History

1. According to Fanon, what is the “colonial personality” (p. 250)?

2. Explain: “railways across the bush, the draining of swamps and a native population which is non-existent politically and economically are in fact one and the same thing” (p. 250).

3. How did the French behave during the Algerian Revolution (1954-1962)? How about the Maquis (resistance)?

4. Do you think there are numerous cases of psychological symptoms such as Fanon describes happening to people in war zones right now—say, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.? Why or why not?

5. What insights does Fanon gain through treating the psychological problems of both French and Algerian patients?

6. Explain: “you’ve got to cure me, doctor… he asked me without beating about the bush to help him go on torturing Algerian patriots without any prickings of conscience, without any behavior problems, and with complete equanimity” (p. 270).

7. Explain: “Had there ever been a European arrested and sent to prison for the murder of an Algerian? I replied that in fact I had never seen any Europeans in prison” (p. 271).

8. After reading about all the visceral screaming that took place during the Franco-Algerian War, does this help you to understand what Guantanamo Bay (and other such interrogation centers around the world) must sound like?

9. Explain: “if I were an Algerian girl, I’d be in the Maquis” (p. 277).

10. Do you realize that this is what the vast majority of postcolonial struggles for independence from European and North American hegemony actually looked (and sounded) like? Are such things still happening today?

11. How angry and sad did this reading make you? What might Fanon’s goal here be?

12. Why would this book directly inspire countless revolutionaries and other leftist activists (e.g., postcolonial, indigenous, black power, civil rights, etc.) all over the world?

13. Explain: “all the prisoners who had the benefit of expert opinions were guillotined. The psychiatrists boasted in front of us of their elegant method of overcoming ‘resistance’.” (p. 284n)

14. What means of brainwashing did the French use on Algerian intellectuals (pp. 286-287)?

15. Explain: “Algeria is not a nation; it has never been a nation; it will never be a nation. There is no such thing as the ‘Algerian people’. Algerian patriotism is nonsense. The fellaghas are ambitious peasants, criminals, and poor mistaken creatures” (p. 287).

16. Explain: “you must declare that you do not belong to the LFN. You must shout this out in groups. You must repeat it for hours on end. After that, you must recognize that you were once in the FLN and that you have come to realize that it was a bad thing. Thus, down with the FLN. After this stage, we come to another: the future of Algeria is French; it can be nothing other than French. Without France, Algeria would go back to the Middle Ages. Finally, you are French. Long live France” (p. 289).

17. Explain: “in reality, the soldier who is engaged in armed combat in a national war deliberately measures from day to day the sum of all the degradation inflicted upon man by colonial oppression. The man of action has sometimes the exhausting impression that he must restore the whole of his people, that he must bring every one of them up out of the pit and out of the shadows. He very often sees that his task is not only to hunt down the enemy forces but also to overcome the kernel of despair which has hardened in the native’s being… for colonialism has not simply depersonalized the individual it has colonized; this depersonalization is equally felt in the collective sphere, on the level of social structures. The colonized people find that they are reduced to a body of individuals who only find cohesion when in the presence of the colonizing nation” (pp. 293-294).

18. Explain: “the duty of the native who has not yet reached maturity in political consciousness and decided to hurl back oppression is literally to make it so that the slightest gesture has to be torn out of him. This is a very concrete manifestation of non-cooperation, or a least of minimum cooperation” (pp. 294-295).

19. Explain: “among the characteristics of the Algerian people as observed by colonialism we will particularly notice their appalling criminality. Before 1954 magistrates, policemen, barristers, journalist, and legal doctors agreed unanimously that the Algerian was a born criminal. A theory was elaborated and scientific proofs were found to support it. This theory was taught in the universities for over twenty years. Algerian medical students received this education and imperceptibly, after accommodating themselves to colonialism, the elite came also to accommodate themselves to the inherent stigma of the Algerian people: they were born slackers, born liars, born robbers, and born criminals” (p. 296).

20. Explain: “the North African is a criminal; his predatory instinct is well known; his intense aggressivity is visible to the naked eye. The North African likes extremes, so we can never entirely trust him. Today he is the best of friends, tomorrow the worst of enemies. He is insensible to shades of meaning… the North African is a violent person, of a hereditary violence. We find him incapable of self-discipline, or of canalizing his impulses. Yes, the Algerian is a congenital impulsive” (p. 298).

21. Explain: “the Algerian is strongly marked by mental debility. If we are to really understand this datum we must go back to… the Algerian school of psychiatry. The native, it is stated by them, presents the following characteristics: complete or almost complete lack of emotivity; credulous and susceptible to the extreme; persistent obstinacy; mental puerility, without the spirit of curiosity found in the Western child; tendency to accidents… the native of North Africa, whose superior and cortical activities are only slightly developed, is a primitive creature whose life, essentially vegetative and instinctive, is above all regulated by his diencephalon” (pp. 299-300).

22. Explain: “primitivism is not a lack of maturity or a marked stoppage in the development… it is a social condition which has reached the limit of its evolution; it is logically adopted to a life different from ours… the Algerian has no cortex; or, more precisely, he is dominated, like the inferior vertebrates, by the diencephalon… there is thus neither mystery nor paradox. The hesitation of the colonist in giving responsibility to the native is not racism nor paternalism, but quite simply a scientific appreciation of the biologically limited possibilities of the native” (p. 301).

23. Explain: “the African makes very little use of his frontal lobes. All the particularities of African psychiatry can be put down to frontal laziness… the normal African is a ‘lobotomized European’… according to Dr. Carothers, the likeness existing between the normal African native and the lobotomized European is striking… the layout of the cerebral structures of the North African are responsible both for the native’s laziness, for his intellectual and social inaptitude and for his almost animal impulsivity… the lack of integration of the frontal lobes in the cerebral dynamic is the explanation of the African’s laziness, of his crimes, his robberies, his rapes, and his lies. It was a sub-prefect who has now become a prefect who voiced the conclusion to me: ‘we must counter these natural creatures,’ he said, ‘who obey the laws of their nature blindly, with a strict, relentless ruling class. We must tame nature, not convince it.’ Discipline, training, mastering, and today pacifying are the words most frequently used by the colonialists in occupied territories” (pp. 302-303).

24. Explain: “the Algerian’s criminality, his impulsivity, and the violence of his murders are therefore not the consequence of the organization of his nervous system or of characterial originality, but the direct product of the colonial situation” (p. 309).

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