The Wretched of the Earth

The Wretched of the Earth Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Describe what Manichaeism means in a colonial context.

    Manichaeism is a dualistic worldview. In the colonial context, it divides the world into just two classes of people: the colonized and the colonist. To the colonist, the colonized are black and evil whereas the colonist is white and good. The revolutionary opponent of colonialism flips this opposition: to him, the colonized is virtuous, and the colonist is evil and must be overthrown.

  2. 2

    What is the role of violence in colonialism?

    Violence is the original means by which the colonist subjugates the colonized. Through violence, it teaches the colonized that they are powerless. But when the colonized begin to use violence against the colonial powers, they unlearn their submissiveness. Through violence, they develop a new post-colonial consciousness.

  3. 3

    What is the role of the “popular leader” after independence?

    The popular leader is a charismatic figure, usually a veteran of the anticolonial violence. His charisma and stories of war impress the rural masses. As a result, the national bourgeoisie, who are elites based in cities, turn to the popular leader in order to gain the consent of the rural masses. But unfortunately, this leads the nation in an authoritarian or dictatorial direction, similar to how things were under colonialism.

  4. 4

    What does Fanon mean when he says “the infrastructure is also a superstructure” in colonialism?

    In Marxism, the infrastructure is the economy and the superstructure is the sphere of culture and society. The infrastructure is supposed to determine the superstructure, which means that social inequalities are determined by economic realities. Fanon says that is not true in colonialism. In colonialism, racial inequality creates economic inequality. The infrastructure (economy) does not determine the superstructure (racial inequality): rather, they are one and the same. Economic equality is maintained through racial inequality.

  5. 5

    What, according to Fanon, is wrong with the “racialization” of culture?

    The racialization of culture means turning all of culture into matters of race. The colonized intellectual, in reaction to the denigration of African culture by the Europeans, racializes culture in order to assert the legitimacy of culture across Africa. But this means fighting a cultural battle on the colonist’s terms. Instead of lumping everything into a category based on race, ignoring national and ethnic differences, Fanon argues for a national culture that is about a people asserting their own nationhood, rather than race.

  6. 6

    What is the national bourgeoisie and why does Fanon think it is “useless”?

    The national bourgeoisie are those who are in charge of the economy after independence, when the colonists are no longer in power. They are the African elite in a given nation. But they are “useless” because they end up re-creating the same colonial conditions of exploitation. They are mere “intermediaries” that sell the resources of the country back to Europe. Instead, Fanon calls for a new direction in nationhood that is truly democratic.

  7. 7

    Who are the lumpenproletariat?

    In the colonial context, according to Fanon, the lumpenproletariat are the members of the rural masses who have been left out of colonial privilege and education. Unlike the colonized intellectuals, they have no sympathies for colonial culture or ideology. As a result, they are free to lead the movement against colonialism.

  8. 8

    What aspect of colonialism does Fanon focus on in the final chapter of The Wretched of the Earth, and where does he get his information?

    Fanon focuses on the psychological dimension of colonialism, in particular how colonialism produces psychiatric disorders. This aspect of colonialism is often overlooked, because people focus on the economic and physical brutality of colonialism instead of the mental and psychological toll as well. Fanon draws upon his own experience as a psychiatrist in Algeria in the 1950s, and most of this chapter summarizes case studies he has witnessed.

  9. 9

    Describe how decolonization fits into a larger global capitalist picture.

    First of all, capitalism helps the decolonization effort because it needs the colonized to be consumers who are a part of the global market. That means that pure slavery is bad for capitalism. In turn, Fanon thinks that capitalist powers should actually invest in decolonizing countries. The Cold War, in which capitalism fights communism, is a distraction from the more important task of helping post-colonial nations develop.

  10. 10

    What is the relation Fanon describes between culture and combat?

    For Fanon, culture and combat must be intimately connected. Culture should be produced by and through the fight against colonization. It does not precede combat, but absorbs the rhythms of combat into itself. In turn, intellectuals need to be on the front lines of the fight along with the revolutionaries. That is where culture is made.