The Wretched of The Earth

The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damn├ęs de la Terre) is Frantz Fanon's most famous work, written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule and first published in 1961. As a psychiatrist, Fanon explored the psychological effect of colonization on the psyche of a nation as well as its broader implications for building a movement for decolonization. The original title of the book is an allusion to the opening words of The Internationale.

A controversial introduction to the text by Jean-Paul Sartre presents the thesis as an advocacy of violence (which Sartre had also examined in his voluminous Critique of Dialectical Reason). This focus derives from the book's opening chapter 'Concerning Violence' which is a caustic indictment of colonialism and its legacy. It discusses violence as a means of liberation and a catharsis to subjugation. Homi K. Bhabha argues that Sartre's opening comments have led to a limited approach to the text that focuses on the promotion of violence.

Further reading reveals a thorough critique of nationalism and imperialism which also develops to cover areas such as mental health and the role of intellectuals in revolutionary situations. Fanon goes into great detail explaining that revolutionary groups should look to the lumpenproletariat for the force needed to expel colonists. The lumpenproletariat in traditional Marxist theories are considered the lowest, most degraded stratum of the proletariat, especially criminals, vagrants, and the unemployed, who lacked class consciousness. Fanon uses the term to refer to those inhabitants of colonized countries who are not involved in industrial production, particularly peasants living outside the cities. He argues that only this group, unlike the industrial proletariat, has sufficient independence from the colonists to successfully make a revolution against them.

Also important is Fanon's view of the role of language and how it molds the position of "natives", or those victimized by colonization. Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth has become a handbook for political leaders faced with decolonization. There are two English translations in publication.

Grove Press, an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc., is the US Publisher of The Wretched of the Earth.

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