Frantz Fanon and the Future of Cultural Politics: Finding Something Different

By Azeb, Sophia | Arab Studies Journal, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

Frantz Fanon and the Future of Cultural Politics: Finding Something Different


Azeb, Sophia, Arab Studies Journal


FRANTZ FANON AND THE FUTURE OF CULTURAL POLITICS: FINDING SOMETHING DIFFERENT Anthony C. Alessandrini Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014 (x + 293 pages, bibliography, index) $105.00 (cloth) $49.99 (paper and e-book)

Reviewed by Sophia Azeb

Anthony Alessandrini's Frantz Fanon and the Future of Cultural Politics is a robust contribution to the most recent wave of scholarship on the late Martiniquais-cum-Algerian psychiatrist, theorist, and revolutionary. Alessandrini positions his book as part of a larger collective project "to attempt to return to Fanon's work with a new set of eyes, to truly come to terms with the specificity and singularity of his writings, in order to better bring him into the present as our contemporary" (15). Acknowledging the importance of specificity in dealing with a figure of such transnational and interdisciplinary importance and appeal, Alessandrini cautions that calls for specificity in prior works on Fanon are often made authoritatively, "as a way to end, rather than begin conversations" (190). What Alessandrini proposes instead is a more generous study of the complexity that Fanon's "unsparingly revolutionary" singularity inspires: an attention to the "movement, metamorphosis, and multiplicity" that make Fanon and his life's work relevant to many and disparate movements toward liberation (15, 191). The resultant project is thus grounded in a critical theory and cultural studies that employs the methodologies of Fanonism-Fanon's theoretical frameworks and the multifaceted political and cultural work his ideas influenced-to rethink Fanon within and across conceptions of postcolonialism, humanism, and practices of solidarity.

Frantz Fanon and the Future of Cultural Politics begins with a "prognosis," in a nod to Fanon's vocation as a psychiatrist, to read Fanon "antipiously" (18). An anti-pious encounter with Fanon acknowledges various appropriations and misappropriations of Fanon as generative in their own right. Responding to Cedric Robinson's widely read (and rather polemic) essay, "The Appropriation of Frantz Fanon," Alessandrini draws upon Stuart Hall's concept of the "after-life" of Fanon to suggest that "not every appropriation is a misappropriation" (Hall, qtd. 22). In order to illustrate the utility of embracing such appropriations, Alessandrini lays out a reading strategy of engaging Fanon as a contemporary by first recognizing his lived experiences and contexts. Rather than superimposing Fanon onto their present circumstances, this practice encourages scholars and activists to "see the present as it actually is," and enables "active engagement with the theory, in order to test its applicability to the present" (7). The book's introduction highlights that within such debates on Fanon and Fanonism, thinkers such as Henry Louis Gates Jr., Homi Bhabha, and bell hooks, in spite of their disagreements on how to read and employ Fanon's theories, together discursively construct a "Fanon Studies" that reads him into relation with contemporary politics and culture so as to aid us in envisioning a new and different future (15). Alessandrini thus argues that such tactical intellectual negotiations with Fanon must also be read differently, depending on various interlocutors' own specific contexts, so as not to dismiss postcolonial and poststructuralist (and perhaps even hagiographic) interlocutors of Fanon out of hand. Reading Fanon anti-piously brings to bear aspects of Fanon's life and work upon the very contemporary questions that those who have written on Fanon seek to answer.

This exploration of Fanon's relevance to our current moment and as inspiration for an entirely different future is structured through the bulk of the book as a set of mediated conversations with Edward Said, Michel Foucault, Jamaica Kincaid, and Paul Gilroy. Alessandrini's choice of interlocutors is tactical, and these real and imagined dialogues, each comprising its own chapter, illustrate connections and divergences across the scope of their writings. …

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