Fanon’s Travels in Postcolonial Theory and Post-Apartheid Politics


Using Edward Said’s reflections on travelling theory as a point of departure, this essay traces how Frantz Fanon’s radical anticolonial and postcolonial theory has travelled to South Africa in the last fifty years. Said’s mode of analyzing travelling theory is extended in two ways, namely by attending in detail to how specific historical moments and locations set limits and exert pressures on theory, and secondly, by examining how communities of activist-intellectuals rather than individual theorists reinterpret theory. Three groups of South African appropriations of Fanon’s theory are analyzed: the anti-apartheid activists of the 1970s; African National Congress government ministers post-1994; and the communities of resistance critical of the ANC’s post-apartheid governance. In the light of these reception histories, certain limitations of Said’s model of travelling theory are identified and conclusions are drawn regarding how Fanon’s theory serves conflicting political interests in these different (mis-)appropriations.