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Frantz Fanon (1925-61)

Frantz Fanon was a psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and author, born in the French colony of Martinique. He travelled to France in 1943, where he fought with the Free French in the Second World War. After the war he studied medicine and psychiatry in Lyon, then worked as a psychiatrist in Algeria.

Two of his highly influential books were Black Skin, White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon explored how colonised people were affected in practical terms, and also how they understood themselves. Fanon argued a combination of racism and the rejection of indigenous culture and values by colonial powers created huge psychological problems for the colonised. He was influenced by the realisation that his African background meant that many would not accept him as French.

In 1953, Fanon became Head of the Psychiatry Department at the Blida-Joinville Hospital in Algeria. There he tried to make psychiatric care sensitive to each patient’s cultural background. He resigned after becoming aware of the use of torture by French forces. Fanon became involved in anti-colonial movements, and from 1956 participated in the Algerian War of Independence.

Fanon died of leukaemia in 1961. His work remained influential in anti-colonial movements worldwide.

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Bibliography

F Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, translated by C Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1963)

F Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks translated by C L Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1968)

D Macey, Frantz Fanon: a life, (London: Granta Books, 2000)

R C Keller, Colonial madness: psychiatry in French North Africa (Chicago London: University of Chicago Press, c2007)

Glossary:

Leukaemia

A cancer of the blood or bone marrow. Leukaemia is caused by an abnormal growth in numbers of cells, usually white blood cells. It is a broad term covering a number of different disorders.