Reading Notes: Fanon, Black Skin White Masks

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Fanon, BSWM (Markman translation)


Chp 1 The Negro and Language

Chp 2 The Woman of Color and the White Man

Chp 3 The Man of Color and the White Woman

Chp 4 The So-Called Dependency Complex of Colonized Peoples

Chp 5 The Face of Blackness (preferred: “The Lived Experience of the Black”)

Chp 6 The Negro and Psychopathology

Chp 7 The Negro and Recognition

Chp 8 By Way of Conclusion


8 “The explosion will not happen today. It is too soon … or too late.”

9 “the black is not a man” / negation, consciousness, cosmos, yes /

9 “the black is a black man … rooted at the core of a universe from which he must be extricated”

[AC: the problem is not that the black is black, but the black is a man-notman]

9 “I propose nothing short of the liberation of the man of color from himself”

10 “Black men want to prove to white men, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the qual value of the intellect. / How do we extricate ourselves?”

11 epidermalization

12 “The architecture of this work is rooted in the temporal. Every human problem must be considered from the stand-[13]point of time.”

13 “And this future is not the future of the cosmos but rather the future of my century, my country, my existence. In no fashion should I undertake to prepare the world that will come later. I belong irreducible to my time.”

13 “… I consider the present in terms of something to be exceeded.”

14 “… what is often called the black soul is a white man’s artifact.”

14 “The educated Negro, slave of the spontaneous and cosmic Negro myth, feels at a given stage that his race no longer understands him. … Then he congratulates himself on this, and enlarging the difference, the incomprehension, the disharmony, he finds in them the meaning of his humanity. Or more rarely he wants to belong to his people. And it is with rage in his mouth and abandon in his heart that he buries himself in the vast black abyss. We shall see that this attitude, so heroically absolute, renounces the present and the future in the name of a mystical past.”

Chp 1 The Negro and Language

18 “Every colonized people – in other words, every people in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality – find itself face to face with the language of the civilizing nation; that is, with the culture of the mouther country.”

18 “He becomes whiter as he renounces his blackness, his jungle.”

29 “… philosophy has never saved anyone.”

29 “When someone else strives and strains to prove to me that black men are as intelligent as white men, I say that intelligence has never saved anyone; and that is true, for, if philosophy and intelligence are invoked to proclaim the equality of men, they have also been employed to justify the extermination of men.”

34 “‘You’d better keep your place.'”

34 [As opposed to a Russian or German who finds themselves stumbling with French in France…] “When it comes to the case of the Negro, nothing of the kind. He has no culture, no civilization, no ‘long historical past.’ / This may be the reason for the striving of contemporary Negroes: to prove the existence of a black civilization to the white world at all costs.”

36 “… the first impulse of the black man is to say no to those who attempt to build a definition of him. … a reaction … since the Negro is appraise in terms of the extent of his assimilation”

37 “they have the choice of two possibilities: –either to stand with the white world … or to reject Europe….” … [38[ the first: “I call this alienation” … the second: “I call this a lack of judgment.”

Chp 2 The Woman of Color and the White Man

47 lactification, whitened

60 obsessiv neurotic type

60 “the man of color there is a constant effort to run away from his own individuality, to annihilate his own presence.”

60 “Whenever a man of color protests, there is alienation.”

Chp 3 The Man of Color and the White Woman

66 “Above all, he wants to prove to the other that he is a man, their equal.”

66 “But let us not be misled: Jean Veneuse is the man who has to be convinced. it is in the roots of his soul, as complicated as that of any European, that the doubt persists. if the expression may be allowed, Jean Veneuse is the lamb to be slaughtered. let us make the effort”

81 “‘is it not understandable that thenceforward he will ry to elevate himself to the white man’s level? To elevate himself in the range of colors to which he attributes a kind of hierarchy'” [Claude Nordey, l’homme de couleur, 1939) / “We shall see that another solution is possible. It implies a restructuring of the world.”

Chp 4 The So-Called Dependency Complex of Colonized Peoples

93 “the educated Negro suddenly discovered the the is rejected by a civilization which he has none the less assimilated … if he takes it into his head to be the equal of the Europeans, then the said European is indignant and casts out the upstart – who, in such circumstances, in this ‘exception case,’ pays for his own rejection of dependence with an inferiority complex.”

96 “The only thing in the world that’s worth the effort of starting: The end of the world, by God!” [quoting Césaire]

100 “the black man should no longer by confronted by the dilemma, turn white or disappear; … my objective will not be that of dissuading him from it by advising him to ‘keep his place’; on the contrary, my objective, once his motivations have been brought into consciousness, will be to put him in a position to choose action (or passivity) with respect to the real source of the conflict  that is, toward the social structures.”

Chp 5 The Face of Blackness (preferred: “The Lived Experience of the Black”)

109 “Look, a Negro!”

109 “Sealed into that crushing objecthood.”

109 “my body suddenly abraded into nonbeing”

109 “every ontology is made unattainable”

110 “Ontology – once it is finally admitted as leaving existence by the wayside – does not permit us to understand the being of the black man. For not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man.”

110 “The black man has no ontological resistance in the eyes of the white man.”

110 “Overnight the Negro has been given two frames of reference within which he has had to place himself. His metaphysics, or, less pretentiously, his customs and the sources on which they were based, were wiped out because they were in conflict with a civilization that he did not know and the imposed itself on him.”

110 “Together we protested, we asserted the equality of all men in the world.”

112 “I already knew that there were legends, stories, history, and above all historicity...”

112 “Then, assailed at various points, the corporeal schema crumbled, its place taken by a racial epidermal schema.”

112 … nausea … “I was responsible at the same time for my body, for my race, for my ancestors. I subjected myself to an objective examination, I discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics; and I was battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetichism, racial defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above all: ‘Sho’ good eating’.'”

112 “made myself an object”

116 “I am fixed.” / “in spite of my color.”

122 “There will always be a world – a white world – between you and us . . . The other’s total inability to liquidate the past once and for all.”

123 “From the opposite end of the white world a magical Negro culture has hailing me. Negro sculpture! I began to flush with pride. Was this our salvation?”

128 “The white man wants the world; he wants it for himself alone. He find himself predestined master of this world. he enslaves it. An acquisitive relation is established between the world and him.”

138 “my blackness was only a minor term.”

138 “Without a Negro past, without a Negro future, it was impossible for my to live my Negrohood. Not yet white, no longer wholly black, I was damned. Jean-Paul Sartre had forgotten that the Negro suffers in his body quite differently from the white man. Between the white man and me the connection was irrevocably one of transcendence.”

139 “A feeling of inferiority? No, a feeling of nonexistence. Sin is Negro as virtue is white. All those white men in a group, guns in their hands, cannot be wrong. I am guilty. I do not know of what, but I know that I am no good.”

140 “The Negro is a toy in the white man’s hands; so in order to shatter the hellish cycle, he explodes.”

140 “straddling Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep.”

Chp 6 The Negro and Psychopathology

Chp 7 The Negro and Recognition

216 “The Negro and Hegel” “Man is human only to the extent to which the tries to impose his existence on another man in order to be recognized by him.”

218 “When it encounters resistance form the other, self-consciousness undergoes the experience of desire.” [AC: Lacanian]

218 “bare existence

218 “As soon as I desire I am asking to be considered. I am not merely here-and-now, sealed into thingness. I am for somewhere else and for something else. I demand that notice by taken of my negating activity insofar as I pursue something other than life; insofar I do battle for the creation of a human world – that is, of a world of reciprocal recognitions.”

218 “He who is reluctant to recognize me opposed me. In a savage struggle I am willing to accept convulsions of death, invisible dissolution, but also the possibility of the impossible.”n6

218 n6: “When I began this book, I wanted to devote on section to a study of the death wish among Negroes. I believed it necessary because people are forever saying that Negroes never commit suicide…” mentions that people previously said this about Jews, and then cites empirical evidence affirming that Black often commit suicide at greater rates

220 “The black man contented himself with thanking the white man, and the most forceful proof of the fact is the impressive number of statues erected all over France and the colonies to show white France stroking the kinky hair of this nice Negro whose chains had just been broken. / ‘Say thank you to the nice man,’ the mother tells her little boy . . . but we know that often the little boy is dying to scream some other, more resounding expression. . . . / The white man in his capacity of master,n8 said to the negro, ‘From now on your are free.’ / n8 I hope I have shown that here the master differs basically from the master described by Hegel. For Hegel there is reciprocity; here the master laughs at the consciousness of the slave. The he wants from the slave is not recognition but work.”

221 “But the Negro know nothing of the cost of freedom, for he has not fought for it.”

221 “From time to time he has fought of Liberty and Justice, but these were always white liberty and white justice; that is, values secreted by his masters. The former slave, who can find in his memory no trace of the struggle for liberty or of that anguish of liberty of which Kierkegaard speaks, sits unmoved before the young white man singing and dancing on the tightrope of existence.”

221 “When it does not happen that the Negro looks fiercely at the white man, the white man tells him: ‘Brother, there is no difference between us.’ And yet the Negro knows that there is a difference. He wants it. He wants the white man to turn to him and shout: ‘Damn nigger.’ Then he would have the unique chance – to ‘show them. . . . ‘ / But more often there is nothing – nothing but difference, or a paternalistic curiosity.”

221 “The former slave needs a challenge to his humanity, he wants a conflict, a riot. But it is too late…”

221 “And we can be sure that nothing is going to be given free. / There is war, there are defeats, truces, victories.”

222 “On the field of battle, its four corners marked by the scores of Negroes hanged by their testicles, a monument is slowly being built that promises to be majestic. / And, at the top of this monument, I can already see a white man and black man hand in hand.

222 “The young Negroes whom he knew there ought to main their alterity. Alterity of rupture, of conflict, of battle.”

222 “The self takes its place by opposing itself, Fichte said. Yes and no.

222 “I said in my introduction that man is a yes. I will never stop reiterating that. / Yes to life. Yes to love. Yes to generosity.”

222 “But man is also a no. No to scorn of man. No to degradation of man. No to exploitation of man. No to the butchery of what is most human in man: freedom.”

222 “To educate man is to be actional, preserving in all his relations his respect for the basic values that constitute a human world, is the prime task of him who, having thought, prepares to act.

Chp 8 By Way of Conclusion

224 “I do not carry innocence to the point of believing that appeals to reason or to respect for human dignity can alter reality. For the Negro who works on a sugar plantation in Le Robert, there is only solution: to fight. He will embark on this struggle, and he will pursue it, not as the result of a Marxist or idealistic analysis but quite simply because he cannot conceive of life otherwise than in the form of a battle against exploitation, misery, and hunger.”

225 “The discovery of the existence of a Negro civilization int he fifteen century confer no patent of humanity on me. Like it or not, the past can in no way guide my in the present moment.”

225 “The negro, however sincere, is the slave of the past.”

226 “The problem considered here is one of time. Those Negroes and white men will be desalinated who refuse to let themselves be sealed away in the materialized Tower of Past.”

226 “In no way should I derive my basic purpose from the past of the peoples of color. / In no way should I dedicate myself to the revival of an unjustly unrecognized Negro civilization. I will not make myself the man of any past. I do not want to exalt the past at the expense of my present and of my future.”

226 “It is not because the Indo-Chinese has discovered a culture of his own that he is in revolt. It is because ‘quite simply’ it was, in more than one way, becoming impossible for him to breathe.”

228 “As a man, I undertake to face the possibility of annihilation in order that two or three truths may cast their eternal brilliance over the world.” … ends with extended discussion of existentialism


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