Idylls, Imitation, Ideology and Imperialism: A Fanonian Critique of National Liberation

Master Thesis


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Decolonisation flooded through Africa after WW2, spearheaded by national liberation movements, apparently. In most cases, this did not lead to national sovereignty or independence, and did not alleviate poverty. Decolonisation eventually led to inequality, economic stagnation, and new, subtle forms of outside control. Fanon's incomplete work shows contradictions in national liberation (and the parties which represent it). Using Fanon's work, I criticise nationalism, the expected role of the national bourgeoisie, racism and consumerism, and reified conceptions of politics, democracy, corruption and socialism. Each of these reified conceptions, common to decolonial movements, is presented by the national liberation movements as the overcoming of problems of Western modernity. In fact, I show that these conceptions are all new forms of the problems they claim to overcome. I supplement Fanon's work with ideas and arguments from Marxism and psychoanalysis, as well as many interesting examples from decolonisation. These show how Fanon's predictions were frequently correct, though he lived to see few of them. I use Fanon's writing to show some of the ideologies underlying the worldview of national liberation. Those ideological motifs that are continually present include Freudian illusion, reification (I show how countries, leaders, people etc. are erroneously represented as independent of each other), false identification (particularly the representation of a whole thing by its parts or its symbols, including operationalism), interpellation of individuals as subjects, and images and symbols that manipulate the unconscious. These lead to false interpretations of decolonisation, and individuals celebrating their own domination. Fanon understands decolonisation as not an end to colonisation but a continuation of imperialism; we will read it thus, not as a break from the past but a continuation of its problems.