Каминяр Дмитрий Генаддьевич: другие произведения.

Osundare's Essay and Fannon's Book

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   4 January 2010
   Dmitri Kaminiar
   Student #995059083

Osundare's essay and Fanon's book

   The goal of this essay is to decide if the more recent essay of Osundare is necessary or even important to better understand and analyze Fanon's book from a post-colonial and poststructuralist point view. This essay demonstrates that Fanon's book does not need Osundare's essay, for it is understandable enough from a post-colonial point of view and is not related at all to the post-structuralism.
   In 1952, Frantz Fanon wrote a book titled Black Skin, White Masks that talked about the post-colonial world in the middle of the 20th century. Being initially a psychiatrist by profession, though his take on it was somewhat unusual, yet his writing style was terse enough to explain his point almost straight away:
   The analysis we are undertaking is psychological. It remains, nevertheless, evident that for us the true disalienation of the black man implies a brutal awareness of the social and economic realities. The inferiority complex can be ascribed to a double process:
   First, economic.
   Then, internalization or rather epidermalization of this inferiority.
   (Black Skin, White Masks, pg. xiv-xv)
   The quotation above demonstrates Fanon's literary situation quite succinctly: aside from an occasional exotic word, not found in a layman's dictionary (i.e. `epidermalization' in this case), Fanon's message is delivered in a concise, yet easily understood language despite it being written more than fifty years ago.
   Moreover, his message seems to have remained constant throughout the decades, as the following quotes can illustrate:
   The black man who has lived in France for a certain time returns home radically transformed. Genetically speaking, his phenotype undergoes an absolute, definitive mutation. Even before he leaves one senses from his almost aerial way of walking that new forces have been set in motion.
   (Black Skin, White Masks, pg. 3-4)
   The first of these burdens concerns the politics of the genealogy of the term "post-colonial". Like many other phrases and concepts which define the African reality, this terminology owes its origination to foreign Adams. It is yet another instance of a "name" invented for the African experience from outside, a name which finds little or no acceptance among its African objects. It is undoubtedly this conflict between the African reality and the exogenist determination and representation...
   (How Post-Colonial is African Literature?, pg. 205-206)
   The first quotation also belongs to Fanon, while the second belongs to an essay written by Niyi Osundare in 2002, exactly half a century later than Fanon's book, and it talks about our post-colonial worlds as well... and that raises a question: can this more modern work be used to better understand and critique Fanon's book?
   First, there is a strong possibility that Fanon's book does not require understanding that is more up-to-date: his main point, that this is still a largely colonial - not post-colonial - world. It was an opinion held by both the former colonizers (though not so former in Fanon's opinion) and the former colonized; that, in fact, is the main point of the entire Black Skin, White Masks book.
   However, can Osundare's essay help the audience to better understand this? Maybe not, for Osundare wrote primarily about Africa, while Fanon wrote about his native island of Martinique. That, however, is not the primary point - despite the similarities of the two works, there is at least one important difference: Osundare wrote primarily about post-colonial African literature with the rest of the post-colonial effects and situations being secondary, while Fanon used various literary sources as merely additional sources to his book, especially in chapters 2 to 4. Despite the fifty year gap between the two works, they can be read in either order, as the connection of Osundare's essay to Fanon's book is so remote that one does not need to read it to understand Black Skin White Masks any better.
   Moreover, a similar thing can be said about using Osundare to better critique Fanon's work. As it was already mentioned, Osundare's topic may be similar to Fanon's, but it is still different: he is more focused on post-colonial literature in particular, such as an anthology centered around Joseph Conrad's short novel Heart of Darkness, as this quote can demonstrate:
   Instead of a set of new, vigorous perspectives, what hit my eye were the same old critical shibboleths in tinsel poststructuralist phraseology: the Chinese-box narrative structure; the dangerously thin divide between civilization (Europe) and barbarism (Africa); the ordeal of the civilized European mind when thrown into the heart of African darkness; and one or two suppressed murmurs about Conrad's view of imperialism.
   (How Post-Colonial is African Literature?, pg. 210)
   This quote, on at least some level, contains some of the main points of Osundare's essay, that the post-colonial literature related to Africa is still colonial and probably imperialistic. That is all very true and it relates to Fanon who also discusses post-colonial works by various authors, but there are differences. For example, chapter four of Fanon's book, "The So-Called Dependency Complex of the Colonized" is concerned about criticism of another book:
   In the fourth chapter, I make a critical study of a book that I consider dangerous. Moreover, the author, O. Mannoni, is aware of the ambiguity of his position. (...) We are entitled to be dissatisfied with it. It is our duty to convey to the author the instances in which we disagree with him.
   (Black Skin, White Masks, pg. xvii)
   To put it otherwise, in his introduction Fanon is implying that he is going to make a digression in his overall discussion; he knows that his topic is not about literature, and he is talking about Mannoni's book as a secondary subject. It is not so with Osundare - his essay is essentially about post-colonial and poststructuralist literature, something that Fanon's book is not.
   Finally, in regards to post-structuralism, it should be noted that Fanon does not appear to be involved with it - as it was said earlier, he is not interested in literature and its aspects such as post-structuralism - another difference from Osundare who made literature, especially post-colonial and poststructuralist literature, the main goal of his essay...
   This essay was set to discuss if Fanon's book Black Skin White Masks needed Osundare's essay to be better understood or even critiqued. Hopefully, this essay had showed that it did not.
   Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press, 2008.
   Osundare, Niyi. "How Post-Colonial is African Literature?". Postcolonial and Transnational Discourses. Print City, 2010.
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