This paper finds the unifying thread of Frantz Fanon's revolutionary decolonial philosophy in what I call "symbolic decolonial violence," the violent self-assertion and public appearance of colonized and racialized non-beings which creates the necessary groundwork for their entry into being. By applying this concept to contemporary political discourse and identity dynamics in Venezuela, while maintaining an insistently "parallax view," we are able to enrich our understanding of both Fanon's work and the specificities of the Venezuelan situation. Such an approach allows us to see that it is the social-scientific literature that is most critical of the "violence" and "conflict" of the contemporary Venezuelan revolutionary process that testifies most powerfully to the very Fanonian truth of that process: the forced entry of formerly non-beings into being.
Too often, the work of Martinican psychiatrist-philosopher-revolutionary Frantz Fanon is divided into stages: the early Fanon, we are told, engaged in a relatively peaceful critique of racism in his 1952 Black Skin, White Masks, while the late "Algerian" Fanon—best represented in his 1961 The Wretched of the Earth—had somehow morphed within a few short years into a violent, bloodthirsty revolutionary. This common view neglects the fundamental role of symbolic decolonial violence as the red thread that unites and structures Fanon's theoretical production. Here, I hope to first sketch the contours of Fanon's theory of symbolic decolonial violence—showing how it draws his two major works together rather than pushing them away from one another—before turning to a discussion of the necessary intervention of this sort of symbolic violence in contemporary Venezuelan political discourse and identity dynamics.
But my interest here is more than mere Fanonology, for the divorce between these two major works also represents a primary obstacle to Fanon's ability to speak to different contexts. Put differently, to demonstrate the decolonial underpinnings of Black Skin, White Masks is simultaneously to demonstrate the relevance of Wretched of the Earth in the era of formal decolonization in which we find ourselves. Both gestures require the unearthing of symbolic decolonial violence, but the task is not a simple one, and here our movement is unavoidably double, entailing a persistent back-and-forth between the two works and a disruption of their chronological appearance. While these works were written chronologically as a reflection of the shift toward formal decolonization—in which, as we will see, national consciousness would come to supplant blackness as the identity most relevant to Fanon's analysis—this linear chronological relationship would be interrupted by an element that Fanon recognized earlier than most: the fundamental continuity of colonial social (economic, cultural, ethical, sexual, epistemological, etc.) relations which we will later refer to as "coloniality." This disruption demands that we transform our Fanon, reading Wretched through the more ambiguous and nuanced optic of Black Skin.
This is not, however, the only double-gesture in this paper: not only will we move back-and-forth between Black Skin and Wretched, but we will also travel between both texts and the political process underway in contemporary Venezuela. But again, the move is not linear: rather, we must use an already-ambiguously situated Fanon to grasp the dynamics of decolonial identity operating in Venezuela, while simultaneously transforming our theoretical tool itself. Just as coloniality constitutes a disruption of the linear discourse surrounding (formal) decolonization, so too do the complexities and nuances of Black Skin, White Masks disrupt the simplistic stageism of Wretched of the Earth—one which relies on the sort of preexisting Manicheanism not generally present in the era of formal independence—thereby allowing us to both grasp the contemporary situation while intervening in such a way as to jumpstart those decolonial engines which may have sputtered out shortly after formal liberation. Only such a "parallax view" permits us to bring these two moments—both complex in and of themselves, with the former determined at the intersection of Fanon's major texts—into dialogue while avoiding the pitfall of stale empiricism, be it textual (in the case of Fanon) or political (as with the prevailing characterization of conditions in Venezuela).2 Our objects (and subjects) are necessarily double.
"The Hellish Zone of Nonbeing"
In his seminal first book Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon sets out to analyze the structure of anti-Black racism and how best to confront it. Operating within-but-against a Hegelian framework (as he also operates within-but-against both psychoanalysis and phenomenology), Fanon identifies what he deems the fundamental barrier to inter-racial recognition: racialized subjects, according to Fanon, lack what he calls "ontological resistance in the eyes of the white man."3 Black subjects are seen but not seen; they exist but they are not (human). This is what philosopher Lewis Gordon deems "the hellish zone of nonbeing," "a zone neither of appearance or disappearance."4 Not only does this "below-Otherness" render politics—as publicity5—impossible, but the same applies for ethics: "damnation means that the black (or better, the blackened) lives the irrelevance of innocence… the absence of a Self-Other dialectic in racist situations means the eradication of ethical relations. Where ethics is derailed, all is permitted."6 Racialization, put simply, creates a situation which lacks the necessary reciprocity for the Hegelian master-slave dialectic to operate.7 For equality to be contemplated, for the obligation to recognize the other to have any traction at all, racialized subjects must first seize access to ontology, storming the fortified heaven of being itself.
Turning more directly to Hegel's master-slave dialectic in an appendix to Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon concludes that, in the face of such ontological blockage, full humanity can only emerge through the effort to impose one's existence (as "subjective certainty") onto another (thereby converting it into "objective fact"). In this "quest of absoluteness," the resistance of the other yields desire, what Fanon calls "the first milestone on the road that leads to the dignity of the spirit."8 Desire, moreover, requires that I risk my life in conflict for the object of that desire, thereby pushing me beyond bare life and toward independent self-consciousness. Historically, however, the black slave has been granted her freedom by the former slaveholder, who "decided to promote the machine-animal-men to the supreme rank of men," and as a result access to full humanity—which can only appear by way of mutual and conflictual recognition—remained blocked:
"Say thank you to the nice man," the mother tells her little boy… but we know that often the little boy is dying to scream some other, more resounding expression…. The white man, in the capacity of master, said to the Negro, "From now on you are free." But the Negro knows nothing of the cost of freedom, for he has not fought for it… The former slave needs a challenge to his humanity, he wants a conflict, a riot. But it is too late.9
Since there has been no reciprocity in the process, since blacks are denied access to ontology, they have not, according to Fanon, been able to follow the Hegelian path of turning away from the master and finding liberation in the object. Instead, lack of reciprocity leads the slave—in a gesture of internalized self-hatred—to turn toward the master and abandon the object, but this effort at mutual recognition remains unrequited, as the master desires from the slave only work.10 We can already anticipate here the broad strokes of Fanon's theory of violence: for the racialized subject, self-consciousness as human requires symbolic violence, it requires the assertion of reciprocity within a historical situation marked by the denial of such reciprocity, and if necessary, the provocation of conflict through the assertion of alterity.11 Only then will the slave be freed from this two-sided blockage of the dialectic, enforcing recognition (externally) onto the master while developing (internally) a degree of autonomy and self-confidence.
It is this very lack of ontological resistance which provokes an outburst by Fanon, one which bears within it the structure of his theory of violence. Under the objectifying gaze of a white woman and her son, Fanon responds by violently shouting:
"Kiss the handsome Negro's ass, madame!" Shame flooded her face. At last I was set free from my rumination. At the same time I accomplished two things: I identified my enemies and I made a scene. A grand slam. Now one would be able to laugh. The field of battle having been marked out, I entered the lists.12
Why should the identification of the enemy cause such a seismic ontological shift? Because to discover an enemy, and to discover it clearly, was also to turn away from the master and discover something essential about oneself: as Fanon puts it, "I had incisors to test. I was sure they were strong."13 Since ontology had been denied, since there was no basis for the smooth operation of Hegel's dialectic of recognition, such a basis had to be created: "Since the other hesitated to recognize me, there remained only one solution: to make myself known."14 Fanon's theory of symbolic ontological violence, then, could be summarized in these three words: making oneself known.
And to make himself known meant, in the context of ontological disqualification, to seize hold of the only identity available to him, the one imposed on him through precisely this same ontological disqualification: "I resolved, since it was impossible for me to get away from an inborn complex, to assert myself as a BLACK MAN."15 It is at this moment that Fanon, against the universal ache of every shred of his being, "buries himself in the black abyss" that he himself would criticize in no uncertain terms.16 Hence while Fanon is relentless in his criticism of especially the most essentialist forms of Negritude (especially that of Léopold Senghor17), he nevertheless insists on the dialectical necessity of a moment of black identity as the functional content of his early symbolic decolonial violence (a function to be replaced in Algeria by national consciousness). This dialectical necessity emerges most powerfully in Fanon's scathing and heartrending indictment of Sartre, who had reduced black identity to a merely antithetical moment in a preordained dialectical progression whose resolution was the proletariat. Fanon writes:
For once, that born Hegelian had forgotten that consciousness has to lose itself in the night of the absolute, the only condition to attain to consciousness of self… Jean-Paul Sartre, in this work, has destroyed black zeal. In opposition to historical becoming, there had always been the unforeseeable. I needed to lose myself completely in negritude… at the very moment when I was trying to grasp my own being, Sartre, who remained The Other, gave me a name and thus shattered my last illusion… Not yet white, no longer wholly black, I was damned.18
Despite Sartre's best intentions, in subsuming black identity to a closed dialectic he had short-circuited the generativity of decolonial violence—its ability to re-build the colonized and force recognition on the colonizer—thereby blocking Fanon's access to being.19 Symbolic violence and the access to the equality of being that it promises passes—in a seeming paradox which is nevertheless held open for eventual dialectical resolution—through the realm of division and (in this case, black) identity.
But how can merely making oneself known constitute a violent act? Here we turn again to Gordon:
the blackened lives the disaster of appearance where there is no room to appear nonviolently. Acceptable being is nonexistence, nonappearance, or submergence… To change things is to appear, but to appear is to be violent since that group's appearance is illegitimate. Violence, in this sense, need not be a physical imposition. It need not be a consequence of guns and other weapons of destruction. It need simply be appearance.20
For racialized subjects, the very act of appearing, of making oneself known, is a violent act both for its ontological implications and for its inevitable reception. That is, it constitutes a challenge to the prevailing structures of symbolic ontological violence—the walls of exclusion which divide being from non-being—and as a result of this disruption, black appearance historically appears as "violent" regardless of its content.21 And were it not perceived as such, for Fanon, then its ontological shock-value might dissipate, undermining the external element of its function.
And even when that content is nominally "violent," this often masks its ontological function. It is no accident that the Fanon of Black Skin, White Masks had thought it suitable to cite Sartre's The Respectful Prostitute and Richard Wright's Native Son on the same page. "A feeling of inferiority?" he asks himself, of himself: "No, a feeling of nonexistence," he responds. The only response to the immobility of not being able to bring oneself to kill the master is to "explode… to shatter the hellish cycle."22 Turning away from the master (the internal function of symbolic decolonial violence), in practice, often coincides with the realization that that most basic proof of human equality—vulnerability to death at the hands of another—also applies to whites. For this recognition to be put into practice often entails at least the threat of actual violence as the mechanism for enforced recognition (the external function). To the symbolic ontological violence of racialization, then, Fanon seems at first to respond in kind, with a violence which is equally symbolic in its function, but one which rather than determining being undoes the exclusionary barriers of ontology. This is a symbolic violence which operates toward the decolonization of being,23 and which is utterly incommensurable in both its actual and (more fundamental) symbolic forms with the violence of the racist/colonizer.
Decolonizing Symbolic Violence
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is widely known for popularizing, among other concepts, that of symbolic violence, but what—if anything—does this concept share with the idea that we have seen operating in Black Skin, White Masks? For Bourdieu, symbolic violence is a subtle and sinister violence exerted imperceptibly, breeding misrecognition in its hapless victims and serving "to impose meanings and impose them as legitimate by concealing the power relations which are at the basis of its force."24 When Jacques Rancière indicts the "sociologist king" Bourdieu, it is precisely on the basis of the "menaced auxiliary" that this concept of symbolic violence represents.25 Writing in the context of victorious electoral socialism, Rancière would seek to demonstrate how the concept of symbolic violence—so central to Bourdieu's seminal text Reproduction—was necessary for the self-justification of the sociologist's expertise:
If rational pedagogy could tell the truth about pedagogic authority, the "hidden" of science would vanish. This violence therefore must be even more irremediable than that of domination; it must be the irreducibility of the law that leaves the agents producing it or subjected to it no means to recognize it.26
Bourdieu had—like Plato and Marx before him, in Rancière's view—preordained a division of functions which ultimately undercut the autonomy of the subjected in the very process of diagnosing her subjection. And Bourdieu himself would seem to cede on this point, since the very first proposition of Reproduction asserts the semi-autonomy of symbolic violence, as a precondition for defending sociology itself. "To make the creative freedom of individuals the source of symbolic action," Bourdieu tells us, "would amount to denying the possibility of a science of sociology."27
It goes almost without saying that such a stifling understanding of symbolic violence—as something imposed imperceptibly onto a powerless subject—is anathema to both Fanon's objectives and his method. Hence the moment of blockage or impasse—at which the racialized subject confronts her lack of "ontological resistance," and corresponding lack of access to reciprocity—represents merely the mid-point of Fanon's analysis. For Fanon, unlike the sociologist Bourdieu, diagnosis will not suffice, perhaps because the actual violence confronted by racialized and colonized subjects demands more than the diagnosis of the abstract and universal functions of domination. Fanon's sociogenic method—which sees social structures as generating psychological and other disorders—entails more than just the epistemological element of sociology.28 While Fanon himself would only fully reach this conclusion some years later, sociogeny also entails interventionist praxis best summarized—and performed—in Fanon's 1956 letter of resignation from the Blida-Joinville Psychiatric Hospital in Algeria:
The social structure existing in Algeria was hostile to any attempt [through psychiatry] to put the individual back where he belonged… The function of a social structure is to set up institutions to serve man's needs. A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced.29
Despite the fact that the symbolic violence of racialization operates on a deeper (ontological) level than that of Bourdieu, Fanon is nevertheless driven by his own existential situation to transcend a merely passive view of symbolic violence. As a result, we find in Fanon's decolonial formulation of symbolic violence something of a diametric inversion of the sociologist's prison, one in which oxygen reigns and racialized-colonized subjects always find the symbolic violence which imprisons them to be within the reach of their fingertips, available for appropriation, to be wielded against its creators.30
Shaking the World in a Very Necessary Way
In his seminal text The Wretched of the Earth, published some nine years later as Fanon lay dying of leukemia, this symbolic structure would be transposed onto the decolonial revolutionary context of Algeria, but while the violence involved becomes actual in practice, we will see that its basic structure and necessary operations remain largely on the symbolic plane.
There is perhaps a simple explanation for the distinction that most make between Fanon's two major works. Violence, in Wretched of the Earth, does gain an additional aspect: whereas the external function of violence in Black Skin, White Masks was largely one of enforced recognition (which, nevertheless, entails a perceived threat of violence), in Fanon's later work he adds to this the practical function of eliminating the system of colonial privilege. It is with regard to this practical objective that Fanon's insistence on actual violence emerges, in the claim that: "The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists."31 Here, violence is not a strategy, but a "truth," the product of the insistence of the privileged on maintaining the colonial system from which they benefit. But isn't Fanon's claim that colonial privilege won't go without a fight relatively uncontroversial? In fact, most criticism of Fanon's theory of violence focuses not on this straightforward and practical external demand for violence, but rather on the internal side of the equation, and ironically it is here that we see more continuity than rupture vis-à-vis the more overtly symbolic function of violence in Black Skin, White Masks.
The similarity to the ontological self-assertion of Fanon's earlier work is apparent from the outset of his discussion of violence in Wretched, since as he puts it, "decolonization is the veritable creation of new men… the 'thing' which has been colonized becomes a man during the same process by which it frees itself."32 The violence of the colonizer—the "lines of force," the "rifle butts and napalm" which constitute the Manichean division of the colonial world—is "claimed and taken over by the native at the moment when, deciding to embody history in his own person, he surges into the forbidden quarters."33 But we should be clear here: what is crucial is the decision, and this is where the importance of symbolic violence becomes apparent. Elsewhere, Fanon puts it as follows: "it is precisely at the moment he realized his humanity that he begins to sharpen the weapons with which he will secure his victory."34 The realization of one's own humanity is prior to the sharpening of the weapons of liberation, and the mere promise of struggle is fundamental to the affirmation of equality.
As in Black Skin, White Masks, the primary function of this violence is ontological, the self-realization of humanity (internal) and the imposition of equality as a fact (external). I quote at length:
The well-known principle that all men are equal will be illustrated in the colonies from the moment that the native claims that he is the equal of the settler. One step more, and he is ready to fight to be more than the settler… Thus the native discovers that his life, his breath, his beating heart are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler's skin is not of any more value than a native's skin; and it must be said that this discovery shakes the world in a very necessary manner.35
Hence the colonial world is shaken, but not by a bomb blast and not by a bloody massacre. Rather, this is the shaking of ontological categories—of the walls which separate being from non-being—by the native's refusal to passively accept a position of inferiority, to refuse to see herself through the eyes of the oppressor. Put differently, the native has discovered all of these things within herself, "one step" prior to battle. If, as Fanon tells us, "the settler's work is to make even dreams of liberty impossible for the native," then this affirmation of equality first takes the form of a dream, and it is this dream which makes possible the turning away from the master and finding liberation in work.36
Having unearthed the symbolic and ontological function of Fanon's decolonial violence, we are now in a better position to consider his controversial discussion of the positive, generative, and cathartic functions of violence. As he puts it:
for the colonized people this violence, because it constitutes their only work, invests their characters with positive and creative qualities. The practice of violence binds them together as a whole, since each individual forms a violent link in the great chain, a part of the great organism of violence which has surged upward in reaction to the settler's violence in the beginning. The groups recognize each other and the future nation is already indivisible.37
In this crucial passage, three observations are in order. Firstly, we can see the basis for much of the confusion regarding what Fanon understands as "violence," specifically, his reference to the binding function accomplished by the "practice of violence." But once we tie this to Black Skin, we can see the complexities of such a practice, and its symbolic nature and function. Secondly, while decolonial violence here emerges "in reaction to" the violence of the colonizer, it is neither merely reactive nor categorically comparable: decolonial violence, as we have seen, is a breaking down of the ontological walls of being, constructed to exclude certain persons from full access to the category "human," and can share little in substantive terms with the force that builds those very walls. To judge all "violences" as equal would be to fall into a severe formalism which is both useless and erroneous: useless through neglect of the functional content of different violences and erroneous through neglect of the fact that formal characterization as "violent" is always-already tainted by symbolic function.38 Thirdly, if we were tempted to deny the relevance of Fanon's early Hegelian framework in the colonial context, Fanon himself is quick to remind us: inter-group recognition is the first achievement of this Manichean violence, one which is accomplished long prior to formal liberation through the colonized turning away from the colonizing master and toward "their only work."39
It is here that we see the relationship between violence and the two stages that Fanon identifies in the decolonization process. For Fanon, the Manichean violence of the first (formal) stage—tinged as it is with racialism, intolerance, and the elimination of heterogeneity—is the necessary stepping-stone toward the creation of national identity, just as the black identity of which he was similarly critical represented a necessary stepping-stone to self-respect and mutual recognition in Black Skin, White Masks.40 What the "great organism of violence" first accomplishes is its very existence as an organism: the war of liberation creates the collective basis for national identity; it creates a national past and dreams of a national future. And this collective task has a parallel effect on the individual, for whom "violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self respect." Crucially, this effect is present "even if the armed struggle has been symbolic and the nation is demobilized through a rapid movement of decolonization."41 It is only on the basis of this individual and collective identity that the second stage of more substantive decolonization—"that of the building up of the nation," its revolutionary anode socialistic institutional transformation—can move forward, "helped on by the existence of this cement which has been mixed with blood and anger."42
But while the role of national liberation in creating national consciousness seems clear, how does it create the social consciousness required for the subsequent stage of post-liberation development? Central for Fanon in this respect is the demystification of the state and its (frequently Europeanized) leadership:
When the people have taken violent part in the national liberation they will allow no one to set themselves up as "liberators."… Illuminated by violence, the consciousness of the people rebels against any pacification. From now on the demagogues, the opportunists, and the magicians have a difficult task… The attempt at mystification becomes, in the long run, practically impossible.43
The symbolic violence deployed against the colonizer—and the radical realization of equality that it entails—is incorporated into the imaginary of the colonized subject herself as the supreme self-confidence that results from taking into one's own hands the practice of liberation, and this anti-authoritarian moment is the linchpin in Fanon's transition from the first to the second stage of decolonization.
But this binding element is not timeless, and to have social consciousness prior to nationalism is as dangerous as failing to follow through immediately from the nationalist to the socialist stage:
But if nationalism is not made explicit, if it is not enriched and deepened by a very rapid transformation into a consciousness of social and political needs, in other words into humanism, it leads up a blind alley. The bourgeois leaders of the underdeveloped countries imprison national consciousness in sterile formalism.44
This passage bears repeating for those who see in Fanon a starry-eyed optimist of decolonization when he was in reality among the first to prophetically recognize the impending dangers of a merely formal liberation. Nationalism—like the Negritude of Black Skin—must necessarily give way to a broader and more universal humanism, but this giving-way can only occur through subjective certainty, a certainty which in both of Fanon's works takes the form of symbolic decolonial violence.
Hence decolonial violence in Wretched of the Earth represents a symbolic extension of the Hegelian scheme of Black Skin, White Masks. To the failure of ontological resistance and ethical reciprocity—as well as the need to struggle in order for subjective freedom to exist—the colonized responds not by turning away from the object and toward the master, but rather away from the master and toward the object of the nation and the work of violence, their "only work." For both texts, as we have seen, the symbolic register retains its central importance, and the violence in question remains above all ontological, a "shaking" of the categories of exclusion which operate on and within the colonized, a violence which is utterly incommensurable with that of the colonial settler. But what happens if this symbolic transformation fails, if it is short-circuited or halted prematurely? What happens if the momentum propelling the qualitative leap from the first to the second stage of decolonization comes up short for lack of vision or the connivance of Europeanized elites, and the colonized—in the absence of an "object" to work—turn back toward the (former) master? It is this question above all others that confronts us when attempting to speak to a present marked by the persistence of colonial structures—be they economic, political, ontological, epistemological,45 etc.—that could only be described in Hegelian terms as a "turn" back toward the master.
Jumpstarting the Decolonial Engine
If we have seen that there exists a fundamental continuity in Fanon's work—one marked by the ontological function of decolonial violence—we must add the caveat that his two major works can and must be distinguished in terms of the context in which they were written and to which they spoke (and continue to speak). As we will see, it is through dissecting and grasping these contexts in conceptual terms that we can then deploy Fanon's theory of decolonial violence to other, more contemporary situations. If symbolic decolonial violence is the concept which draws Fanon's work together, a second—more contextually determined—concept could be seen to drive them apart: Manicheanism. As we will see, the concept is equally crucial to both texts, but these texts enter the circuit of Manichaeism and violence at different moments, moments which in turn determine their relevance to a particular context or ontological challenge.
The colonial world, as the context for which Wretched of the Earth was written, is already Manichean, and this division manifests geographically as "a world cut in two," divided between settler and native, urban and rural, where "rifle butts and napalm" play a fundamental material role in constituting the "lines of force" that do the dividing.46 "The two zones are opposed," Fanon tells us, "but not in the service of a higher unity… No conciliation is possible, for of the two terms, one is superfluous."47 While Fanon is at pains to emphasize the fundamental continuity on this point between his early and later work,48 it is also painfully clear how far he had travelled from Martinique and France to Algeria. Now, instead of a world where white and black are irreducibly bound to one another in the search for mutual recognition, Fanon finds himself in a context "inhabited by two different species," but where the "superfluous" term is defined not ethnically, but as "those who come from elsewhere, the 'others.'"49 The zones constituting this Manichean world cannot be reconciled—they can only be abolished.
What are the implications of such a self-evident and pre-existing Manicheanism for Fanon's analysis? Quite clearly, this division provides a preexisting starting-point for the revolutionary struggle, as "the primary Manicheanism which governed colonial society is preserved intact during the period of decolonization; that is to say that the settler never ceases to be the enemy, the opponent, the foe that must be overthrown."50 Hence while a certain Manicheanism marks both metropolitan France and colonial Algeria, the very materiality of colonial control entails a torsion of Fanon's analysis. Whereas in Black Skin, White Masks Fanon sought to deploy an outburst of symbolic violence to identify the enemy, the settler is always already the enemy, because he is "from elsewhere," lives elsewhere, and these two opposing elsewheres are kept apart by "lines of force." The "barracks and police stations" mark the division and "the policeman and the soldier" are the designated intermediaries between these two worlds: one spacious and one crowded, one lit and one shadowy, one clean and one dirty, one sated and one hungry.51
But isn't the colonial context structured according to the same ontological violence of dehumanization that Fanon identified in France? Certainly, but with evident differences. The Manichean geography of the colonial world is largely a product of the settler's hatred, fear, and (well-founded) paranoia. Put differently, the colonial situation creates the fear and the division.52 Here we should recall Sartre's diagnosis of anti-Semitism—so influential on Fanon—in which he noted that "the strongest souls among the Jews preferred the gesture of hate to the gesture of charity, because hate is a passion and seems less free."53 In other words, charity is an expression of the symbolic violence of those with the power to structure situations, whereas hatred (and we could add fear and paranoia) contain within themselves the seeds of reciprocity (indeed, this is the fundamental assumption of Fanon's appropriation of symbolic violence). Put ontologically, fear and hatred represent—for the colonized and racialized—the gateway to being, one which already existed in potential form in Algeria as a result of the colonial situation.54 The enemies were already identified, the lists already constituted: all that remained was to fight.
As a result of this pre-existing Manicheanism, the circuit of revolutionary identity takes on a different character in the formal colonial context. It is, in a word, a "closed" circuit: Manicheanism creates the basis for the violent self-assertion ("making known") of the colonized, and this symbolic decolonial violence reinforces Manicheanism during the first stage of (formal) decolonization (the circuit M-V-M, if you will). A virtuous cycle of Manichean violence drives the liberation struggle steadily forward, with every outrage, every massacre only serving to reinforce the basic division of colonial society—that between colonizer and colonized—which makes its destruction inevitable.55 It is only with the second stage of decolonization—that following tightly on the heels of formal liberation—that this closed circuit begins to expand (assuming the form M-V-M1-V1): whereas a largely racial identity operated in the first stage, this begins to weaken, to the exclusion of Europeanized blacks and the inclusion of revolutionary Europeans56; and the objectives of revolutionaries turn away from formal liberation and toward the substantive liberation of the colony from economic and psychic neocolonialism. What is central for our purposes, however, is that for the Fanon of Wretched, the two stages of decolonization appear as though they were irreversibly bound together: the Manicheanism of the first stage serving formal liberation and the expansive circuit of the second stage serving the dialectically-synthetic function of revolutionizing all of society, the qualitative leap between the two circuits made possible by national consciousness.
Given Fanon's insistence in Wretched of the Earth on a progression of stages, then, our central challenge seems to be applying his theory to the formerly-colonized world of today, very little of which has undergone anything like Fanon's second and more revolutionary stage of social development. This difficulty becomes even more acute in Latin America, where the first stage—that of formal liberation—was accomplished more than a century and a half ago. To put our question in Fanonian terms, how can a society be revolutionized without the powerful "national consciousness" which he saw as emerging directly and immediately from the heated crucible of national liberation? If that crucible has cooled, if national identity has been left unattended for 150 years, during which time neocolonial ideas and institutions have crept in (diverting the gaze of the formerly colonized back toward the master), how could Fanon's second stage even be conceivable?
It is here that a parallax view becomes imperative within Fanon's work, and between that work and the contemporary "postcolonial" context. We can only make Wretched of the Earth relevant to contemporary conditions, I argue, by insistently filtering its formulations back through the complexity of Black Skin. We cannot look forward without first looking back, and this is no mistake, given coloniality's efforts to undo the gains of national consciousness. Here, we find ourselves not in the clear-cut Manicheanism or the self-propelling violence of impending decolonial war where "the guns go off by themselves,"57 but rather at the moment of impasse and the ontological blockage of recognition. This is the impasse of the conflicted consciousness, confronting Manichean racism but in a context in which brute economic and material facts have yet to create a situation of open enmity (such enemies not having been clearly identified), and in which the colonial imaginary permeates and dulls identity. Evidence of this lies in the relative paucity of black identity, and much of Fanon's effort in Black Skins is devoted to attacking those escapist paths—specifically, "love" and language—by which his Caribbean compatriots sought to avoid or bypass Manichean racism rather than come to terms with and confront it.
In practical terms, this is the impasse signaled most often by the term "neocolonialism," in which national identity is eroded and whittled-down by a number of forces (economic, epistemological, etc.). But whereas "neo" would entail some sort of novelty, Aníbal Quijano has instead proposed that we focus our attention on what he deems "coloniality," a concept which replaces such novelty with long-term continuity. Coloniality, for Quijano, "consists, in the first place, of a colonization of the imaginary of dominated peoples… the ways of knowing, producing perspectives, images, and systems of images, symbols, modes of signification…"58 Such modes of domination were not a colonial strategy that emerged on the heels of formal liberation, but rather ways of thinking that were slowly implanted from the outset of the colonial enterprise itself, but whose most valuable dividends were only paid in the post-liberation era.59 While this colonial imaginary includes the internalization of ontological violence that we have been discussing here, it is far more than that, and extends to the political, cultural, economic, sexual, and other realms of life.
Having recognized the long-term continuity of colonial relations, we can see that our transformation of Fanon is more than mere chronological disruption for its own sake. Fanon's intellectual production followed a clear trajectory, but events have overtaken the context which underlay the theory. Hence we disrupt and reverse Fanon—shifting back to Black Skin to view Wretched in parallax—not on a whim. Rather, we do so in response to the historical impasse and ontological blockage posed by coloniality, its disruption of what was considered to be a linear progression from the colonial to the "postcolonial." It was this same disruption which Fanon—writing from within the Algerian Revolution, prior to the completion of the first, formal stage—foresaw (as "sterile formalism") but could only warn us against.
Fanon in Caracas
Any effort to apply Fanon's schema of symbolic decolonial violence to the contemporary Venezuelan context is not without its glaring difficulties, many of which are linked to the question of coloniality broached above. Beyond the sheer vastness of the historical gulf separating the present from the period of formal emancipation, we might add that Latin America in general and Venezuela in particular has been marked by a very different colonial and "postcolonial" history than was North Africa, and that as a result of a long history of mestizaje—or ethnic mixing—the a priori Manicheanism Fanon identified in the colonial context is less immediate and less tangible in Venezuela than in even other regions of the post-liberation world. In 20th-century Venezuela, this mestizaje was transformed simultaneously into state policy and unifying myth, such that even today—despite overt racism and classism as well as a high degree of correlation between poverty and race—the claim that "we are all Venezuelans" functions as a barrier to the establishment of any Manichean identity. But if such Manicheanism is fundamental for Fanon's schema, what challenges confront Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution as it seeks today to embark upon that fundamental process of socialist transformation which Fanon associated with a second, post-violence, and post-Manichean stage?
At first glance, the question of Manichean violence is a relevant one for contemporary Venezuela. From being widely deemed Latin America's "model democracy," the country has in recent decades seen urban rebellion, government massacre, and increased political and social polarization as a result of neoliberal economic reforms. Moreover, the Bolivarian Revolution—emerging on the heels of this upheaval, under the nominal leadership of Hugo Chávez Frías—is often assailed by its opponents as a fundamentally violent enterprise, with its history in a failed coup attempt in 1992 and its present marked by social conflict between "Chavistas" and "anti-Chavistas." Overt accusations of Manicheanism, too, are frequent.60 It is worth immediately noting, however, that there is little actual political violence in Venezuela, beyond Chávez's initial coup attempt and the botched and bloody opposition attempt to unseat him in 2002, although it is worth emphasizing that our discussion of the "symbolic" aspects of decolonial violence should not obscure the very real everyday violences against the poor and racialized in Venezuela as elsewhere. Even much of the anti-Chavista opposition would admit that the violence they denounce is largely symbolic, but this is precisely their line of attack. Chávez, we are told, has polarized society and sowed conflict with his "violent and aggressive discourse," and this is no accident.61
What we will see in the Venezuelan process is that this polarization revolves around the re-deployment of a category—so crucial in Latin America, precisely due to the partial decolonization that marks its history—which effectively cross-cuts Fanon's two stages of decolonization: the pueblo, or the people. As the concept is deployed in contemporary Latin America, it reflects a nuanced view of the decolonial process, one which cuts across classes, ethnicities, and above all nation-states.62 The idea of the pueblo simultaneously refers to the nation as a whole and creates a rupture within that nation, whereby Latin American elites effectively find their national credentials called into question (as, e.g., vendepatrias or more recently, pitiyanquis). This peculiarity has recently been theorized by Argentine-Mexican philosopher Enrique Dussel, who argues that, as a result of the various exclusions prevailing within (especially formerly-colonized) political systems, "The 'pueblo' establishes an internal frontier or a fracture within the political community."63 It is only through the establishment of such a notion of rupture that the excluded (from without) and oppressed (from within) members of the political community are able to force their way onto the scene, transforming the totality in the process.64 Hence we can see that the concept of the pueblo is both Manichean and expansive, entailing both rupture and the progressive incorporation of the plebs—comprising both those oppressed by the social totality and those excluded from it—into that hegemonic bloc which constitutes a future, inclusive society (populus).65 As a result, the pueblo cannot exist substantially as a synchronic concept: it can only be grasped diachronically, as a process of incorporation and transformation, and this diachronic movement runs in parallel to Fanon's dialectic of violence and identity. This process of rupture, whereby the excluded/exploited pueblo enters violently into the social life of the nation—and thereby into social being—is precisely what we are seeing in Venezuela's "violence."
To understand the symbolic violence that the emergence of the Venezuelan pueblo represents, as well as the revolutionary step forward that it heralds, we need only step back 20 years. On February 27th 1989, the poor barrios of Caracas and much of Venezuela exploded in a week-long rebellion known as the Caracazo or the Sacudón.66 This rebellion accomplished two things specific to our questions: it indelibly ruptured the image of social harmony that Venezuelan elites had been cultivating since 1958 (and indeed, since these criollo elites emerged as dominant members of the hegemonic bloc that brought about formal liberation), while simultaneously demonstrating beyond a doubt that this was only an image, a delusional fantasy that had never corresponded to reality.67 Rather, what had existed was a two-party power-sharing agreement in the political sphere and a media-ocracy that supported and responded to it, with both buttressed by the occasional oil boom and the prevailing myth of mestizaje. If the pueblo emerged as a social force—or, in Gordon's terminology, "appeared" into being—in the Caracazo, its intervention into Venezuelan political life occurred, at least symbolically, in Chávez's failed 1992 coup attempt, in which he sought consciously to present himself as a representative of the people against the oligarchic Venezuelan political class. As in Fanon's theory, this moment of actual violence derives its historical importance instead from its symbolic (and indeed, mediatic) elements, from its own capacity to rupture the prevailing structures of symbolic violence (in the Bourdieuian sense).
Since then, this violent rupture and division within society, the Manichean distinction of the pueblo versus the oligarquía, has only deepened in all of its constituent elements: against a white creole oligarchy, the pueblo has consciously come to identify not as mestizo, but as African and Indigenous; against wealthy, Americanized elites, the virtues of humility and Venezuelan-ness coincide. When the opposition brands Chávez and his ministers with racial and economic epithets, calling them "ugly Blacks" and "monkeys," this merely feeds back into a virtuous and expansive cycle of Fanonian Manicheanism, reinforcing the identity of the pueblo.68 When the wealthy, white elites blend race and class into a single-word dismissive, deeming all Chavistas "chusma"—which can translate as "rabble," "vermin," or even "scum"—this label is reappropriated and raised as a banner: as Chávez himself put it in a 2001 speech, referring to the variegated historical bloc that expelled the Spanish: "yes, we are the same chusma that followed Bolívar." Here we see that, in a context lacking pre-existing Manicheanism, symbolically-violent language can be deployed (as a manner of "making oneself known," in Fanon's formulation), provoking a reaction which then consolidates the further Manichean division of Venezuelan society, providing the necessary foundations for the second stage of decolonization.
But given that the concept of the pueblo is here both actively deployed and expansive, we can see that Fanon's circuit of decolonial Manicheanism and violence has been altered. Here, we confront a situation which shares more with Black Skin, White Masks than with Wretched of the Earth: the lack of ontological weight enjoyed by the Venezuelan "people" represents a stage prior to that of the pre-existing Manicheanism of Wretched, and as a result, the symbolic violence of identity must be deployed or projected (like black identity in Black Skin), thereby reversing the circuit by entering at a different moment. But in so doing, this Manichean identity (be it "the people," Afro-Indigenous, the poor, or in stricter political terms "Chavista" or "revolutionary") sows the seeds of its own dialectical destruction in transcendence (for Dussel, the transition from plebs to populus). Consequently, the circuit of the pueblo can never be closed, and like the second stage of revolution in Wretched of the Earth, it is marked from the beginning by expansiveness. The result is a circuit (in the form V-M-V1-M1) which represents an inverted form of the second stage of decolonial revolution, but one which precisely by virtue of this inverted form is more suitable for the ambiguities and setbacks that have characterized the continuity of coloniality. Indeed, it is precisely through the progressive incorporation of the oppressed and excluded victims of that situation of coloniality that this inverted circuit can cultivate and craft the Manicheanism necessary to drive substantive decolonization forward.
The Death of a Mythical "Harmony"
Through such symbolically-violent language, the Venezuelan pueblo has been able to consolidate its identity in opposition to the domestic-transnational oligarchy, crucially doing so without the intervention of a recent liberation war. But this should not surprise us, given what we have seen with regard to the symbolic aspects of Fanon's theory of violence in both Black Skin, White Masks and Wretched of the Earth. Where Manicheanism does not already exist as an outgrowth of material relations, it must by actively cultivated by the colonized and racialized. Only then do the reins of symbolic violence slip from the sociologist's grip, becoming available to the oppressed.
The effectiveness of this Manicheanism in Venezuelan society is reflected in nothing so much as in the discourse of the opposition itself. Rather than speaking of harmony—as tended to be the case in this so-called "model democracy" in the decades prior to the Caracazo—wealthier and whiter sectors now mourn its disappearance. One frequently hears the complaint of "hatred." In the words of a young member of the opposition with whom I spoke, "I know that the Venezuela of the past had its defects, there was hunger, there was poverty… But there was no hate."69 Here, the (striking) refusal to recognize the hatred of the poor in the past testifies to their own ontological exile to the "hellish zone of nonbeing" (here bearing in mind that, like violence, "hatred" need not actually exist to be perceived as such by the prevailing system). Excluded for aesthetic reasons from the media and segregated for security reasons to barrios, the poor simply did not exist before, except in the form of a constant but sublimated anxiety. Put in more Fanonian terms, this hatred—or better, the belated recognition of the existence of "hatred"—could be considered, in the Venezuelan context, "the first milestone on the road that leads to the dignity of the spirit."70
Such colloquial expressions have given rise in social-scientific circles to an entire literature devoted to denouncing the "polarization" in Venezuelan society, as social scientists have sought to reclaim their rightful throne as controllers of discourse and dispensers of symbolic ontological violence (in a perverse but logical extension of Bourdieu).71 But even they cannot deny that which has successfully forced its way into being. Much of this literature focuses on the historical rupture of the "illusion of harmony" that had permeated Venezuelan society prior to the Caracazo, but while this harmony was admittedly mythical, some—like Ramón Piñango, editor of a recent volume published by an influential opposition institute—nevertheless maintain the tone of someone who has lost something very real and tangible.72 When, during the Caracazo, "the hills came down"—and here the anthropomorphism of the hills masks while revealing a very real de-humanization and ontological disqualification of their residents—"the demon of social chaos, that we thought we had chained up forever, escaped."73
According to this view, the Caracazo riots raised the "specter of social conflict," and Chávez, rather than embodying the justified demands of an excluded and oppressed group of people, comes to represent instead the "political victory" of that conflict and chaos (which, again, stands in as an anthropomorphized substitute for the people it represents).74 Piñango comes full circle in his contradiction, justifying the slaughter (of up to 3,000) that followed the Caracazo with the thoroughly unconvincing excuse that, "it was not that we wanted anyone to die, but simply that we hoped, with immense anguish, that the looting and violence would stop."75 The gesture is complete, as the justification of actual physical violence on the mass scale is here deployed in order to dismiss the symbolic effects (the "death of harmony") of the decolonial ontological violence of the poor and racialized Venezuelan masses.
If the poor are here blamed for their own exclusion, the same is done with the racialized. After admitting the presence of rampant racism in Venezuelan society, Piñango's co-editor Patricia Márquez, writing in the same volume, argues nevertheless that "with his very image, Chávez has shaken up the beehive of social harmony… His image upsets the wealthy women of Cuarimare… If his image has polarized perceptions, his rhetoric and politics have encouraged social division."76 Here, incredibly, the very racism of elite Venezuelans is blamed on their victims: Chávez is guilty, it seems, of being seen in public as an Afro-Indigenous man. Such public-ity, moreover, is only compounded by his meddling in that most public of realms: the political. Here, again, Fanon and Gordon resonate: for the racialized subject to even appear constitutes a violent act to the prevailing system, and for our purposes, represents as well that necessarily violent gateway toward being.
Almost as if to confirm our Fanonian reading of the Venezuelan situation, Márquez concludes with the sad lament: "the balance has been broken and the Other appears… transformed into the enemy," and later, "Chávez, with increasing belligerency, has identified an Other for them [poor/black Venezuelans]… he has given the enemy a face."77 If we accept Fanon's analysis, then this identification of an enemy shows that real progress has been made on the ontological level, notwithstanding Márquez's efforts to paint the Venezuelan masses as passive. In an effort to divert attention from the causes of Venezuela's discontent and to insist that such polarization has no substantive grounding, Márquez pathologizes the response of the oppressed: the poor and racialized, it seems, merely suffer "resentment," a malady which is duly generalized as an affective response to something which "almost all of us inevitably confront in our lives."78
While this discourse of polarization is little more than an (unconvincing) rearguard effort to reincorporate society, to reconstitute the broken (mythical) unity of social harmony (and the ideology of mestizaje that underpins it), it already demonstrates a clear victory for the poor and racialized, who have engaged in the ontologically-violent Fanonian act of self-assertion, of making oneself known, of appearance, of claiming access to being itself to such a degree that it is no longer possible to ignore them. And given what we know from Fanon, we should not be surprised to find this public appearance of the pueblo dismissed as "violent" by those who benefited for centuries from their exclusion: indeed, it must be perceived as such. All of a sudden, and by virtue of a "very necessary" shaking of ontological categories, race and class exist in Venezuela, which is to say that they are now publicly recognized. And this undermines the anti-Chavista opposition's own critique of polarization, since an abstract critique of polarization can only have ethical weight if there is an ontological assumption of unity. If there exist different classes and ethnic identities, some privileged and some oppressed, then we can have no reason to mourn "polarization" if it is a reflection of the demands of those oppressed sectors: to do so is to blame the victim.
The politically, socially, mediatically, and economically excluded/exploited members of Venezuelan society have made their presence felt in an undeniable and irreversible way. It is this presence that is meant by the opposition codeword "polarization," and it is precisely in this hysterical and burgeoning literature that the victory of the pueblo is best measured. They have shaken the frontiers of being, shattering the showcase window of Venezuelan harmony and rushing forward relentlessly, with little attention paid to the sometimes dangerous shards that remain. As with Fanon, this necessary process of ontological self-assertion will not always be pretty: it has and will continue to involve some "searing bullets and bloodstained knives." But as with Fanon, this actual violence is precipitated more often than not by the wealthy and racist opponents of equality, those deriving benefits from their own privileged access to ontological status (witness the bloody aftermath of the 1989 Caracazo, or the opposition-led coup of April 12th 2002). And we mustn't forget that such actual violence is merely the symptom of a more fundamental transformation, one rooted in the ontological plane: the self-creation of new decolonized and decolonizing human beings, the attempt in Fanon's words, "to set afoot a new man."79
Despite our initial concerns, then, we can see that despite the difficulty of grappling with very different historical and political contexts, Fanon's theory of symbolic decolonial violence is not only applicable to Venezuela, but that it also helps to explain such contemporary phenomena as discursive violence and social polarization. It is precisely because the first stage of formal decolonization was so long ago that the stages envisioned by Fanon necessarily break down, requiring the re-deployment of a symbolic violence which cross-cuts the progressive dialectic of Fanon's schema, blending Manichean identity with revolutionary social transformation through the expansive circuit of collective decolonial identity, jumpstarting the decolonial engine, and allowing for the appearance—the full entrance into being—of the oppressed and excluded pueblo in Venezuelan social life.
George Ciccariello-Maher is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at the University of California, Berkeley, whose work has appeared in Monthly Review, Journal of Black Studies, Qui Parle, Human Architecture, Listening, Radical Philosophy Review, and The Commoner. He is currently completing two projects: a dissertation on revolutionary subjectivity in Georges Sorel and Frantz Fanon, and a people's history of Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution entitled We Created Him. He can be reached at email@example.com
1. This paper was first presented at the Annual Ethnic Studies Graduate Student Conference at UC Berkeley (March 6th-8th 2008) and the Berkeley Journal of Sociology's Eighth Annual Conference (March 14th 2008). At the first, I benefited greatly from the incisive suggestions offered by Nelson Maldonado-Torres. More recently, the paper was presented at the Association for Political Theory conference at Wesleyan University (October 9th-11th 2008), where Vicki Hsueh provided a very useful series of comments. I also thank an anonymous reviewer from Theory & Event for thought-provoking comments and useful suggestions.
2. The term "parallax view" is Slavoj Zizek's shorthand for Kojin Karatani's "transcritical" method. Both influenced my approach here. Kojin Karatani, Transcritique: On Kant and Marx, tr. S. Kohso (Boston: MIT Press, 2003 ). Slavoj Zizek, "The Parallax View," New Left Review 25 (Jan-Feb 2004), 121-134.
3. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, tr. C. L. Markmann (New York: Grove Press, 1967 ), 110.
4. See, e.g., Lewis Gordon, "Through the Hellish Zone of Nonbeing: Thinking through Fanon, Disaster, and the Damned of the Earth," Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge V (Summer 2007), 11. Nelson Maldonado-Torres will term this peculiarly Fanonian diagnosis "sub-ontological difference," in contrast to Emmanuel Lévinas' "trans-ontological difference," which marks "the distance between Being and what is beyond Being; or Being and exteriority." Nelson Maldonado-Torres, "On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the development of a concept," Cultural Studies 21, n. 2 (March 2007), 253-254.
5. See Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (New York: Doubleday, 1958), 45-53.
6. Gordon, "Through the Hellish Zone," 12.
7. Fanon, Black Skin, 217.
8. Fanon, Black Skin, 217-218.
9. Fanon, Black Skin, 220-221.
10. Fanon, Black Skin, 220-221.
11. While Fanon is pessimistic about the French context, this does not apply to the United States, where "the Negro battles and is battled" (Black Skin, 221).
12. Fanon, Black Skin, 114.
13. Fanon, Black Skin, 115.
14. Fanon, Black Skin, 115. Here borrowing from Sartre's diagnosis of the charitable gaze, Fanon would say that for the colonized to force any emotion onto the colonizer is already a step toward ethical reciprocity. See Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, tr. G. Becker (New York: Schocken, 1948 ), 77.
15. Fanon, Black Skin, 115.
16. Fanon, Black Skin, 14.
17. See Robert Bernasconi, "The Assumption of Negritude: Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and the Vicious Circle of Racial Politics," parallax 8, n. 2 (2002), 69-83.
18. Fanon, Black Skin, 133-138, my emphasis.
19. Here, I am insisting—perhaps controversially—on the centrality of the critique of Sartre for Black Skin, White Masks. In doing so, I am reacting to what I see as a tendency to read the text as completed and unified, which relegates Fanon's phenomenology of racism (and his response, which momentarily embraces black identity) to the past and foregrounds the more universal implications of the book's introduction and conclusion. Instead, I believe that we must read the text as a conflictive and conflicted one, an anguished response to a lose-lose situation in which black identity, despite his critiques of it, is not yet discarded as a possible response.
20. Gordon, "Through the Hellish Zone," 12.
21. Here Gordon cites the civil rights struggle, but one could equally cite many other instances of black appearance—from the Black Panthers (armed, certainly, but not for offensive purposes) to hip-hop (often dismissed as violent by precisely those who admit no interest in understanding it), as well as the traditional anxiety about "uppity" blacks "getting ideas," where merely conceiving of equality is associated with violence, and responded to in kind and preemptively. A recent Associated Press poll, carried out in conjunction with Stanford University, bears mentioning here: a full 20% of respondents openly admit to considering blacks "violent" (one could presume the prevalence of subtle associations to be much higher). Such perceptions inevitably serve as a preexisting filter for subsequently interpreting events.
22. Fanon, Black Skin, 139-140.
23. See Nelson Maldonado-Torres, "On the Coloniality of Being," passim.
24. Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture, tr. R. Nice (London: Sage, 1990 ), 4.
25. Jacques Rancière, The Philosopher and His Poor, tr. J. Drury, C. Oster, and A. Parker (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003 ), 177.
26. Rancière, The Philosopher, 177.
27. Bourdieu, Reproduction, 4. Here I am not so much disagreeing with the degree of autonomy that Bourdieu grants symbolic violence, but merely suggesting that his own ostensible objectives revealingly support Rancière's indictment.
28. Fanon, Black Skin, 13.
29. Frantz Fanon, "Letter to the Resident Minister (1956)," in Toward the African Revolution, tr. H. Chevalier (1967 ), 53.
30. Rancière, on the other hand, is content to diagnose the diagnostician, asserting ontological equality as a point of departure rather than coming to terms with the material weight of symbolic ontological violence, the division of being from non-being. In the end, he doesn't stray as far as he might like from the realm of the sociologist-king.
31. Fanon, Black Skin, 37.
32. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, tr. C. Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1963 ), 36-37.
33. Fanon, Wretched, 38; 40, my emphasis.
34. Fanon, Wretched, 43.
35. Fanon, Wretched, 44-45, my emphasis.
36. Fanon, Wretched, 93, my emphasis.
37. Fanon, Wretched, 93, my emphasis.
38. In a broader project, I argue that Fanon maintains the distinction suggested by Georges Sorel of two violences: the inegalitarian force which maintains the state and the liberatory violence which destroys it. See Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence, ed. J. Jennings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999 ), 170.
39. This Hegelian imperative is put even more starkly as follows: "To work means to work for the death of the settler," but this "death" could be the merely symbolic death of the settler qua settler (Wretched, 85).
40. Fanon, Wretched, 46.
41. Fanon, Wretched, 94, my emphasis.
42. Fanon, Wretched, 93.
43. Fanon, Wretched, 94-95.
44. Fanon, Wretched, 204.
45. For a formulation of epistemological coloniality, see Edgardo Lander, ed., La Colonialidad del Saber: eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales, Perspectivas latinoamericanas (Buenos Aires: CLACSO, 1993).
46. Fanon, Wretched, 38.
47. Fanon, Wretched, 38-39.
48. See Fanon, Wretched, 41fn, where the author roots his later discussion of the Manichean world in Black Skin.
49. Fanon, Wretched, 40.
50. Fanon, Wretched, 50-51.
51. Fanon, Wretched, 38-39.
52. We should not overstate this difference, or see it too statically, since situations can and do shift. As Gil Scott-Heron once put it: "We must have black unity, for in the end unity will be thrust upon us, and we upon it and each other, locked in cages, hemmed-in, shoulder-to-shoulder, arms outstretched for just a crust of bread." The distance between the anti-black world and the colonial world is never too far. Gil Scott-Heron, "The King Alfred Plan," Free Will (New York: Flying Dutchman Records/RCA, 1972).
53. Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, 77.
54. Of course, this is not to deny that fear and hatred—or at least a profound anxiety—are present in Fanon's account of French racism, but merely that these take on qualitative differences in the settler-colonial context (as opposed to the outpost-colonial Martinican system which provided the background for Black Skin, White Masks).
55. Fanon, Wretched, 72.
56. Fanon, Wretched, 144.
57. Fanon, Wretched, 71.
58. Aníbal Quijano, "Colonialidad y Modernidad/Racionalidad," Perú Indígena 13, n. 29 (1991), pp.11-20.
59. Here, Fanon speaks of the "untruths implanted in his [the native's] being by oppression" (Wretched, 309).
60. See, for example, the opposition bishops cited in Larry Rohter, "Now Chávez Takes on the Church," New York Times (December 19th 1999). See also Kenneth Roberts, "Social Polarization and Populist Resurgence in Venezuela," in S. Ellner and D. Hellinger, eds., Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class, Polarization, and Conflict (Boulder and London: Lynne Reinner, 2004), 70.
61. "Chávez pone en alerta a las Fuerzas Armadas," El Universal (December 4th 2005). The quote here is from Julio Borges, leader of the opposition Primero Justicia party. Elsewhere, I have discussed the symbolically homophobic, racist, and sexualized implications of this critique. See George Ciccariello-Maher, "Toward a Racial Geography of Caracas: Neoliberal Urbanism and the Fear of Penetration," Qui Parle 16, n. 2 (Summer 2006), 39-72.
62. See, for example, Guillermo O'Donnell, Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Argentina, 1966-1973, in Comparative Perspective, tr. J. McGuire (Berkeley: UC Press, 1988), 7-8. Here, pueblo and oligarquía come to signify the national and the foreign, respectively.
63. Enrique Dussel, Twenty Theses on Politics, tr. G. Ciccariello-Maher (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), 74.
64. Dussel, Twenty Theses, 79.
65. This expansive circuit of Manicheanism on the basis of the Latin American pueblo seems to result from: 1.) The absence of a clear-cut Manicheanism to begin with, which itself appears as, 2.) the long-term effect of coloniality and the distinct modes of appropriation it proliferates (i.e. gendered, sexual, economic, ethnic), and 3.) the formal nature of the liberation, one which specifically included various sectors but privileged white Creole (and largely Eurocentric) elites.
67. Elsewhere, I have demonstrated the racial-geographical importance of the Caracazo, which represented above all a penetration of wealthy zones by the poor. See Ciccariello-Maher, "Toward a Racial Geography of Caracas."
68. See Jesús María Herrera Salas, "Ethnicity and Revolution: The Political Economy of Racism in Venezuela," in S. Ellner and M. Tinker Salas, eds., Venezuela: Hugo Chávez and the Decline of an "Exceptional Democracy" (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), 99-118.
69. Personal correspondence, Julia1984.
70. Fanon, Black Skin, 218.
71. While I have not done so here, it would be worthwhile to extend this critique to those social scientists like Margarita López-Maya who maintain sympathies toward Chavismo. See Medófilo Medina and Margarita López Maya, Venezuela: confrontación social y polarización política (Bogotá: Ediciones Aurora, 2003).
72. Ramón Piñango, "Muerte de la armonía," in Patricia Márquez y Ramón Piñango, eds., En esta Venezuela: Realidades y nuevos caminos (Caracas: Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Administración, 2003), 22.
73. Piñango, "Muerte de la armonía," 19.
74. Piñango, "Muerte de la armonía," 20.
75. Piñango, "Muerte de la armonía," 19.
76. Patricia Márquez, "Vacas flacas y odios gordos: la polarización en Venezuela," in Márquez and Piñango, eds., 31, my emphasis.
77. And here, the suggestion that the poor are "passive victims" of Chávez's symbolic violence—which nevertheless fulfills a biologized sociopathic need—reminds us of the more restrictive framework of Bourdieu (Márquez, "Vacas flacas," 31, 41).
78. Márquez, "Vacas flacas," 32.
79. Fanon, Wretched, 316.