The Wretched of the Earth

by Frantz Fanon

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What specific evidence does Fanon use to confirm his theory that violence is a necessary part of decolonization?

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Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth devotes much of its page count to building and buoying his central claim that decolonization is an inherently violent process. The violence that Fanon associates with decolonization is not only physical violence, but environmental and psychological violence as well. Fanon's argument gains traction from explaining the violence inherent in colonialism. Because colonialism—especially across the African continent—thrived on the exploitation and enslavement of native peoples, the stripping of natural resources for the gain of foreign empires, and the consolidation of power in an elite ruling class, the entire enterprise is steeped in physical violence that oppresses and demeans, environmental violence that threatens future livelihood, and psychological violence that perpetuates feelings of inferiority and desperation. Having cited the violent nature of colonization, Fanon explains that decolonization must be a violent process in order to supplant the systems, methodologies, and ideologies of the oppressive colonizers.

The specific examples of violence required for decolonization that Fanon lifts up include non-coordinated efforts by colonized persons, seeking freedom from their colonizers. These sporadic, violent uprisings give birth to more methodical, coordinated efforts to establish forces of rebellion. The violence perpetrated by the colonized is a violence designed to bring justice and restore power to oppressed native peoples. Fanon posits that once the violent overthrow of the colonizing regime occurs, then the newly liberated peoples still must push through to de-internalize the emotional violence they have suffered. To claim a new identity in their freedom and self-efficacy may require violent rhetoric and vehement statements made against their oppressors. Fanon ultimately categorizes this violence as justified because it brings liberation.

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