Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Frantz Fanons Theory of Racialization Implications for Globalization

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Frantz Fanons Theory of Racialization Implications for Globalization

Article excerpt


In the foreword to Frantz Fanon's key text, The Wretched of the Earth (2004 [1961]), Homi Bhabha states that Fanon's work provides the conceptual tools necessary for critiquing contemporary processes of globalization. Bhabha states that while Fanon's scholarship draws from localized experiences under European colonization, it is able to transcend these historically situated immediacies. (1) This transcendent, timeless quality of Fanon's work is partly attributed to the "racial optic" (xiii) through which Fanon analyzes the colonial condition. Consequently, argues Bhabha, Fanon's work can serve as a blueprint for conceptualizing the social inequalities that are proliferating under (corporate and national) global aspirations and impositions of the 21st Century.

Over the past decade, several contemporary social theories of globalization have emerged from diverse disciplinary locations (Roberston 2001), many of which grapple with the restructuring of such social inequalities. While these theories are broad in scope, several themes have emerged from this body of literature. The role of the nation-state in processes of global formations (Appadurai 1996, Bauman 1998, Huntington 1996, Hardt and Negri 2000, Robertson 2001, Sklair 2002) and the nature of the relationship between global and local economies and cultures (Appadurai 1996, Bryman 2003, Caldwell 2004, Kellner 2002, Pieterse 2004, Ritzer 2004a and 2004b, Robertson 1995, Rosenau 2003, Tomlinson 1999, Turner 2003, Urry 2003) (2) are two major themes centered in these academic debates. Despite a wide range of perspectives, underlying these debates is the shared assumption that globalization is fundamentally determined by the economic aspirations of global and national institutions (transnational corporations, nation-states, NGOs, etc.). Consequently, the canonical works of this relatively nascent interdisciplinary field of study fail to investigate how race and racism constitute organizing principles of globalization processes. This systematic omission of the racialization of economic and socio-political processes places serious limitations on globalization theory's ability to remain critical and to foster human emancipation in the 21st Century. If globalization theories coopt the "post-race" assumptions of the status quo, they risk reproducing color-blind ideologies, that is, the notion that race no longer matters and that racism is not structural but merely a problem of a few individuals (Bonilla-Silva 2003).

This article seeks to contest the absence of the "racial optic" in this body of knowledge by investigating more closely the questions raised by Bhabha, questions that have remained largely unexplored despite their timely relevance. Fanon's work is engaged as a site for re-theorizing globalization through an intersectional, multidimensional lens. Placing Fanon's work in conversation with theories of globalization is a means not only for creating new representations of the social world but also for contesting the myth of color-blindness and the status quo with which it colludes.

Thus, below, I undergo a close reading of two of Fanon's key texts, The Wretched of the Earth (2004[1961]) and Black Skin, White Masks (1967) to more closely explore his treatment of race as it intersects with the economies of colonies. I am particularly interested in how Fanon's racial theory might be utilized for understanding processes of global flows and frictions in more critical ways. In a historical moment in which colorblind racism is pervasive (Bonilla-Silva 2003, Brown et. al. 2003, Goldberg 2002, Guinier and Torres 2002, Winant 2001) and its consequences materially and psychologically harmful, I feel this is an important theoretical project. I conclude by suggesting that theories of globalization must include processes of racialization in order to be transformative and emancipatory.

In this essay, I use as a starting point Bhabha's unexplored insight, that Fanon's "racial optic" (xiii) constitutes a major contribution to globalization studies. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.