The Desire of Knowledge
or, The Body in Excess
Lewis Nkosi's Play "The Black Psychiatrist"
everything in our age apparently leads back to the Trier on the Moselle or
to Zurich and Vienna, to the Interpretation of Dreams and The
Communist Manifesto. (Lewis Nkosi, Mating Birds)
WHO OR WHAT AM I? becomes a question of being and knowing, a question of desire. So it was for Fanon."1 Fanon, arguably one of the most prominent black psychiatrists of the twentieth century, repeatedly connects cognitive desire with the body in excess: "I thought that what I had in hand was to construct a physiological self, to balance space, to localise sensations, and here I was called on for more."2 The "more" is an excess – more precisely, an excessive – presence of the body that surpasses the body-ego.3 Lewis Nkosi's one-act play "The Black Psychiatrist," I maintain, perfectly amalgamates the notion of the body in excess with the desire for being and knowing, for identity. Involved in this quest for a shared past are the excessive body of a patient, Gloria Gresham, and the
1 Teresa De Lauretis, "Frantz Fanon, Lived Experience and the Body in Excess,"
Crossover: Cultural Hybridity and Ethnicity, Gender, Ethics, ed. Therese Steffen
(Tübingen: Stauffenburg, 2000): 194.
2 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, tr. Charles Lam Markmann (Peau noire,
masques blancs, 1952; tr. 1967; London: Pluto, 1986): 111 (my emphasis).
3 Chapter Five, "The Fact of Blackness," in Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White
Masks, deals extensively with the black body, objecthood and the search for identity
beyond the colour bar.