Frantz Fanon

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In the introduction to the book The Psychiatric Writings from Alienation and Freedom, how does Frantz Fanon discuss his psychiatric writings in terms of the decolonial turn in psychology?

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First, let's consider what a decolonial turn in psychology means. Traditional psychological perspectives examine the struggles of an individual as existing almost within a vacuum. Research within the field traditionally points out differences within subpopulations, demonstrating how women are often more emotional or how young people often participate in deviant behaviors. Therapists then approach patients through this lens, helping them to cope and assimilate in ways that align with the overall goals of society.

Yet a person is more than just a mind. Each person has a body which has been impacted by unique knowledge, life experiences, personal beliefs, and historical actions. A person's mind has been shaped over time by interacting with their environment and with society as a whole. When people suffer with mental illness, it is important to thus consider how society has shaped an individual's mental struggles. If a person has experienced violence, discrimination, or inequality, those experiences must be considered as a psychologist approaches their interventions. This is what a decolonial turn for psychology implies—a consideration of the way social interactions have shaped an individual's mental health and differences.

The introduction to Alienation and Freedom uses the comments of François Maspero as he discussed Fanon's work:

At the same time, he carried on a remarkable medical activity, innovating at many levels, deeply, viscerally close to his patients, whom he regarded as primarily victims of the system he was fighting. He collected clinical notes and developed analyses of phenomena of colonialist alienation as seen through mental illnesses.

This quote demonstrates Fanon's effort to decolonize psychology. Fanon exhibited a clinical perspective which sought to validate the experiences of his patients, attributing their struggles to the battles they had faced with their social world. These patients had been alienated by their communities, and Fanon recognized the way this fragmented their mental health.

The introduction also mentions that Fanon sought to explore the way the consciousness is alienated when social relations are hindered. His work establishes the importance of considering "culture in its relation both to the body and to history." This is the foundational essence of decolonial psychology—to formulate a complex understanding of existence that leads to more sustainable modern lifestyles by allowing for the psychological impact of social constructs.

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