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Creolizing Political Theory

Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Jane Anna Gordon teaches Political Science and African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.

Publication Year: 2014

Might creolization offer political theory an approach that would better reflect the heterogeneity of political life? After all, it describes mixtures that were not supposed to have emerged in the plantation societies of the Caribbean but did so through their capacity to exemplify living culture, thought, and political practice. Similar processes continue today, when people who once were strangers find themselves unequal co-occupants of new political locations they both seek to call “home.” Unlike multiculturalism, in which different cultures are thought to co-exist relatively separately, creolization describes how people reinterpret themselves through interaction with one another. While indebted to comparative political theory, Gordon offers a critique of comparison by demonstrating the generative capacity of creolizing methodologies. She does so by bringing together the eighteenth-century revolutionary Swiss thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the twentieth-century Martinican-born Algerian liberationist Frantz Fanon. While both provocatively challenged whether we can study the world in ways that do not duplicate the prejudices that sustain its inequalities, Fanon, she argues, outlined a vision of how to bring into being the democratically legitimate alternatives that Rousseau mainly imagined.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Just Ideas

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

I had the unique good fortune of undergoing two periods of concentrated intellectual apprenticeship. In a fundamental way, this book is my effort to synthesize them in ways that pay due service to the greatest strengths of both, creatively making them speak to each other where they otherwise might not with losses that would be both scholarly and political....

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pp. 1-17

This book offers a reading of two central themes in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau through insights from the writings of Frantz Fanon. Through this effort, I hope to enrich discussions of the nature of methodology and requirements of democratic legitimacy and provide an example of the creolizing...

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1 Delegitimating Decadent Inquiry

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pp. 18-62

When Rousseau provocatively diagnosed the Enlightenment as one more example of the moral decay of empires and offered his challenging portrait of political legitimacy he reversed the geopolitical values of his day, suggesting that it was in Europe’s backwaters where freedom and virtue had a present and future. He tied the alternatives that he prized not only to...

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2 Decolonizing Disciplinary Methods

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pp. 63-94

Although Fanon never explicitly engaged Rousseau—he only names Rousseau once along with other liberal French writers that he mocks—Fanon shared with Rousseau an effort to challenge the ways that reason had been used to advance the singularity of particular models of desirable political ...

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3 Rousseau’s General Will

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pp. 95-128

Rousseau’s and Fanon’s interests in questions of method and inquiry, as I have shown, were fundamentally tied to their diagnoses of illegitimate politics. For Rousseau, the possibility of an alternative was easier to envisage than to realize. Still, trying to imagine people as we are and laws and institutions...

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4 Fanonian National Consciousness

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pp. 129-161

Although his early theoretical work on racism and colonialism focused primarily on the question of disalienation in terms requiring an interrogation of the human sciences, especially psychiatry, Fanon found himself in a difficult situation as head of the psychiatric division at Blida-Joinville Hospital at the...

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5 Thinking Through Creolization

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pp. 162-202

Thus far, I have argued that Rousseau’s challenging reflections on questions of human inquiry, political illegitimacy and its alternatives remain highly relevant to the present and are considerably enriched and extended in the work of Frantz Fanon. In other words, the central ideas produced through Rousseau’s efforts to make sense of his shifting world are taken up by Fanon...

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pp. 203-220

I have offered readings of Rousseau and Fanon in the preceding pages in the hope of demonstrating the productivity of bringing ideas together in a creolized rather than comparative way....


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pp. 221-264


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pp. 265-286


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pp. 287-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780823254859
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823254811

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: Just Ideas
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OCLC Number: 875725438
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Creolizing Political Theory

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • General will.
  • Legitimacy of governments.
  • Fanon, Frantz, -- 1925-1961 -- Political and social views
  • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, -- 1712-1778 -- Political and social views.
  • Political science -- Philosophy.
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