Frantz Fanon

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Please explain Fanon's view of the political phenomenology of the body and Black alienation in Black Skin, White Masks.

In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon shares many sharp views about the political phenomenology of the body and Black alienation. Fanon tells us that he didn't create his "body schema"; it was made for him by "the Other, the white man, who had woven me out of a thousand details, anecdotes, and stories." Throughout the book, Fanon notes how racist narratives pull him from a personal, specific identity and into "a toy" of general anti-Black politics.

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In Blank Skin, White MasksFrantz Fanon provides us with an array of sharp thoughts and insights about how Black bodies and Black identities are constructed within Western, White societies.

Concerning the political phenomenology of the body and Black alienation, let’s try and find places where Fanon writes about feeling...

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In Blank Skin, White Masks Frantz Fanon provides us with an array of sharp thoughts and insights about how Black bodies and Black identities are constructed within Western, White societies.

Concerning the political phenomenology of the body and Black alienation, let’s try and find places where Fanon writes about feeling detached or estranged from his body.

One place is when Fanon writes,

The image of one's body is solely negating. It's an image in the third person. All around the body reigns an atmosphere of uncertainty.

He then goes on to describe himself reaching for a cigarette. He tells us as if he’s watching someone else, as it's not his body.

In the next paragraph, Fanon talks about his "body schema." He tells us how his body schema—or outline or diagram—wasn't created by him but by "the Other, the white man, who had woven me out of a thousand details, anecdotes, and stories."

We see more alienation when Fanon writes:

I cast an objective gaze over myself, discovered my blackness, my ethnic features: deafened by cannibalism, backwardness, fetishism, racial stigmas, slave traders, and above all, yes, above all, the grinning Y a bon Banania.

How do these excerpts link to alienation, politics, and Black body?

Let's think about politics. Politics, in one sense, cover the general policies and laws of a country. Many countries have policies and laws that are, on some level, racist.

Now let's think about bodies. The policies and laws of a country govern our bodies and either keep them safe or expose them to harm. Think about a White person walking down the street and passing a police car. Now think about a Black person walking down the street and passing a police car. Are they each exposed to the same amount of harm?

As Fanon says,

There were some who wanted to equate me with my ancestors, enslaved and lynched.

Here, we see alienation. People are not confronting Fanon's unique and specific body but what his body makes them think of. They're detaching Fanon's body from him and reattaching it to myriad racist beliefs and stereotypes.

Fanon says,

The Negro is an animal, the Negro is bad, the Negro is wicked, the Negro is ugly.

Fanon's ideas about alienation and the struggles of cultivating a personal identity when racism constantly unhinges you from your body are extensive. What we've covered is just the tip of the iceberg.

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