Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics

Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics

An analysis of Frantz Fanon's psychiatric writings by Nigel C. Gibson and Roberto Beneduce.

The revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon was a foundational figure in postcolonial and decolonial thought and practice, yet his psychiatric work still has only been studied peripherally. That is in part because most of his psychiatric writings have remained untranslated. With a focus on Fanon’s key psychiatry texts, Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics considers Fanon’s psychiatric writings as materials anticipating as well as accompanying Fanon’s better known works, written between 1952 and 1961 (Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution, The Wretched of the Earth). Both clinical and political, they draw on another notion of psychiatry that intersects history, ethnology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The authors argue that Fanon’s work inaugurates a critical ethnopsychiatry based on a new concept of culture (anchored to historical events, particular situations, and lived experience) and on the relationship between the psychological and the cultural. Thus, Gibson and Beneduce contend that Fanon’s psychiatric writings also express Fanon’s wish, as he puts it in The Wretched of the Earth, to “develop a new way of thinking, not only for us but for humanity.”

The historical nuance and meticulous analysis make Gibson and Beneduce’s Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics more than a work on Fanon’s psychiatric thought. It’s a political history of psychiatry both as a colonial and anti-colonial practice. The former is its unfolding under colonial conditions. The latter is the fact of agency among psychiatrists and psychologists from below … It’s a marvelous work (in its own right) of political psychology and even better: it addresses the lacunae in other works–namely, their failure to address colonization, race, and sexuality.
—Lewis R. Gordon,

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