Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Black Women and Literature: Revisiting Frantz Fanon's Gender Politics

Marie-Chantal Kalisa, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Document Type Article

Published in The Literary Griot, 14:1&2 (Spring/Fall 2002), pp. 1-22. Copyright © 2002 Marie-Chantal Kalisa.


Over the last few years, there has been an ongoing debate on post-colonial conditions. Discussions center around issues related to continuous colonial states in "subaltern" areas such as the Third World in its geographical and ideological senses. These issues, which immensely influence current discourse on race relations, have dealt mainly with the formation of racial identities as a production of colonial power. However, gender continues to be a problematic question within the production of post-colonial discourse. The goal of this essay is to continue the debate over the significance of gender politics produced by colonized male writers by closely examining Frantz Fanon's texts in the light of current post-colonial climate. I attempt to answer the following fundamental questions: What position does Fanon allocate the colonized woman in the decolonizing mission? How does the ambiguous nature of his analyses affect our understanding of the relationship between post-colonialism and feminism?

There is no doubt that Frantz Fanon's writings are by far the most influential source in the production of today's post-colonial criticism. Critics consistently use Fanon as a basis for discussion on colonizer-colonized relationships and apply his theory to current colonial states. In his article, "Critical Fanonism," Henry Louis Gates Jr. discusses the re-appropriation of Fanon as a "figure of both totem and text." Fanon is what Gates calls "a global theorist," a "collectivized individual," "a composite figure," or "an ethnographic construct," someone who symbolically has come to represent Third World Theory. The postcolonial critic Homi Bhabha has provided a reading of Fanon considered by some critics to be the most elaborated in post-structuralism (Gates 459). The most famous eulogistic essay on Fanon is, undoubtedly, Bhabha's "Remembering Fanon." The critic defines Fanon's work as follows: "He [Fanon] may yearn for the total transformation of Man and Society, but he speaks most effectively from the uncertain interstices of historical change: from the area of ambivalence between race and sexuality." (113)

For the purpose of this study, I ask the following question: what and whose sexuality? Does this affirmation include or exclude the sexuality of colonized women?