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Situating ExistentialismKey Texts in Context$

Robert Bernasconi and Jonathan Judaken

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231147750

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231147750.001.0001

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Situating Frantz Fanon’s Account of Black Experience

Situating Frantz Fanon’s Account of Black Experience

(p.336) 12 Situating Frantz Fanon’s Account of Black Experience
Situating Existentialism

Robert Bernasconi

Columbia University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines Frantz Fanon’s existential phenomenological analysis of racism as a system. In 1952, Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, which became the defining text of what today is called the critical philosophy of race. Black Skin, White Masks is an original work of philosophy in its own right that moves beyond the responses to racism provided by the previous generation of black authors, which included Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor. The chapter explores what moves Fanon’s existentialism from the realm of personal testimony to a philosophy with strong political implications, as well as his engagement with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre. It also traces the evolution of Fanon’s writing on race with his first published work, “The Lived Experience of the Black,” together with his effort to formulate a response to the impasses of his earlier position and to racism more generally. Fanon’s seminal insight was to see racism interweaved with its institutionalized forms in colonialism, which meant that racism could be overcome only through a violent revolt against that system of oppression. In this, Fanon and Sartre walked parallel roads to freedom.

Keywords:   racism, Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, critical philosophy of race, Aimé Césaire, Léopold Sédar Senghor, existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre, colonialism

In 1952, when Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks was published, a new era was already beginning in the discussion of race.1 For the first time in more than 150 years, the dominant discourse about race was no longer under the dark shadow of racial science. It was now governed by a growing recognition of the evils of racism. One sees this most notably in the UNESCO declaration on race, which was authored primarily by Ashley Montagu yet with the signatures of other anthropologists (most notably Claude Lévi-Strauss and E. Franklin Frazier) attached. Together they called for “an ethic of universal brotherhood.”2 Initially, the political consensus in the West against racism arose more in response to Nazi racial policy than to colonialism or to segregation and apartheid. By contrast, the Holocaust was invisible—with the exception of one outrageously dismissive comment—in Fanon’s book, which must be seen against the background of Aimé Césaire’s powerful indictment of the West in Discourse on Colonialism.3

Black Skin, White Masks is the defining text of what today is called the Critical Philosophy of Race. Indeed, existential philosophy is arguably (p.337) nowhere more alive than in the Africana existential philosophy that is evident in such thinkers as Lewis Gordon, Paget Henry, Donna-Dale Marcano, and Kathryn Gines, among others.4 What gives Black Skin, White Masks its iconic status is that it is much more than the application of existentialist philosophy to the study of antiblack racism. It is an original work of philosophy in its own right that moves beyond the responses to racism provided by the previous generation of black authors, which included Aimé as well as Suzanne Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor. This becomes more apparent the further we move beyond Fanon’s account of his experience and focus instead on what he sought to demonstrate on its basis. This shift—and what makes it legitimate—is the focus of this chapter, which explains what moves Fanon’s existentialism from the realm of personal testimony to a philosophy with strong political implications.

The Problem of Generating an Existentialist Political Philosophy

Fanon was trained in medicine. He knew that it was important to diagnose a problem, but having done so, he was not satisfied with addressing merely the symptoms. Rather, his focus was on a cure in the sense of a long-term solution. This led him to look beyond the immediate situation in which he found himself to the structures that governed that situation. He located the main source of the racism he encountered in colonialism. But it was not just his drive to create a world free of colonialism that explains why he has such a prominent place within postcolonial studies. It was also his understanding of how colonialism is much more than a system of government; it is a psychological condition and an economic system, some features of which survived the end of colonialism as a political system. In this chapter I seek to demonstrate how Fanon recognized in Sartre’s early existential philosophy of the late 1940s the resources for this task, resources that could also be turned against Sartre himself. In this way Fanon anticipated developments that Sartre independently introduced into his mature dialectical philosophy that culminated in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, leading to the remarkable convergence between these two thinkers and Fanon’s request that Sartre write a Preface to The Wretched of the Earth.5

The question is inevitably raised of how Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, written for such a different time and situation, could have the relevance that contemporary theorists still attribute to it. Part of the answer to that question (p.338) lies in the sheer power of Fanon’s language as he describes the difficulties he faced navigating amid French antiblack racism. But because Fanon thematized the problem of “speaking from experience” to those whose experiences are very different, he anticipated the need also for a theoretical explanation of how an existentialist philosophy could continue to speak beyond its original context: it is the problem of how a philosophy that defines the human being in terms of its concrete situation can transcend the particularity of any given situation and thereby speak in general terms to a broad audience.

This is not a problem we impose on Fanon but rather one that he himself introduced at the start of the book. He announced the problem near the end of the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks by apparently conceding everything to those who might want to challenge the relevance of his account to anyone from a different place or time. With disarming directness he indicated that his observations and conclusions were valid only for the Antilles.6 In fact, so far as we know, his personal experience in the Caribbean was limited to Martinique.7 However, immediately after introducing this restriction to the Antilles he added the phrase “at least regarding the Blacks on their home turf [chez lui].”8 The qualification is crucial because within a few pages, at the beginning of a discussion of the relation between black Antilleans and the French language that was highly context dependent, he announced that he would subsequently lift the restriction: “we shall enlarge the scope of our description and going beyond the Antilles [to] include all colonized people.”9 Fanon had, in effect, begun the book with the kind of announcement that medieval scholastics would have prefaced using the Latin tag videtur quod non (it seems that not …). By raising this problem in all seriousness in the introduction only to dismiss it later, Fanon was inviting the reader to think of the problem of context, the situational problem, as one of the frames that directs the book’s philosophical agenda.

In existentialist philosophy, this attempt—to write from experience in such a way that others who have not shared that experience can nevertheless recognize something of themselves in the account—frequently takes the form of a complex negotiation between concrete descriptions and the formal structures they are said to exemplify.10 This strategy is based on the conviction that one can recognize one’s own experience in other people’s descriptions of their experience without being blind to the differences. However, the problem is exaggerated to the degree that existentialist philosophy strives to translate its concrete descriptions based on individual testimony into a political program that is also concrete. The problem becomes even more acute when one takes (p.339) into account the focus of existentialist philosophy on identities. This focus is in large part because identities, especially racial identities, often shift as one moves from place to place, exacerbating the problem of generalization. For example, someone who is seen as black in the United States might be seen as white in Africa and differently again in countries like Brazil, where skin color is perceived more in terms of a continuum than in terms of the dichotomy between white and black. We will see that Fanon’s own experience of shifting identities within Martinique shaped his understanding of race.

I shall begin by examining what was perhaps Fanon’s most classically existentialist piece of writing, “The Lived Experience of the Black,” where he identified his situation in terms of the experience of antiblack racism and calculated its cost at the levels of the psyche and of society. After following some of those same themes through other parts of Black Skin, White Masks, I will explore Fanon’s profound sympathy toward North African Arabs as a prelude to examining his approach to the politics of race within the fight against colonialism. In the final section I will show how Fanon’s focus on the Third World’s battle against colonialism led him, in The Wretched of the Earth, to move beyond the concept of a “situation” to that of a “system” in an effort to formulate an existentialist political philosophy.

Situating Fanon’s “The Lived Experience of the Black” and His Debate with Sartre

In May 1951, the publication in Esprit of “The Lived Experience of the Black” launched Fanon’s brief but explosive publishing career when he was still only twenty-five years old.11 There is no indication in the essay itself, or elsewhere in the issue of Esprit, that Fanon planned to include it in Black Skin, White Masks or even that he planned to write a book at all.12 Fanon’s essay was the lead article of a special issue on “The Lament of the Black” (La plainte du noir). The title of the issue was taken from another essay in the same volume by the psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni, whom Fanon would criticize in Black Skin, White Masks for failing to understand colonialism.13 In fact, of the six writers included in “The Lament of the Black,” Fanon was the only black author!14

Fanon’s essay does end in a lament. Its final enigmatic lines read: “Irresponsible, straddling Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep.”15 This sentiment is atypical of the kind of hope for the future that Fanon came to (p.340) represent, howsoever appropriate these lines are for the issue of the journal in which they first appeared. If it can be confirmed that Fanon wrote “The Lived Experience of the Black” independently of the rest of Black Skin, White Masks, then one must see that this, his first essay, was for all its brilliance a failure—at least in terms of formulating an effective response to racism. This recognition allows one to see that the book to which this chapter is devoted was written as an attempt to turn that defeat into victory. It also means that Fanon understood his book not only as being influenced by Richard Wright (another great black existentialist) but also as a response to him, because this lament comes fast on the heels of a reference to Richard Wright’s Native Son, which had been published in French in 1947 under the title Un enfant du pays. Wright’s Bigger Thomas, like Chester Himes’s Bob Jones from If He Hollers Let Him Go (to which Fanon also refers), acts against himself by submitting to a situation others have put him in.

The genesis of Black Skin, White Masks is unclear.16 It seems that Fanon, who was a student in Lyon at the time, had intended to submit it as his dissertation for a degree in legal medicine and psychiatry before being warned against doing so.17 It has been suggested that Fanon’s supervisor, Michel Colin, was able to help him publish his work in Esprit because his brother-in-law, Jean-Marie Domenach, was the deputy editor.18 The story has some plausibility not least because Esprit was, on the face of it, an unlikely choice of journal for Fanon. In spite of the critique of Sartre and the negritude movement in the essay, Les temps modernes or the prominent Black journal Presence africaine would have seemed more appropriate destinations for “The Lived Experience of the Black.”

Esprit was founded in 1932 by Emmanuel Mounier. It was marked from the outset by his particular brand of Christian personalism, which rejected socialism for its overemphasis on economics and instead looked to Christianity to break with “the established order.”19 At the end of 1947, Mounier and Domenach joined with Camus, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and de Beauvoir to publish in Esprit an appeal for a third way that avoided “bloc politics”; however, even though Merleau-Ponty signed the text, he did not allow it to be published in Les temps modernes for fear of offending the communists.20 Mounier (who died in 1952) had no such qualms, as he sought to negotiate a way for Christians to oppose the governing order without appearing to side with communism. Therefore, the contingencies of publication notwithstanding, Fanon’s choice of Esprit for this and two subsequent essays might also be read as a statement that he, like Mounier, wanted to avoid taking the side of either the capitalist West or the communist East in the Cold War.

(p.341) The opening pages of “The Lived Experience of the Black” are devoted to a description of what happens when one leaves home: “As long as the black remains on his home turf (chez lui), except for petty internal quarrels, he will not have to experience his being for others.”21 Fanon was clearly alluding to these lines when, in a stipulation he would later withdraw, he wrote in the introduction that the observation and conclusions in Black Skin, White Masks were valid only for Antillean blacks who remained on their “home turf.” In the introduction he also explained that “The Lived Experience of the Black” was an account of “the Negro confronted with his race.”22 His race was his being for others. The starting point of the essay is clear: it is the white gaze that confronts the Negro with his or her race. Only when Fanon arrived in France was he reduced to his color by the brutally simple racist gaze that said “Look! A Negro!”23 Unlike the Jew in Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew, who was overdetermined from the inside,24 Fanon realized as a result of this experience that he was overdetermined from the outside: “I am a slave not to the ‘idea’ others have of me but to my appearance.”25 This had also been the experience of the previous generation of black intellectuals, including Aimé Césaire from Martinique and Léopold Senghor from Senegal.26 Yet it was Césaire’s and Senghor’s responses to the experience of French antiblack racism that Fanon examined in this essay and found wanting. Whether with Senghor (who embraced African rhythms as an alternative to reason) or with Césaire (who took up the argument for African civilization), every hand Fanon played was a losing hand: in those terms, every seeming victory would be snatched away from him. The strategies of these negritude writers were flawed. Adopting those strategies would simply amount to playing into the hands of Negro stereotypes. It seemed that white people always found some way to put him back into what they considered his place to be.

In the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon explained that the chapter on “the lived experience” of blacks related the desperate efforts of a Negro bent on “discovering the meaning of black identity.”27 He knew very well that this was, in the first instance, a matter of discovery and not of choice. There is a widespread view today, especially in the United States, that each of us has something like a right to determine our own identity. Nonetheless, and even though nobody has the right to address other people in ways that are offensive to them, it is impossible to legislate how others see us. Social identities are a result of a complex social negotiation. For all Sartre’s focus on one’s choice of oneself, he located race at the level of facticity, not freedom, and Fanon followed him in this.28 One’s choice of oneself takes place within (p.342) a social context of which one is so fundamentally a part that any attempt to differentiate oneself from it is pointless. But that means that one’s choice of oneself is a choice of one’s situation, which is why Sartre’s philosophy of freedom leads directly to a political philosophy dedicated to transforming the world. This is the upshot of Sartre’s Anti-Semite and Jew, which argues that, because “the situation of the Jew is such that everything he does turns against him,” the only solution to anti-Semitism is a socialist revolution.29 Fanon similarly advocated a change in the social structure as the only way to rid the world of racism.30

By 1952, Fanon already had an implicit understanding of the dialectic of race relations in an oppressive society. He explained that white civilization and European culture imposed an existential deviation on blacks: the so–called black soul was a white construction.31 But this represents only one side of the negotiation. In the book’s fourth chapter, which is devoted to Mannoni, Fanon explicitly drew on Sartre’s famous remark that “it is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew” and used it as a basis for proclaiming “it is the racist who creates the inferiorised.”32 Racists have an idea of those they consider to be inferior that owes little (or nothing) to reality. However, it is not only racists who construct a racial idea of others. In “Black Orpheus,” a long preface Sartre contributed to Léopold Senghor’s Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie négre et malgache de langue Française (an anthology of black poets writing in the French language),33 the negritude movement was presented as one stage in a dialectic that would lead to a socialist revolution. Fanon complained that Sartre, by looking beyond the moment toward a postracial society, had destroyed black enthusiasm.34

In “Black Orpheus” Sartre drew on the negritude poets in attempting to frame an existentialist account of race that took account of the new situation in which whites found themselves after the Second World War as a result of the clamor from the colonized for an end to colonialism. According to Sartre, white people were experiencing the shock of having the gaze reversed and were finding themselves called upon to justify themselves to blacks.35 White privilege being questioned by a revolutionary movement of which the negritude poets were part of the vanguard.36 At this time, Sartre understood “the situation of the black” more in terms of capitalism than colonialism, and partly on that basis he sought to promote an alliance between blacks and the European working class.37 Matters only got worse when he judged that blacks were better equipped than white workers to transform themselves in the way that would be necessary if they were to be united.

(p.343) Fanon vehemently rejected Sartre’s suggestion that negritude must renounce itself in favor of a future universalism that is accomplished not through race consciousness but instead through the class struggle.38 There is some evidence that Fanon would not have been unsympathetic to such a course of action as a way of responding to a situation in the name of freedom from oppression.39 However, he believed that such action should not be arrived at on the basis of a crude Marxist dialectic. Thus Fanon’s accusation is in large measure that Sartre in “Black Orpheus” was not existentialist enough, that he had succumbed to Hegelianism and as a result had intellectualized black existence.40 Yet this criticism of Sartre must be weighed against the praise that Fanon lavished on those pages of Anti-Semite and Jew where Sartre described how the anti-Semite makes the Jew.41 Sartre’s claim provided a model for Fanon, who wanted to do for negrophobia what Sartre had done for anti-Semitism.42

Sartre’s intellectualization of black existence in “Black Orpheus” went even further when he identified two strands within the poetry contained in Senghor’s anthology that he presented as complementary. On the one hand was an “objective negritude” (associated primarily with Senghor) by which blacks sought—on the basis of the customs, arts, songs, and dances of the African population—to recognize in themselves “certain objectively established traits of the African civilization.”43 On the other hand was a more subjective approach to negritude (which Sartre associated with Césaire) that was more directly opposed to Europe and colonization.44 However, because Sartre saw Césaire as creating negritude though his poetry and thereby making it visible, he viewed Césaire and Senghor as being united in a single task that could be understood in existentialist terms. Negritude was a way of existing. It was “the Negro’s being-in-the-world.”45

Sartre had sought to read the negritude movement as a political movement, but he had accomplished this only by imposing a false unity on it and by subordinating it to the class struggle. In response, Fanon sought to focus on the struggle against colonialism. Because that was also the trajectory that Sartre would take, it brought them into greater proximity.

The Ambiguity of Black Experience

Fanon’s first task in responding to Sartre was to challenge the false unity that the French philosopher had imposed on the negritude movement. (p.344) Contrasting two poems from Senghor’s anthology, one by Jacques Roumain and the other by David Diop, he wrote “there is not one Negro—there are many black men.”46 It was also an objection Fanon leveled against Senghor.47 But he did not conclude that there is no black experience, only that “the black experience is ambiguous.”48 The term “ambiguity” plays a significant role in Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity, but Fanon’s choice of this word was probably influenced more by Merleau-Ponty, with whom he had studied in Lyons. In any event, part of what Fanon seems to have meant is that, within the given situation, the so-called black experience did not set out a clear course of action that one could label authentic. In other words, black experience was not definitive beyond bringing Blacks together in the knowledge that they shared both a certain facticity and the goal of finding their freedom in transcending the situation. Blacks must become aware of “the possibility of existence.” This will lead them to choose action “with respect to the source of the conflict, i.e., the social structure.”49

That being said, there may be another, more precise meaning of the ambiguity of black existence. For all his objections to Sartre’s “Black Orpheus,” it is noteworthy that Fanon did not hesitate to defend the essay against the criticisms of Gabriel d’Arbousier in the militant Marxist journal La nouvelle critique. According to d’Arbousier, Sartre had failed to observe that Senghor’s anthology of negritude poetry detached the cultural issue from the historical and social reality of each country and from the national characteristics and different conditions imposed on each of them by imperialist oppression.50 Fanon was not unsympathetic to the underlying insight. He conceded that “the truth is that the black race is dispersed and is no longer unified. … The black man has a homeland and takes his place within a union or a commonwealth.”51 In other words, the “ambiguity” in the universal situation of blacks arises because, in addition to being black, they are also French, English, Martinican, or Tanganyikan. It is the same existential dilemma that W. E. B. Du Bois announced when, in “The Conservation of Races” (another major source of inspiration for Critical Philosophy of Race), he asked: “What after all, am I? Am I an American or am I a Negro? Can I be both?”52

Fanon recognized that d’Arbousier’s objection could also be applied to him and to every existential phenomenology of racial experience that would henceforth be trapped in the situation from which it had been written. At the phenomenal level of description there are an infinite number of perspectives that correspond to the different cultural or national situations in which blacks (p.345) find themselves as a result of the diasporas created by the slave trade. Fanon’s response is that this problem can be resolved at the level of concrete existence. After employing the word “evidence,” which in the phenomenological literature is loaded with significance as an answer to skepticism, he wrote: “wherever he goes, a black man remains a black man.”53 Recalling his stipulation at the beginning of the book that he wanted to restrict himself to the situation he inhabited, the Antilles, he explained to Sartre’s Marxist critic that dialectics got the upper hand: “we have been forced to see that the Antillean is above all a black man.”54

And so, to the question of how he would justify his theory that both highlighted and transcended a specific context, Fanon’s initial response was to emphasize the experience of antiblack racism. It led him to recognize a bond shaped by an experience that blacks share in a racist context that whites can never know directly. That is the gulf expressed by the sentence “Jean-Paul Sartre forgets that the Black suffers in his body quite differently from the White.”55 But this response was on the passive level, and Fanon sought to move beyond that. Indeed, he would have to because the account given in “The Lived Experience of the Black” could be read as implying that it was this gaze that gave unity to blacks, thereby making that unity contingent on entry into a predominantly white society like France.56 That outcome would limit the political efficacy of his ideas, as they would no longer readily apply to blacks at home in the colonies.

In order to show how Fanon moved beyond this account, I shall explore the following claim: “It is the White man who creates the Negro. But it is the Negro who creates negritude.”57 It sounds like an answer to the Sartrean account of the gaze as the basis for racial identity. But if this is the case, then it is a more subtle response than first appears, because Fanon would almost certainly have remembered that in “Black Orpheus” Sartre had proclaiméd Césaire to be the creator of negritude: “Césaire’s words do not describe negritude, they do not designate it, they do not copy it from the outside like a painter with a model: they create it.”58

To understand the significance of this phrase—“it is the Negro who creates negritude”—it must be read in the context of Fanon’s “Algeria Unveiled.” Its appearance in that essay is at first sight anomalous. This is the only reference to the Negro and negritude in an essay that is otherwise devoted to the Algerian struggle and in particular the role of women in it, with specific reference to wearing of the veil. Fanon started from the general law that the people’s ways of clothing themselves “constitute the most distinctive form (p.346) of a society’s uniqueness.”59 Even a minor modification can call for radical reassessment.60 The change Fanon was concerned with in this context is that brought about by the arrival of the colonialist: the veiled woman frustrates the colonialists’ desire to see, and it confronts them with a gaze that sees without being seen.61

The Sartrean echoes are unmistakable, but Fanon’s point is that the presence of the colonizer transforms the meaning of the veil from a traditional aspect of Islamic culture to an expression of nationalist resistance. Not surprisingly, the colonial occupiers’ offensive against the veil contributed to making it the site around which the people’s will to survive was organized. Fanon described this as a the law of the psychology of colonization, and it is in the specific context of formulating that law that Fanon insisted that the Negro creates negritude.62 Here Fanon was emphasizing a dialectic by which one’s response to any situation cannot be predetermined. Everything depends on the reading of the situation, which is why the terms one employs to establish its character are so crucial—although in some cases they are already set by those to whom one is opposed, as is the case with antiblack racism and indeed all racism.

The Situation of North African Arabs

During the two years when Fanon was writing both Black Skin, White Masks and his dissertation, he was working as a resident in a psychiatric hospital near Dijon. His experience there led him to write “The North African Syndrome,” which was, like “The Lived Experience of the Black,” published in Esprit. It appeared in February 1952 in a section on “The North African Proletariat in France.”63 This second essay should be read in conjunction with Black Skin, White Masks, although the two are seldom closely associated. The essay addressed the disregard shown to Arabs from North Africa when they found themselves within the French medical system. Insofar as the Arabs were outsiders, Fanon could claim to recognize their problems as similar to those that he had faced in coming to France. But on this occasion Fanon wrote simply as an observer and did not even mark his own position as someone who had experienced anything similar. Indeed, it seems that for rhetorical effect Fanon may have intended his white readers to assume that the essay’s author was white.

“The North African Syndrome” is a remarkable attempt to expose and counter racism. By ventriloquizing racism, it seems that Fanon attempted to (p.347) solicit the sympathy of white readers—only to frustrate them later by shaming them into acknowledging their complicity in an evil system. As with “The Lived Experience of the Black,” there is also a strong existentialist flavor to the essay: human beings never cease questioning themselves; racism reduces a human being to a thing; the racist is in bad faith.64 However, “situation” in this essay is not deployed as the existential-ontological concept developed by Jaspers, Heidegger, or Sartre. Heidegger, for example, declares that the situation is revealed only when resoluteness opens up the possibilities of existence; this is to be distinguished from what he calls “the general situation,” where one sees only the most obvious opportunities.65 In contrast, Fanon’s use here of the concept of situation adopts Heinrich Meng’s notion as described in an essay by Stern on psychosomatic medicine: “One must try to find out what Meng calls his ‘situation,’ that is to say, his relations with his associates, his occupations and preoccupations, his sexuality, his sense of security or of insecurity, the dangers that threaten him; and we may add also his evolution, the story of his life. One must make a ‘situational diagnosis.’”66

Whereas for existential philosophers the situation belongs to the human being as the world inhabited, Meng reduced the situation to a catalogue of features within that world. But Fanon used this catalogue to expose the ignorance of the French about the lives of the North African Arabs who were in their midst. Each of these lives was “a daily death.”67 It was the impoverished situation that the colonized face at home that led them to try to make a life in metropolitan France, but in the process the Arabs were deprived of the very substance of their affectivity.68 That is why, at the end of the essay, Fanon called on his readers to accept responsibility for a situation that the colonizing power perpetuates: “if YOU do not sacrifice the man that is in you so that the man who is on this earth shall be more than a body, more than a Mohammed, by what conjurer’s trick will I have to acquire the certainty that you, too, are worthy of my love?”69 As in Black Skin, White Masks, the focus shifts from those who at first glance are seen as the problem—the Arabs or the blacks—to the underlying structure.

Fanon had been to North Africa as a French soldier during the Second World War and he had found it impossible to make contact with the North Africans. He was surprised to learn at that time that the North Africans detested people of color.70 But instead of dismissing them for this, he reached out to them and devoted his final years to liberating the Algerians without ever forgetting the struggle of Martinicans. This means that, even as he was writing Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon recognized that he could not limit (p.348) himself to speaking only for those who identified with him. In other words, he had to transcend the identity politics responsible for dividing the oppressed into different constituencies. The struggle against this system united him with those who, in another context, had disregarded him. This helped him move beyond race—as the decisive identity in terms of which he understood himself—to a higher solidarity. Increasingly he saw the colonial system as decisive: one was either for it or against it. This placed him in solidarity with the Arabs, and he devoted the remainder of his life to their struggle for independence in Algeria.

Rewriting His Personal Narrative: Race in the Colonial Context

In February 1955, once again in Esprit, Fanon published “Antilleans and Africans,” an essay that provides an invaluable but too often neglected key to Fanon’s thinking on race.71 This essay fulfilled the idea, announced in Black Skin, White Masks, that he might one day write about the differences between the Negroes of the Antilles and the Negroes of Africa.72 It lays out in detail “the truth” (already announced by Black Skin, White Masks) that, because the Negro race is dispersed, it can no longer claim unity. However, it does much more than this.73

Fanon chose this occasion to revise the personal narrative he had provided in “The Lived Experience of the Black,” since it suggested that he had not experienced racism until he left Martinique for France. The narrative presented in that essay is usually taken to be autobiographical, and Fanon did nothing in the essay to dispel that impression. However, in the 1955 essay he explained that the same kind of racism he had described in 1951, as if he had first experienced in France, had in fact already become familiar to him when France came to Martinique during the Second World War. Because France had been defeated by the Germans, the island of Martinique had become the temporary home of a large number of French sailors,74 who brought with them the antiblack gaze. At the same time, Aimé Césaire—whose formative experience of racism had actually been in France—was back in Martinique proclaiming that it was “fine and good to be a Negro.” With the election that followed the Liberation of France, there was a growth in political consciousness that led to the birth of a proletariat in Martinique that came to be characterized by the phrase “a systematized Negro.”75

(p.349) By modifying his autobiography in “The Lived Experience of the Black,” Fanon was simply aligning his story with that of the previous generation of black intellectuals in order to disqualify any simplistic appropriation of their antidote to this racism. Since the first reviews of Black Skin, White Masks there have been perceptive criticisms of Fanon’s failure to engage directly with a number of the previous generation of black intellectuals who came to France and described their experiences there.76 Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the sense in which he was deliberately distancing himself from their analyses in ways that some commentators did not fully appreciate. He saw more deeply than his predecessors how the existentialist philosophy of race led to an investigation of the structure of colonialism.

It is true that Fanon most forcefully supported the struggle against colonialism in the essays written after Black Skin, White Masks. But already in that book Fanon went beyond racism to highlight the colonial situation, and much of its fourth chapter is devoted to showing that Mannoni did not understand it.77 His focus on colonialism led him to a deeper understanding of the bonds forged between oppressed people by explicitly integrating economic factors into the equation. France’s colonial wars deepened that insight. Fanon wrote “The Lived Experience of the Black” during the French Indo-China War, which was fought in what would become Vietnam by the French Far East Expeditionary Corps. This “dirty war” lasted from December 1946 to July 1954.78 As soon as that war ended, the Algerian war began; it lasted from November 1954 until 1962, by which time Fanon had already died. This period tends to be remembered (at least in Europe and North America) in terms of the Cold War and the West’s resolve to ward off communism. It was also a period during which, in many parts of the world, the violence of the West as well as its antidemocratic character and reactionary racism were on full display.

The other main feature of Fanon’s work that differentiated him from the previous generation of black intellectuals was his approach to the concept of race. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon observed that Europeans would be surprised to learn that, as late as 1940, no Antillean found it possible to think of himself as a Negro.79 The reader of the essay “Antilleans and Africans” would know the reason for that precise date because it announced the arrival of the French navy.80 The main thrust of “Antilleans and Africans” was to show how the introduction from outside of a racist, antiblack gaze had helped the Antilleans abandon the falsehood that allowed them to look (p.350) down on Africans. Before the Second World War, Martinicans separated themselves from Africans along racial lines: “The Antillean was a black, but the Negro was in Africa.”81 But the same people who had acted white in 1939 were now learning how to be Africans, with the implication that this was an equally false identification for them to make.82

According to Fanon, the Martinicans had abandoned one falsehood to embrace another. One could legitimately talk about the white race and the Negro race, but only if one recognized “that questions of race are but a superstructure, a mantle, an obscure ideological emanation concealing an economic reality.” He offered for proof the fact that “a Negro worker will be on the side of the mulatto worker against the middle-class Negro.”83 In Martinique, racial divisions were sometimes less salient than class differences. “White” and “Negro” were racial terms that should be differentiated from the terms one might use to describe such “peoples” as the Antilleans and the Africans. Indeed, the Antilleans and the Africans had their own separate worlds. But there is no Negro world because there is nothing left after one has subtracted the different cultural influences that differentiate, for example, the Antilleans from the Africans. Fanon made a similar point in the wake of the Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists held in Rome in 1959, when he explained that African Americans, like other people of African descent, had been in danger of taking a false path by racializing themselves in the specific sense of putting their efforts into proving the existence of an African culture. He suggested, however, that by the late 1950s they recognized that their “existential problems” differed from those of Africans: “The only common denominator between the blacks from Chicago and the Nigerians or Tanganyikans was that they all defined themselves in relation to the whites.”84 This was at the level of a sociological observation, but it was not where his analysis stopped.

Focus on the colonial context led Fanon away from the myth of a “first encounter” with racism through the white gaze—regardless of whether that gaze was first met on a train in France or near the harbor at Fort-de-France. He had already begun to develop a counternarrative in the first chapter of Black Skin, White Masks, in which he described how schooling in Martinique imposed a racialized being for others. And in chapter six he highlighted the racism of comic books and children’s stories irrespective of whether they included white people. Indeed, in “The Lived Experience of the Black” itself, Fanon wrote: “In the twentieth century the black on his home turf is oblivious of the moment when his inferiority is determined by the Other.”85 This (p.351) means that any such account of one’s first encounter with racism is a fabrication because one is born into a society already permeated by it. For this reason, the analysis had to move beyond an account of experience to the forces that shaped that experience.

Beyond the Situation: Racism As System

Fanon’s focus on colonialism led him beyond the concept of situation to the concept of system. Sartre made a parallel journey during the same period. The difference between a situation and a system was established by Sartre in his review for Les temps modernes of Albert Memmi’s classic work, The Colonizer and the Colonized. The review was added to subsequent editions of the book as a preface.86 As “an Arab Jew” in Tunisia, Memmi was well positioned to describe the remorseless logic that forced everyone in the colonies to be either one of the colonizers or one of the colonized: “I was a sort of half-breed of colonization, understanding everyone because I belonged to no one.”87 Like Fanon, Memmi surely knew that the concrete character of his experience was its strength. Paradoxically, by highlighting his life in North Africa he was able to transcend the limits of that situation, thereby justifying the more general terms of the discussion. When in 1982 he tried to offer a more general theory of racism, the result was arguably less powerful.88

In The Colonizer and the Colonized Memmi echoed Sartre—as, for example, when he wrote that “the colonial situation fabricates the colonized as it fabricates the colonizers.”89 But Sartre considered the formulation, like the diagnosis, to be incomplete: “he [Memmi] sees a situation where I see a system.”90 Or, as Sartre put it in the Critique of Dialectical Reason, the colonized are “produced by the colonial system.”91 Fanon offered a similar formulation in his essay “On Violence,” which became the famous first chapter of The Wretched of the Earth: he confirmed that he still accepted the lesson of Anti-Semite and Jew that the oppressor makes the oppressed, but now he explicitly linked this capacity to the power of the system. “It is the colonist who made and who continues to make the colonized. The colonist derives his truth, that is his wealth, from the colonial system.”92

Whereas the notion of situation threatens to isolate and particularize, the idea of system emphasizes interconnectedness and totalizes. The notion of system has often been seen as anathema to existentialism, especially since many see the beginnings of existentialism in Kierkegaard’s revolt against the (p.352) Hegelian system, but one should not view the prominence of this word in late Sartre as a sign of his departure from one of the fundamental insights of existentialism. He did not mean “a system of thoughts,”93 and neither did he abandon the existentialist quest for the concrete that had motivated him from the outset. In the Critique, dialectical reason was his route to the concrete and he sought intelligibility there.94 Indeed, the notion of system was presumed to serve that purpose in part, compensating for the danger that an account of some particular situation might abstract from the larger economic and political issues that actually determine it. The richness of the accounts of racism to be found in both Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason and Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth derives partly from how they use this larger perspective to highlight the character of institutional racism: racism is a system.95 For Sartre this development was sustained by his conviction that Marxism and existentialism could be reconciled. Fanon did not embrace Marxism in this way, although he did write that, in the context of the colonial problem, Marxist analyses needed to be “slightly stretched.”96 Neither of them abandoned their existentialist understanding of racism for a Marxist approach. Instead, they looked to Marxism, broadly conceived, for assistance in enriching the account that each had already proposed.

I have argued in this chapter that Fanon’s account of lived experience in his first publication was not the straightforward autobiographical testimony that it presents itself to be. Just as “‘The North African Syndrome’” was something of a ruse—given that Fanon concealed his racial identity and ventriloquized a certain racism in order to trap his readers—so in “The Lived Experience of the Black” he told the story of the previous generation of black intellectuals in France partly to show that it led only to tears and lamentation. This critique of his predecessors also served as a critique of the Sartre of “Black Orpheus” who, writing from the ignorance that derives from not having personally suffered from racial oppression, had relied too heavily on descriptions provided by the negritude poets and sought to systematize their ideas. The critique also indicates limitations to which some writers—in particular, those who follow Fanon in recording their own experiences of racism but who do not go much further—should be more attentive. Such testimonies are important to understanding racism and setting priorities that combat racism, but Fanon’s own descriptions of racism at the individual level demonstrate that this approach can end only in tears. According to Fanon, it was only when accounting for racism as a system that the diagnosis became politically efficacious.

(p.353) Taken as a whole, Fanon’s writings can be understood as an attempt to challenge the racism inscribed in the structures of colonialism. Although he took as his starting point his personal experience of racism, he tried to go beyond the situation to show a certain systemic racism at work. This meant he had to negotiate the difficulty of moving from a concrete description of an experience rooted in a specific context to a broader perspective that could shape a political solidarity. Although I have not dwelled on it here, Fanon saw that perspective as beginning in counterviolence against the violence of racism: “Solidarity among tribes, among villages and at the national level is fist discernible in the growing number of blows dealt to the enemy.”97 The problem of racism does not admit of a once-and-for-all theoretical solution. Rather, it must be encountered again and again in the consciousness of every reader sensitive enough to engage with the matter at hand. This is why Fanon challenged the readers of Black Skin, White Masks by insisting that his observations were confined to a precise context and subsequently lifting that restriction: only insofar as it is lifted does existential philosophy open the path to a struggle against oppression that transcends situations, thereby indicating the ways in which we are all implicated. How we respond to that recognition explains why reading Fanon is to face the challenge of the question: Am I worthy of being loved? That is the question Fanon posed to all his readers, whatever their color; and so far as he was concerned, they answered it by determining with whom they were ready to show solidarity.


(1.) Frantz Fanon, Peau noire, masques blancs (Paris: Seuil, 1975), trans. Richard Philcox; Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 2008). There have been at least three different editions of the French text and two different translations. The first French edition had a preface by Francis Jeanson, who subsequently added a postscript to another edition. For some time, however, the French edition has not included either of the two texts by Jeanson, which is true also of both English translations. I am not convinced that the new translation by Richard Philcox is much of an improvement on the first by Charles Lam Markman that appeared from the same publishers in 1967, and for that reason I will sometimes propose an alternative translation without marking it explicitly.

(2.) UNESCO, “Text of the Statement of 1950,” in The Race Concept: Results of an Inquiry (Paris: UNESCO, 1952), 103.

(p.354) (3.) Aimé Césaire, Discourssur le colonialisme (Paris: Editions Réclamé, 1950); trans. Joan Pinkham; Césaire, Discourse on Colonialisme (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972). Of the Jews, Fanon unfortunately wrote: “They have been hunted, exterminated, but these are just minor episodes in the family history.” Fanon, Peau noire, 93; Fanon, Black Skin, 95. Fanon made the same point in somewhat less contentious language in Pour la revolution africaine (Paris: Maspero, 1964), 40, 192, 198; Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove, 1969), 33, 166, 171.

(4.) See Lewis Gordon, Existentia africana (New York: Routledge, 2000), and Paget Henry, Caliban’s Reason (New York: Routledge, 2000). For Donna-Dale Marcano, Kathryn Gines, Anika Maaza Mann, and Emily Lee, see Maria del Guadalupe Davidson, Kathryn T. Gines, and Donna-Dale L. Marcano, eds., Convergences: Black Feminism and Continental Philosophy (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2010).

(5.) Annie Cohen-Solal, Sartre: 1905–1985 (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 555; Cohen-Solal, Sartre: A Life, trans. Anna Cancogni (London: Heinemann, 1987), 433.

(7.) As far as we know, he never even went to nearby Guadeloupe. David Macey, Frantz Fanon (New York: Picador, 2000), 29. However, he did spend a few weeks in Dominica in 1943; see Macey, Frantz Fanon, 89.

(10.) This is an inheritance from the tradition of phenomenological philosophy associated with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and adopted by such French existential philosophers as Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and (if one is willing to extend that label to him) Emmanuel Levinas.

(11.) Fanon, “L’expérience vécue du Noir,” Espirit 19, no. 179 (May 1951): 657–79. Fanon made a few relatively minor changes to this version when he included it in Black Skin, White Masks. A translation of this original version by Valentine Moulard can be found in Robert Bernasconi, ed., Race (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 184–201.

(12.) We do not know when Fanon first conceived of Black Skin, White Masks, but it was apparently written between 1951 and 1952. See Alice Cherki, Frantz Fanon: Portrait (Paris: Seuil, 2000), 43; Cherki, Frantz Fanon: A Portrait, trans. Nadia Benubid (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006), 24.

(14.) The issue also included a translation of J. F. Powers’s story “The Trouble” from The Prince of Darkness, Paule Verdet’s reflections on Louisiana, Graham Greene’s essay on the electoral campaign in Liberia, and Louis T. Achille’s essay on Negro spirituals.

(16.) Macey wrote that “Peau noire had been rejected as an academic dissertation” and elsewhere that it had been “angrily rejected before he was able to submit it by (p.355) an outraged Professor Dechaume on the predictable grounds that it defied all known academic and scientific conventions.” See Macey, Frantz Fanon, 155, 138. In fact, Fanon wrote: “When I began this book I thought of submitting it as my thesis. And then the dialectic required that I develop my position further.” See Fanon, Peau noire, 39; Fanon, Black Skin, 30–31. Fanon made it clear that the work was abandoned as a dissertation long before it was completed or had reached its final form. We should beware of claims that Fanon wrote the book much earlier. Fanon acknowledged that “this book should have been written three years ago” (Peau noire, 6; Black Skin, xiii) but did not say it was written three years ago, although Mannoni (who also incorrectly claims credit for the title) claimed that he had. Octave Mannoni, “Fanon: la Passion et le talent,” Sans frontiére (February 1982): 57.

(18.) Cherki suggests this. However, because she is talking about Fanon’s February 1952 essay in Esprit, her version must be modified before it can be believed—not least because Domenach would have been deputy editor (not editor-in-chief) at the time. Cherki, Frantz Fanon: Portrait, 31n24; Cherki, Fanon: A Portrait, 225n24.

(19.) “Rupture entre l’ordre chrétien et le désordre établi” was the title of the special issue of Esprit issued in March 1933. For a helpful study of the foundation of the journal, see R. William Rauch Jr., Politics and Belief in Contemporary France. Emmanuel Mounier and Christian Democracy, 1932–1950 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1972), 52–97. For an appreciation of Mounier, see Paul Ricoeur, “Emmanuel Mounier: A Personalist Philosopher,” in History and Truth, trans. Charles A. Kelbey (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1965), 133–61. Fanon cited Mourner’s book on Africa, L’éveil de l’afrique noire, twice in Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire, 43, 180; Black Skin, 36, 97).

(20.) Herbert R. Lottman, The Left Bank. Writers, Artists, and Politics from the Popular Front to the Cold War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982), 277.

(24.) Jean-Paul Sartre, Réflexions sur la question juive (Paris: Gallimard, 1989), 115; Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, trans. George J. Becker (New York: Schocken, 1976), 95.

(26.) See, for example, Janet G. Vaillant, Black, French and African: A Life of Léo-pold Sédar Senghor (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990), 87–116. This description did not begin with them; see, for example, Paulette Nardal, who wrote: “Race Consciousness among certain Antilleans had already been awakened as a result of leaving their small native lands.” Nardal, “The Awakening of Race Consciousness,” in Bernasconi, Race, 107.

(p.356) (28.) Fanon, Peau noire, 35–36; Fanon, Black Skin, 27. See Bernasconi, “Can Race Be Thought in Terms of Facticity? A Reconsideration of Sartre’s and Fanon’s Existential Theories of Race,” in Rethinking Facticity, ed. François Raffoul and Eric Nelson (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2008), 195–213.

(33.) Jean-Paul Sartre, “Orphée noir,” in Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie négre et malgache de langue frangaise, ed. Léopold Sédar-Senghor (Paris: Presses Universitaries de France, 1948), ix–xliv; Sartre, “Black Orpheus,” trans. John MacCombie, in Bernasconi, Race, 115–42.

(34.) Fanon, Peau noire, 109; Fanon, Black Skin, 113. There is no need here to explore the intricacies of Fanon’s critique of Sartre in “The Lived Experience of the Black,” about which I have already written at greater length elsewhere. For example, see Bernasconi, ‘“The European Knows and Does Not Know’: Fanon’s Response to Sartre,” in Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, ed. Max Silverman (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2005), 100–11, and Bernasconi, “On Needing Not to Know and Forgetting What One Never Knew: The Epistemology of Ignorance in Fanon’s Critique of Sartre,” in Race and the Epistemologies of Ignorance, ed. Nancy Tuana and Shannon Sullivan (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), 237–39. I focus on Fanon’s relation to Sartre, rather than Sartre’s relation to Fanon, in part because we do not know when Sartre first read Fanon. David Macey’s suggestion—that it was not until Fanon submitted a powerful essay on Algeria’s European minority to Les temps modernes in the middle of 1959—is certainly plausible; see Macey, Frantz Fanon, 452. That essay was published in a section of the journal entitled “Exposés,” but it was not one of Fanon’s more philosophical contributions. Fanon, L’an V de la revolution algérienne (Paris: François Maspero, 1964), 141–60; Fanon, Studies in Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove, 1965), 147–78.

(46.) Fanon, Peau noire, 110; Fanon, Black Skin, 115. Homi Bhabha writes of this sentence: “This is emphatically not a post-modern celebration of pluralistic identities”; Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 238. Bhabha is correct that there is an unfortunate tendency to find “post-modernism” where there is none, but whatever Bhabha is denying, Fanon is surely making the point that one should not associate any identity—and certainly not this one—with a single model to which others of that identity are supposed to conform.

(50.) Fanon, Peau noire, 134; Fanon, Black Skin, 150. See Gabriel d’Arbousier, “Une dangereuse mystification: La théorie de la negritude,’ La nouvelle critique (June 1949): 38–39.

(52.) W E. Burghardt Du Bois, The Conservation of Races (American Negro Academy Occasional Papers, no. 2) (Washington, D.C.: American Negro Academy, 1947), II. Photomechanically reproduced in The American Negro Academy Occasional Papers (New York: Arno, 1969). See Bernasconi, “‘Our Duty to Conserve’: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Philosophy of History in Context,” South Atlantic Quarterly 108, no. 3 (Summer 2009): 530–31.

(56.) Jean-Paul Sartre, in his own philosophy, pursued a similar path in which the gaze was placed in a broader context of system and praxis. See Donna-Dale Marcano, “Sartre and the Social Construction of Race,” in Race and Racism in Continental Philosophy, ed. Robert Bernasconi with Sybol Cook (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 224.

(63.) Fanon, “Le ‘syndrome nord africain,’” Esprit 20, no. 2 (1952): 248–57. Reprinted in Fanon, Pour la revolution africaine, 13–24; Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, 3–16. The essay was addressed to whites, and its publication was accompanied by two editorial comments—the need for which confirms its controversial character.

(p.358) (65.) Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1953), 299–300; Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), 346. Karl Jaspers introduced the philosophical concept of situation earlier, but it was less clearly demarcated from the ordinary notion of situation in his Psychology der Weltanschauungen (Berlin: Julius Springer, 1919), 8.

(66.) Quoted in Fanon, Pour la revolution africaine, 20; Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, 10. From E. Stern, “Médecine psychosomatique,” Psyché: Revue internationale des sciences de l’homme de et de lapsychanalyse (1949): 128.

(71.) Fanon, “Antillais et Africains,” Esprit 23 (February 1955): 261–69. Reprinted in Fanon, Pour la révolution africaine, 27–36; Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, 17–27.

(74.) Fanon estimated the number at ten thousand, although this may be high by a factor of four (according to Macey, Frantz Fanon, 81). He did not leave Martinique as a soldier until March 1944 (Ibid., 91).

(76.) In his review of Black Skin, White Masks, Léonard Sainville observed that Fanon avoided any detailed discussion of what might legitimately be understood as his prewar predecessors—most notably, Légitime defense. Sainville, “Le noir antillais devant la literature,” Les lettres françaises 1 (August 1952): 3. See also Jim House, “Colonial Racisms in the ‘Métropole’: Reading Peau noire, masques blancs in Context,” in Silverman, Frantz Fanon’s, 46–73.

(78.) It was called the “dirty” war owing to the Henri Martin affair in 1950, in which a sailor who distributed leaflets against the war was imprisoned until massive protests forced his release. See Sartre, L’affaire Henri Martin (Paris: Gallimard, 1953).

(80.) See Emmanuel Hansen, “Frantz Fanon: Portrait of a Revolutionary,” in Rethinking Fanon, ed. Nigel C. Gibson (Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 1999), 55–57.

(84.) Fanon, Les damnés de la terre (Paris: Gallimard, 1991), 261; Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 2004), 153.

(86.) Albert Memmi, Portrait du colonisé (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 23–29; Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, trans. Howard Greenfeld (Boston: Beacon, 1965), xxi–xxix. What tends to be known as “Sartre’s preface” first appeared as a book review of the 1957 edition published by Buchet/Chastel. See Les temps modernes 137/138 (July/August 1957): 289–92. It was first included in Memmi’s book in 1961.

(88.) Memmi, Le racisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1994); Memmi, Racism, trans. Steve Martinot (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

(90.) Sartre, Situations V (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), 53; Sartre, Colonialism and Neocolonialism, trans. Azzedine Haddour et al. (London: Routledge, 2001), 51. Memmi seemed not to understand this critique—nor the Critique, as is clear from the preface he wrote in 1973: “What separates me from Sartre is the importance which the objective conditions of oppression have for me.” See Memmi, L’homme domine (Paris: Gallimard, 1986), 66; Memmi, Dominated Man (New York: Orion, 1968), 86.

(91.) Sartre, Critique de la raison diakctique (Paris: Gallimard, 1985), 819; Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason, trans. Alan Sheridan-Smith (London: Verso, 1976), 739. For a recent study of Sartre’s relation to colonialism, see Paige Arthur, Unfinished Projects. Decolonization and the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre (London: Verso, 2010). The importance of Sartre’s Critique for the understanding of race and of racism is most clearly demonstrated by Donna-Dale Marcano in “Sartre and the Social Construction of Race,” in Bernasconi, Race and Racism, 214–26.

(92.) Fanon, Les damnés, 66; Fanon, Wretched, 2 (emphasis in original).

(95.) See Bernasconi, “Racism Is a System,” in The Cambridge Companion to Existentialism, ed. Steven Crowell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).