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

Fanon and DuBoisian Double Consciousness

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

Fanon and DuBoisian Double Consciousness

Article excerpt

There is a connection between Frantz Fanon's work and W.E.B. DuBois' concept of double consciousness. DuBois first defined double consciousness in 1903, and although the concept is familiar within African American Studies it has not been elaborated upon thoroughly. Fanon's work shows that double consciousness is also a condition of colonized people. This connection demonstrates that the positions of African Americans, and people of color in general, are in at least one way similar to the positions of colonized people. Americans do not think our country practices colonialism, but the common experience of double consciousness among oppressed peoples illuminates the common position of whiteness, and white people, as that of oppressor both in the U.S. and abroad, now and in the past. Also, the double consciousness link strengthens the claim that African Americans are colonized within their own country.

The connection between double consciousness in the U.S. and in colonialism has not been explored. DuBois spent a lot of his life fighting colonialism in Africa through his writings and the Pan African Conferences, but he never connected his observation of double consciousness in the U.S. with double consciousness in the rest of the world. Fanon was familiar with some African American writers, but he did not recognize the common issue of double consciousness. A recent article in the Journal of Black Studies, by T. Owens Moore (2005), entitled, "A Fanonian Perspective on Double Consciousness," argues against the concept of double consciousness and misses how tightly Fanon and DuBois can be connected. However, double consciousness connects DuBois and Fanon and relates racism in the U.S. to colonialism historically.

DuBois describes double consciousness as follows:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world--a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a particular sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder (DuBois, 1965, p. 215).

DuBois explains that African Americans are forced to view themselves from, and as, the negative perspectives of the outside society. Having two antagonistic identities means that a lot of time and energy is spent negotiating and enduring the conflicts between who one is as a person and how one struggles to live with the misrepresentations of the outside world. Having one's own sense of self and also having imposed contempt for an ascribed self, having twoness, is what DuBois calls double consciousness. The true self consciousness prevented by this condition may be a merging of two positive identities (black and American) without the harmful ascription, contempt and negation from the outside world. DuBois (1965) writes,

   The history of the American Negro
   is the history of this strife--this
   longing to attain self-conscious
   manhood, to merge his double self
   into a better and truer self. In this
   merging he wishes neither of the
   older selves to be lost. He would
   not Africanize America... He
   would not bleach his Negro
   soul.. .He simply wishes to make it
   possible for a man to be both a Negro
   and an American, without being
   cursed and spit upon by his
   fellow, without having the doors of
   Opportunity closed roughly in his
   face.

      This, then, is the end of his
   striving; to be a co-worker in the
   kingdom of culture... (p. … 
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