The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth Study Guide

The Wretched of the Earth is Frantz Fanon’s seminal 1961 book, originally published in French, about the effects of colonization on the minds of the colonized, and the efforts by the colonized to overthrow the colonizers. It draws from Fanon’s own experience as a Black man living in Algeria and witnessing the brutal war for independence from France in the 1950s. The book both narrates these experiences and theorizes them in a larger context of racial and national oppression.

The book was very much of its time. In a wave of decolonization following World War II, a number of public intellectuals were discussing how colonized people would create new nations after independence. At the same time, the horrors of colonization were still coming to light, and it was important to discuss how the inherent violence of colonialism impacted the psychological makeup of the colonized. Fanon contributed to all these lines of thought. As a Black man, as a witness of war, and as a psychiatrist, he weaved together philosophy, journalism, and psychoanalysis to describe the colonial and postcolonial situation.

The book is also very much of our own time. It is a classic text in postcolonial theory, and it is still much debated and discussed by scholars of race, nation, and global capitalism. On the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication, the influential academic journal Theory, Culture, and Society published a special symposium on the book. Political philosophers and psychoanalysts alike contributed to the symposium, suggesting the impact Fanon has had in multiple fields and many different schools of thought.