The incarceration of the ill of Joinville was accompanied with a brutality that raised the question of how punishment could exist so freely without crime. Frantz Fanon arrived in Joinville in with a rare display of sartorial elegance, monogrammed handkerchiefs ready to wipe his brow, and progressive notions of mental illness. He was black, from Martinique, and a recently graduated psychiatrist who had not yet turned Already during the introductory tour of Blida-Joinville Fanon criticized the wide array of repressive measures wielded at the hapless patients.
The new colleagues observed him with curiosity. What mattered more than his history and style of radical engagement was that he was a newcomer, green, for all intents and purposes a Frankaoui a term with locally flavored Arab ending used by the Franco-Algerians to describe their kin from the mainland in foreign waters.
His enthusiasm would soon succumb to the blistering sun and the reality on the ground.
A number of collective activities were organized. Religious holidays were celebrated, workshops started and cultural events offered. There were also meetings with doctors, nurses and patients in which all were allowed to raise their concerns. The turn from repression and isolation to social engagement, to the irritation of his upstaged colleagues, soon proved to have been a success. Already after one month a large and elaborate Christmas celebration took place with staff and patients.
The subsequent move to repeat the experiment with the native men under his charge proved more difficult, as Alice Cherki chronicled in her Fanon biography from in English translation Fanon spoke neither Arabic nor Kabyle and had to resort to an interpreter when explaining his project to the interns who remained impassive as the activities got underway. The detractors among his colleagues saw it as a clear case of not understanding an inherent backwardness of the Muslim mind. Fanon soon realized the problem: he had insensitively implemented a Western program on a society whose difference he did not grasp.
The Muslim men had interpreted the experiment as a call to live up to a western model of behavior by the dominant power and preferred, Bartleby-style, not to participate. Fanon concluded that there was nothing atavistic in this reaction; it was a sign of resistance.
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As Fanon continued his explorations at Blida-Joinville the surrounding society was thrown into turmoil by the nascent war of Algerian independence. The fallout soon reached the institution. More and more of the patients became those having suffered torture at the hand of the French authorities, neatly mirrored by an influx of torturers who had suffered as a consequence of their trade. Fanon began working with the clandestine opposition to colonial rule and eventually quit his post at Joinville in , two years into the bloody war.
His world was drastically changing and these, often violent, upheavals would have far-reaching political and intellectual consequences. Political maps were entirely redrawn. The 19th-century scramble for colonizing the Global South had reached such frantic levels that by more than 90 percent of Africa, 56 percent of Asia and 99 percent of the Pacific was under colonial rule. By the late s formal territorial colonialism was practically over, mostly thanks to wars of liberation like the one in Algeria. The human cost of both colonialism and its dissolution begs belief.
In one of the most infamous cases, the Belgian Congo, between 10 and 13 millions Africans died. Today the poverty of the Global South remains as the deep scars in the landscape through which the disaster traveled. The work of understanding colonialism and the process of decolonization that Fanon had been so instrumental in developing would take an unexpected turn when Edward Said published Orientalism in It appeared as a highly specialized discussion apt to only interest the experts in the field. The colonial reality of the majority of the world would in earnest become part of the discussions of Western academia, thanks to pioneers such as Said who had studied and challenged the previously reigning stereotypes of the colonized mind.
A returning question became: who was it that had been denied a voice and had only been spoken for? The vague and empathic posture that had characterized the Third-Worldism of the s and s was replaced by seemingly more refined theoretical tools that also helped uncover continuing colonialism in a way of thinking: the Western essentialising of natives, which could be as present in the metropole as among the Western educated postcolonial elites themselves. Formal independence had not been enough to free either the west or the former colonies from a legacy that showed a remarkable resilience and still shaped the relationship between north and south.
According to Vivek Chibber, it was around this time, the early s, that everything started going wrong.
For example, in Colonial Latin America , the subordinated natives conformed to the colonial culture, and used the linguistic filters of religion and servitude when addressing their Spanish imperial rulers. To make effective appeals to the Spanish Crown, slaves and natives would address the rulers in ways that masked their own, native ways of speaking.
The historian Fernando Coronil said that his goal as an investigator must be "to listen to the subaltern subjects, and to interpret what I hear, and to engage them and interact with their voices. We cannot ascend to a position of dominance over the voice, subjugating its words to the meanings we desire to attribute to them. That is simply another form of discrimination. The power to narrate somebody's story is a heavy task, and we must be cautious and aware of the complications involved.
That in order to truly communicate with the subaltern native, the academic would have to remove him or herself as "the expert" at the center of the Us-and-Them binary social relation. Traditionally, the academic wants to learn of the subaltern native's experiences of colonialism, but does not want to know the subaltern's own explanation of his or her experiences of colonial domination.
Subaltern Studies: Historical World-making Thirty Years On | Humanities Research Centre
In light of the mechanics of Western knowledge, hooks said that a true explanation can come only from the expertise of the Western academic, thus, the subaltern native surrenders knowledge of colonialism to the investigating academic. About the binary relationship of investigation, between the academic and the subaltern native, hooks said that:. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way.
Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still [the] colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk. As a means of constructing a great history of society, the story of the subaltern native is a revealing examination of the experience of colonialism from the perspective of the subaltern man and the subaltern woman, the most powerless people living within the socio-economic confines of imperialism; therefore, the academic investigator of post-colonialism must not assume cultural superiority when studying the voices of the subaltern natives.
Mainstream development discourse, which is based upon knowledge of colonialism and Orientalism , concentrates upon modernization theory , wherein the modernization of an underdeveloped country should follow the path to modernization taken and established by the developed countries of the West. As such, modernization is characterized by free trade, open markets, capitalist economic systems, and democratic systems of governance, as the means by which a nation should modernize their country en route to becoming a developed country in the Western style.
Therefore, mainstream development discourse concentrates upon the application of universal social and political, economic and cultural policies that would nationally establish such modernization. In Making Development Geography , Victoria Lawson presents a critique of mainstream development discourse as mere recreation of the Subaltern, which is effected by means of the subaltern being disengaged from other social scales, such as the locale and the community; not considering regional, social class, ethnic group, sexual- and gender-class differences among the peoples and countries being modernized; the continuation of the socio-cultural treatment of the subaltern as a subject of development, as a subordinate who is ignorant of what to do and how to do it; and by excluding the voices of the subject peoples from the formulations of policy and practice used to effect the modernization.
As such, the subaltern are peoples who have been silenced in the administration of the colonial states they constitute, they can be heard by means of their political actions, effected in protest against the discourse of mainstream development, and, thereby, create their own, proper forms of modernization and development. Hence do subaltern social groups create social, political, and cultural movements that contest and disassemble the exclusive claims to power of the Western imperialist powers, and so establish the use and application of local knowledge to create new spaces of opposition and alternative, non-imperialist futures.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Delhi: Permanent Black, Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, Malden, MA: Polity, pp. New York: International Publishers, pp. Columbia, SC: Camden House, pp. Iain Chambers, Lidia Curti, eds. Request a desk or exam copy. Table of Contents Back to Top. Subject Positions: Dominant and Subaltern Intellectuals?
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