The Wretched of the Earth  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Wretched of the Earth (French: Les Damnés de la Terre, first published 1961) is Frantz Fanon's most famous work, written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule. As a psychiatrist, Fanon explored the psychological effect of colonisation on the psyche of a nation as well as its broader implications for building a movement for decolonization.

A controversial introduction to the text by Jean-Paul Sartre presents the thesis as an advocacy of violence (which Sartre has also examined in his then-recent 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. It also details the violence of colonialism as a process itself. Homi Bhabha argues that Sartre's opening comments have lead to a limited approach to the text that focuses on the promotion of violence.

Further reading can find a thorough critique of nationalism and imperialism while also developing 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 any and all political leaders faced with any type of decolonization. It is still read in the Pentagon today as advice on dealing with the conflict in Iraq. There are two different English translations in publication; the most recent, by Richard Philcox, is more well-received by scholars but widely regarded as major news by critics.

The original title of the book is an allusion to the opening words of The Internationale.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Wretched of the Earth" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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