophy I live by. Indicated by three simple maxim:

1. Life is too short to retain eternal grudges.
2. Education is a source of moving man from childhood to adulthood. (As Friedrich Nietzsche realized 'The misfortune of man is that he was once a child.')
3."Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." -1 Peter 4:8

To be a live is to constantly question and learn to uplift our past no matter how little its achievements. 'Am I going to ask today's white man to answer for the slave traders of the seventeenth century?
Fanon continues by stating: "Am I going to try every means available to cause guilt to burgeon in their soul? And grief, when they are confronted with the density of the past? I am a black man, and tons of chains, squalls of lashes, and rivers of spit stream over my shoulders. But I have not the right to put down roots. I have no right to admit the slightest patch of being into my existence. I have not the right to become mired by the determinations of the past.
I am not a slave to slavery that dehuminazied my ancestors."

It is through sel-consciousness and renunciation, through a permanent tension of his freedom that man can create the ideal conditions of existence for human world.

Superiority? Inferiority?
Again: "It is the racist who creates the inferiorized...The Jew is one whom other men consider a Jew: that is the simple truth from which we must start ...It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew." (analysis by Jean Paul Sartre)
-Frantz Fanon (Black Skin, White Masks, p. 73)

As Fanon realized while confronted with the atrocity of the past: "there is no white world; there is no white ethic-anymore than there is a white intelligence.
11 reviews3 followers
August 1, 2007
fanon takes psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and his incredible mind and goes amazing places; evades being bogged down by psychoanalytic dogma, while using its concepts to tease out a living constellation of power relations and problems of race and representation. so apt and agile and fascinating that it gets my 5 stars despite its raging sexism, ablism, homophobia.

The first lines are just stunning.

"The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon... or too late.
I did not come with timeless truths.
My consciousenss is not illuminated with ultimate radiances.
Nevertheless, in complete composure, I think it would eb good if certain things were said."
Profile Image for Ioana.
274 reviews349 followers
July 2, 2015
"I am black; I am in total fusion with the world, in sympathetic affinity with the earth, losing my id in the heart of the cosmos... I am black, not because of a curse, but because my skin has been able to capture all the cosmic effluvia. I am truly a drop of sun under the earth.” (p. 27)~ Thus Fanon reaches into the experience and meaning of the black man's alienation.

This alienation strikes in an essential sense--it stems from the denial of the black man's very flesh: "The black man is attacked for his corporeality. It is his tangible personality that is lynched. It is his actual being that is dangerous..." (142). The white man, who has been obsessed with eradicating the body out of collective consciousness for millennia, now associates this abjected domain of the body with the black man, and constructs it as the essential evil Other. The white man does this because he is insecure—he does this out of hatred, a hatred that he works to cultivate, that consumes his time and energy. The white man is dehumanized. Projecting his fears onto the black man, the white man shirks his responsibility to acknowledge his guilt (83) in instrumentalizing the black man (206).

Even though this work was written over 50 years ago in a literal colony of Europe, sadly it remains only too relevant in the United States today as a condition between people that allegedly have the same legal and human rights. This is largely made possible by the many ever-so-casual-racists (who vehemently deny they are racist)—people who, for example, complain about affirmative action as unfair to them personally (nevermind history and generations of enslavement and stolen opportunities). Fanon writes, "outside university circles there is an army of fools... Granted, these fools are the product of a psychological-economic substructure. But that does not get us anywhere" (18). An education for racial tolerance from which we are sadly very far removed is necessary for moving towards a world of love.
Profile Image for Monika.
170 reviews268 followers
August 11, 2018
"O my body, make of me always a man who questions!"
To an extent, a liberating and poignant experience.
Profile Image for Erik.
331 reviews216 followers
June 1, 2020
A classic of 1950s critical race studies, Frantz Fanon's "Black Skin, White Masks" is as relevant today as it was when first written.

Studying his fellow Antillians, Fanon is struck by the alienation he sees in the psychological identities of his patients. Black men and women who don't see themselves as black but who are confronted by their blackness for the first time when they travel to France and encounter white colonizers. Out of this, Fanon explains how the ending of the material master-slave relation did not end the psychological master-slave relationship that still persists; "white" is the only way to conceive of an identity, and this conception alienates black people from themselves. Black folk try to work the impossible: to be white, and when they fail the whites hoist them up as evidence of the inferiority of their race. It is only through a rejection of the whitewashed past and whitewashed future that black people can free themselves from the bondage of white identity and step into themselves. Self-consciousness and self-esteem bonded together in an open future not bound to whiteness.

Fanon is a psychotherapist and phenomenologist - his writing is filled to the brim with jargon. Though at times patently homophobic (claiming that homosexuality is a European problem not one encountered by the colonies.) But beyond this, his presentation is the most beautiful conception of black freedom. And black freedom is what we need now more than ever.
Profile Image for Aung Sett Kyaw Min.
219 reviews1 follower
February 19, 2022
Fanon offers a fascinating study of the internalized racial inferiority complex harbored by the Black men and women of Antilles that expresses itself in various registers--psychological, phenomenological and sexual. In Chapters 5 and 7, we see him groping towards what is today generally labelled as "afropessimism".

But in my opinion the general trajectory of the text reveals Fanon as a thinker of the universal, albeit a difficult one. A difficult universal takes stock of the abuses, misuses and crimes that have been committed in its name, and laboriously working through them, insists on a vision of a common future where the sacrifices of the past and present may be redeemed for everyone. One of the privileged first names of the universal is “Humanity”. Indeed, Black Skin, White Masks is a clinical expose of how centuries of colonialism and colonization has brutally and unjustly excluded a mass of bodies from the category of the human on the basis of their skin color. Yet in the final instance Fanon holds fast to the belief that redemption can and must issue forth from the universal--human freedom and civilization. 

Of course, Fanon is far from claiming that the particular can be smoothly suspended in the medium of the universal. He does not shy away from stressing the moments in the arduous odyssey of the universal where the particular is tempted to close on itself and even to dispense with the need for the universal. Indeed the entire chapter “The Fact of Blackness” is devoted to the phenomenological exploration of the zone of non-being to which colonialism has consigned the Black bodies of the Antilles--the Negritude. Fanon considers a black consciousness that refuses to be treated as merely a historical occasion for Sartrean poetic transcendence. Indeed, in a haunting passage, he says “The dialectic that brings necessity into the foundation of my freedom drives me out of myself...I am wholly what I am. I do not have to look for the universal [...]” Indeed, what use is the universal for a particular (black colonized) which is not recognized by another particular (white colonizer) itself masquerading as a universal? There is no reciprocity (217). After all, blackness is not recognized as fully being. Neglected and cast cast aside, it has rights to be suspicious of any invocation of the universal “Humanity”. 

Ultimately, Fanon’s closing statements on Black Skin, White Masks drive home the lesson of difficult universalism. “There are times when the black man is locked into his body” (225) says Fanon. These are times when he is overcome with the drive to vengefully dismiss the universal as irrelevant and affirming only the immediacy that he is. Yet if he can overcome this temptation, which is borne of alienation and colonialism, if he can magnanimously recapture not just his past but the past of the colonizers who have wronged him, showing the posteriority error of their ways, he will be able to “create the ideal conditions of existence for a human world”. 

Scathing, witty and vigorously argued, this is a classic text for anyone interested in emancipatory thought.
Profile Image for T.
187 reviews1 follower
May 5, 2023
"In no way must my colour be felt a stain. From the moment the black man accepts the split imposed by the Europeans, there is no longer any respite[...] We shall see that another solution is possible. It implies restructuring the world." (63)

Fantastic work. Fanon's unquestioning, almost bordering on orthodox, approach to psychoanalysis is a product of its time. However, despite the Freudian baggage, Fanon delivers some fascinating insights into the mindset of the colonised and the coloniser.

Fanon's humanistic resolution is forceful and sure to stick with the reader - we must embrace the Other, and recognise ourselves in our compatriots. The density of history shouldn't weigh us down, we must embrace our freedom and create the future...
Profile Image for Matthew.
Author 1 book66 followers
July 12, 2008
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.
Profile Image for saïd.
6,189 reviews717 followers
December 13, 2021
L'explosion n'aura pas lieu aujourd'hui. Il est trop tôt... ou trop tard. Je n'arrive point armé de vérités décisives.
Je suis en conflit avec moi-même. D'un côté, nous avons devant nous un texte incroyablement important et influent, qui dénonce le racisme, le colonialisme, l'impérialisme et l'état général de la société, et ce de manière absolument puissante et incisive ; et pourtant, d'un autre côté, ce texte — publié au début des années cinquante ! — est, triste à dire, en grande partie un produit de son temps. Fanon, dans ce texte, est indéniablement misogyne. De plus, il est indéniablement homophobe. Décevant, sans doute oui ; cas de rupture, peut-être non. À mon avis, il faut plus étudier Fanon que l'écouter. Indéniablement erronées étaient ses idées et ses théories, c'est vrai : mais en outre, cruciales. Donc comment concilier ces idées contradictoires ? Ah... ne me demandez pas ; je n'y connais rien du tout !
Profile Image for Domhnall.
435 reviews330 followers
April 26, 2019
Fanon experienced racism throughout his childhood in Martinique, part of the French Empire, and then as a French soldier in the Second World War, fighting to free France from the Nazis and to help restore the racist French fascists to brutal and violent control over their empire. He studied in France after the war and qualified to become a psychiatrist. During his studies, he wrote an angry and very personal response to the racism that he experienced, published in 1951, and this has justifiably become a classic. He later practised as a psychiatrist in Algeria and supported the violent rebellion which finally drove the French out of that country, though in 1961 he died young of leukemia.

Fanon was perfectly well aware of the standards required for academic research and not only achieved his postgraduate qualifications to practice psychiatry but also continued to engage in research within that discipline and to publish his findings in the relevant journals throughout his subsequent career. It can therefore be taken as established that for this book he consciously chose a highly subjective methodology, an impressionistic presentation and quite obviously put forward his particular perspective on the topics covered because in his judgement this was his preferred methodology. It would be no difficult task to justify his choices if required.

His sources and his evidence are very diverse and eclectic, including some that belong to low brow popular culture, in film and in fiction. His arguments are couched in the language of the period immediately following WW2, and it is tempting to question if it is any longer really useful to rely so heavily on psychoanalytic theory or the principles of the Phenomenology movement. This misses the point of reading a classic work. Fanon is steeped in the literature and culture of his own time because that was when he was alive and active! He was a voracious student, willing and able to read his contemporaries across many disciplines, and he refers to the leading theoretical currents of that period, not because he is quaintly parochial, but because these were the voices and the arguments that dominated his environment and against which he was determined to argue back. He does not make it explicit I think, but he could not write the way he did without being fully familiar with the current thinking of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Fanon was not old fashioned – he was absolutely in touch with the leading edge of contemporary French culture.

Fanon uses psychoanalytical arguments at length, for instance, because that was part of the language of scientific racism at the time. He was arguing against racist ideologies that were current and respectable in his day and he had to do that by addressing their arguments in their own terms. It is not useful to say that we could not rely on similar arguments today. It is missing the point entirely. Modern racists have indeed developed new models to promote their idiocies, and Fanon’s heirs therefore have their own work to do.

He asserted many times that his evidence could really only be applied directly to his own experience, especially to Martinique, and he was most interested in the impact of settler colonialism rather than other aspects of Europe’s imperialism. He makes clear that racism and the priorities for Black people differ across the world; for example, he is quite explicit in saying that his analysis would not be directly applicable to Black Americans in the USA and he spells out other differences at various points.

Put even more simply, this book explores the subjective experiences of a black man from Martinique and relates this to his contemporary (French) cultural environment. It has much wider significance not because it makes any claim to be comprehensive but, on the contrary, actually because it is very focused and therefore very authentic. He is writing from experience.

Fanon does not seriously analyse or refute racism itself. He quite reasonably and rightly dismisses it as “idiocy” and deals with its very real consequences, primarily its psychological consequences. He points out that racism shapes the way we all think and behave and induces all sorts of harmful, poisonous effects on both victim and perpetrator. In particular, the ways in which we may respond to or react against racism, overcompensating, is itself unnatural and harmful. What he aspires to is a way of living without racism, and that includes refusing to accommodate even the memory as part of his identity. Racism is an idiocy; he wants nothing to do with it or its many effects. Far from being an important aspect of his legacy, it is barren, totally infertile, tediously beside the point.

He does not work any of this out in detail, he does not supply a road map or a strategy or an antidote: he asserts. It is for the reader to agree or disagree, to question its implications more fully and treat this as an introduction to more exhaustive analysis or investigation, to decide if it is a mistaken attitude, a realistic goal or an inspirational but remote ideal, or indeed to pursue in a myriad ways the implications of this incendiary book. For Fanon himself, this book was the opening of his career, not the conclusion. It is incredibly easy to find defects, faults, errors, oversights, flaws and blemishes in this idiosyncratic text; we know this because so many people do. The one thing that is not possible is to ignore it.

So readers should not look into this book and expect to find an account of their own different interests, nor complain that Fanon fails to prophecy the future with sufficient accuracy, and reviewers really should not complain that Fanon has failed to achieve comprehensive coverage of places he was not interested in or related topics that have grown exponentially since he was writing this seminal book, or that he relies on theoretical models that are no longer dominant, or neglects models that did not even exist then. It is a classic and should be read and appreciated as such; it is delightfully opinionated, awesomely angry, enviably self-assertive in the face of authority and fiercely powerful. It is the work of a young intellectual, looking authority in the face and shouting [literally – on page 94] “Fuck You!” It is a historically important document, not scripture.


Why am I writing this book? Nobody asked me to.
Especially not those for whom it is intended.
So? So in all serenity, my answer is that there are too many idiots on this earth. And now that I’ve said it, I have to prove it. [pxi]

In an age of scepticism, when, according to a group of salauds, sense can no longer be distinguished from nonsense, it becomes arduous to descend to a level where the categories of sense and nonsense are not yet in use. [pxii]

A man who possesses a language possesses as an indirect consequence the world expressed and implied by this language. .. there is an extraordinary power in the possession of a language. [p2]

... delightful little blue-eyed genes, pedalling down the corridors of chromosomes. [p34]

Once for all we affirm that a society is racist or is not. As long as this evidence has not been grasped, a great many problems will have been overlooked. To say, for instance, that northern France is more racist than the south, or that racism can be found in subalterns but in no way involve the elite, or that France is the least racist country in the world, is characteristic of people incapable of thinking properly. [p66]

In this study I have attempted to touch on the misery of the black man – tactually and effectively. I did not want to be objective. Besides, that would have been dishonest; I found it impossible to be objective. [p67]

The psychoanalysts say that there is nothing more traumatizing for a young child than contact with the rational. I personally would say that for a man armed solely with reason, there is nothing more neurotic than contact with the irrational. [p98]

I had rationalized the world, and the world had rejected me in the name of color prejudice. Since there was no way we could agree on the basis of reason, I resorted to irrationality. It was up to the white man to be more irrational than I. For the sake of the cause, I had adopted the process of regression, but the fact remained that it was an unfamiliar weapon; here I am at home; I am made of the irrational; I wade in the irrational. Irrational up to my neck. [p102]

Adler created in fact a psychology of the individual. We have just seen, however, that the feeling of inferiority is Antillean. It is not one individual Antillean who presents a neurotic mind-set, all the Antilleans present this. Antillean society is a neurotic society... Hence we are referred back from the individual to the social structure. If there is a flaw, it lies not in the “soul” of the individual but in his environment. [p188]

I have found in many writers intellectual alienation is a creation of bourgeois society. And for me bourgeois society is any society that becomes ossified in a predetermined mold, stifling any development, progress or discovery. For me bourgeois society is a closed society where it’s not good to be alive, where the air is rotten and ideas and people are putrefying. And I believe that a man who takes a stand against this living death is in a way a revolutionary. [p199]

Sartre has shown that the past, along the lines of an inauthentic mode, catches on and “takes” en masse, and, once solidly structured, then gives form to the individual. But I can also revise my past, prize it or condemn it, depending on what I choose... Here is my life, caught in the noose of existence. Here is my freedom, which sends me back to my own reflection. [pp 202, 203]
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 2 books32 followers
Want to read
August 1, 2008
On summary comparison, it's hard to overstate how bloodless and jilted the 2008 (Richard Philcox)translation seems next to to the 1967 Charles Lam Markmann. I don't speak French. However, I do read English. If Markmann's version is only so beautiful and compelling because he's taken liberties, I might be able to live with that. The worse accusation might be aimed at Philcox: has he made Fanon more staid and classical in attempts to make him feel more canonical? Isn't that kind of like posthumous whiteface? Somebody that speakie de French, take a look! Tell me!

compare here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/08021...
(Note that it says that this one is the Constance Farrington Translation here, but that is wrong.)

with here:

With some of the original French here: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peau_noi...

How much you want a bet that Philcox is English and Markmann is not? Yeah? Ok, I'm looking it up.

Couldn't find him. Still, a striaght man with that much penis in his name ought to be able to handle the french language. Maybe he has?

And, anyone know about the Constance Farrington one (1963)?
Profile Image for Ricado.
13 reviews2 followers
January 4, 2012
Fanon remains one of my all time favorite writers. I was reading Blacks Skin, White Masks to compare how much things have really change in relation to the conditions of black people or people of color on a world scale. The only conclusion from reading this book is that the more things change the more they stay the same. Fanon had a deep insight into the psychological impact of racism and white supremacy on black people. In the case of South Africa black people remain a psychological minority , despite being a numerical majority. It is in this sense that the book remains timeless and a tool of emancipation for both black and white. This book explores the different dimensions of racism and the psychology of black people in a white supremacist world. The question of race is often a neglected aspect in the broader emancipation project of the people of the world. Black Skins White Masks remains an important contribution today in the struggle's of black people and people of color in their quest for a true humanity.
Profile Image for Esme Kemp.
199 reviews11 followers
April 22, 2020
Left feeling that I’m actually a bit dumb because psychology and the like goes straight over my head. HOWEVER despite my tiny IQ this is obviously a must read. Fanon is the OG de colonial scholar and his writings continue to inspire and teach and enrich generations.

Particularly insightful were the bits about internalised hatred stemming from a collective unconscious in which Antilleans have absorbed and thus internalised the views of the European. “Unconsciously then, I distrust what is black in me, in other words, the totality of my being.”
“The black man is unaware of it as long as he lives among his own people; but at the first white gaze, he feels the weight of his melanin.”

Problematic re homosexuality and women of course - I am left disappointed but not surprised - but I suppose not everyone can be perfect. Knocked off a star for centering the black man and leaving black women to the footnotes. Also Freud is a first class prick.
Profile Image for Jowita Mazurkiewicz.
281 reviews88 followers
July 29, 2021
2,5 i bardzo mieszane odczucia
Oczywiście "Czarna skóra, białe maski" to zbiór cennych spostrzeżeń, ważkich psychoanalitycznych tropów i, jak sądzę, przełomowych wniosków na temat zbiorowej, społecznej choroby psychicznej. I to można wziąć dla siebie.
Razi mnie przede wszystkim to, w jaki sposób Fanon badając pozycję Czarnego jako Innego, czyni Innym kobietę. Szkoda, że Karakter nie zdecydował się na jakieś krytyczne posłowie, które umieściłoby tekst Fanona we współczesnym kontekście.
Poza tym nie jestem fanką pióra autora, pisze chaotycznie i niespójnie, szarpanina nie pomaga w komunikacji z tym dość hermetycznym wywodem.
Najlepiej jest w zakończeniu, kiedy Fanon postuluje i wyzbywa się odpowiedzialności za historyczne doświadczenie. To jest to, z czym zapewne zostanę po lekturze.
Profile Image for Kristína.
43 reviews
January 19, 2021
Read most chapters of this book in various courses at undergrad - “the woman of color and the white man” was probably my first encounter with postcolonialism and was a game-changer for me in terms of how I thought about race. This book read itself well then as it does now. Fanon’s writing style has aged gracefully and this book is nothing short of a delight, if a painful one, considering the subject.
Profile Image for Huyen.
142 reviews188 followers
March 29, 2008
Not easy, but irresistible. In fact, some parts of it are very difficult to understand because they require a certain amount of understanding of psychoanalysis. The book is merely 200 pages but it took me a handsome 7 hours because there were some lines I had to read up to 5 times to finally grasp. Some parts are very random with a combination of excerpts from many different authors and don't follow a clear structure, which makes it a bit hard to follow. Some chapters feel like prose, others like psychoanalysis, others mere description.
Apart from that, the book has some great passages that almost brought me to tears. Fanon says from the start that he doesn't believe in fervor. But every single line in the book carries great weight, not only of vehement critique of European racism but also the outrage of an anguished soul of a white Negro at the traumatization of his fellows. Anger but not vindictiveness. The soul of the Negroes became exactly what the white civilization wanted it to become: denying one's roots, fantasizing whitening and losing the sense of worth in one's existence. Or as Fanon put it "It is the racist who creates his inferior" or Sartre "It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew". What I find very interesting about this book is Fanon doesn't follow the well-trodden path of exclusively decrying European racism but he emphasizes on the liberation of the Negroes from an inferiority complex and the revival of the desire to find one's value through their existence.
The last chapter is the most inspiring, simply shines with its brilliance. Here are some of my fav quotes:
"No, I do not have the right to go and cry out my hatred at the white man. I do not have the duty to murmur my gratitude to the white man.
If the white man challenges my humanity, I will impose my whole weight as a man on his life and show him that I am not that "sho' good eating" that he persists in imagining.
I have one right alone: that of demanding human behavior from the other.
One duty alone: that of not renouncing my freedom through my choices.
The disaster of the man of color lies in the fact that he was enslaved.
The disaster and the inhumanity of the white man lie in the fact that somewhere he has killed man.
But I as a man of color, to the extent that it becomes possible for me to exist absolutely, do not have the right to lock myself into a world of retroactive reparations.
I, the man of color, want only this:
That the tool never possess the man. That the enslavement of man by man cease forever. That is, of one by another. That it be possible for me to discover and to love man, wherever he may be.
The Negro is not. Any more than the white.
Both must turn their backs on the inhuman voices which were those of their respective ancestors in order that authentic communication be possible."
I recommend this book to everyone.
Profile Image for Julia Landgraf.
132 reviews44 followers
July 27, 2020
Fanon escreve de forma ao mesmo tempo incisiva e poética, bastante complexa (desejei ter mais conhecimento de fenomenologia, existencialismo e psicanálise pra empreender essa leitura... mas entendi que esse momento não chegaria num futuro próximo). Diversos pesquisadores brasileiros comentam sua obra, o que pode ajudar. Sendo uma obra fundamental para os estudos pós-coloniais e raciais, sua leitura se faz essencial para quem estuda nesses campos.
Dá muita raiva perceber o quanto a formação em psicologia decide não olhar para certa produção de conhecimento para não desestabilizar seu desejo de manter o sujeito universal, de não precisar mover na estrutura de suas próprias teorias para compreender profundamente questões da subjetividade atreladas a nossa racialização. E se nem a academia se abre a esses questionamentos, quem dirá o senso comum, que se perpetua através desses sujeitos universais brancos que olham unicamente para seus próprios umbigos sem reconhecer no outro a possibilidade de ser.
Fanon era não apenas médico, psicanalista, acadêmico; ele era militante e pegou em armas para lutar pela resistência à II guerra no continente africano. Dessa forma, faz sentido que seu trabalho chame exatamente ao movimento.
Profile Image for l.
1,669 reviews
February 8, 2016
"What an idealist, people will say. Not at all: It is just that the others are scum. "

Right then. I don't mind diatribes; honestly, I like reading invective but I found this work annoying in its lack of nuance, reliance on psychoanalytical babble - i.e. "Veneuse displays the structure of an abandonment-neurotic of the negative-aggressive type.." - and obviously, the misogyny. Tbf, I don't really see how anyone can get past Fanon's intense misogyny.
Profile Image for Hanan Alzu'bi.
10 reviews11 followers
June 6, 2012
رائع رغم صعوبته خاصة بالانجليزية، فانون متقدم عن عصره بمراحل وعن عصرنا ربما، ينصح به.
Profile Image for Gözde Türker.
309 reviews52 followers
March 13, 2020
Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks is a book which invastigates the ideology of colonialism and its negative, or more precisely destructive effects on colonized people of Antilles. Fanon is a psychoanalyst and social philosopher who uses his observations to analyze the psychology of colonizer and colonized and his book is the first to handle this matter psychologically. In Black Skin White Masks he writes his own personal expriences and tells about other people’s as well, in addition he includes some character analysis from certain books dealing with colonialism or black people. Fanon dwells on the struggle of black man who is “enslaved by his inferiority” for being “white” that is to say for being accepted by the white and that white man who is lost in his superiority aims to “reach a human level” by adopting colonialist ideologies and practises. He focuses on how colonialist ideology imposed upon colonized peoples, how the inferiority complex is developed among these people and how come these people happen to adore and admire their colonizers who enslave, humiliate and scorn them.

The definitions of the words “black” and “white” are pointed out in the preface by stressing that a clear opposition can be easily seen; one having all the negative and later having all the positive connotations. Taken even this fact into consideration one can understand that our vision of world affects how we make of meaning to even colours.

This narrative gives the reader a very non-restrictive point of view. The examples and stories Fanon gives evokes in reader’s mind similar perceptions existing in his/her environment.
January 9, 2022
Človek sa pri čítaní tejto knihy začne cítiť zle za celú bielu rasu. Z tohto pohľadu "bieleho čitateľa" sa ani nedá všetko úplne pochopiť, je to však výborná sonda do nás samých, ako sa pozeráme na ľudí z iných kultúr, ako k nim pristupujeme a ako sa vlastne oni musia prispôsobovať našim, často nezmyselným vzorcom.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 790 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.