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  • Wynter with Fanon in the FLN:The "Rights of Peoples" against the "Monohumanism" of "Man"
  • Greg Thomas (bio)

After the fruitful struggle that it ["the French conscience"] waged two centuries ago for the respect of individual liberties and the rights of [M]an, it finds itself unable to wage a similar battle for the rights of peoples.

—Frantz Fanon, El Moudjahid (1957) / Towards the African Revolution (1964)

I

The "Black" African and Afro-mixed descent peoples were now made into the iconic embodiment of this now extreme form of (racialized) Human Otherness, as well as of the Western world-system's later nineteenth-century, territorially expropriated, and now colonized neo-periphery category of native labor as, in Fanonian terms, Les Damnés de la terre, meaning, literally, "the condemned of the Earth."

—Sylvia Wynter, "The Ceremony Found" (2015)

In hindsight, "The Ceremony Must Be Found" (1984) must have marked a new moment in the multifaceted career of Sylvia Wynter. The dancer-dramatist and cultural critic who wrote The Hills of Hebron (1962) becomes an epic critical essayist on Western humanism, "Ethno-Class Man," Western bourgeois humanism. Now that essay from boundary 2: a journal of post-modern literature can only be read with "The Ceremony Found" (2015), if this major contribution to a collection titled Black Knowledges / Black Struggles: Essays in Critical Epistemology has yet to reap a significant readership in scholarship on the scholar.1 One of many ways to engage this text is to remark the relationship between a new coinage and a sustained commitment or concern—namely, "monohumanism" and Wynter's revolutionary Fanonism.

The importance of Fanon in Wynter is hard to overlook yet not easy or simple to gauge in its assorted dimensions. Before "The Ceremony Found" there was "Towards the Sociogenic Principle: Fanon, Identity, the Puzzle of Conscious Experience, and What It Is Like to Be 'Black'" (2001). Earlier still, [End Page 857] there was "Tras el 'Hombre,' su última palabra: Sobre el posmodernismo, les damnés y el principio sociogénico" (1991), via Spanish translation by Ignacio Corona-Guitérrez. It appeared in the same year as "After the New Class: James, Les Damnés, and the Autonomy of Human Cognition" (1991), which also upholds Fanon's "starving fellah" as "the truth," as she would so boldly in "No Humans Involved: An Open Letter to My Colleagues" (1992). Many a notion from Fanon will frame the texts of Wynter over the years. Most monumental are the concepts of sociogeny and damnation or condemnation. Their constant mobilization by Wynter sets her work apart from the standard "postcolonialist" containment of Fanon in Western academe, which only rarely if ever conjoins rather than severs the insights of Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks with the insights of The Wretched of the Earth.

To open "The Ceremony Found: Towards the Autopoetic Turn/Overturn, It's Autonomy of Human Agency and Extraterritoriality of (Self-)Cognition," Wynter returns to "The Ceremony Must Be Found: After Humanism" by recalling the political legacy of the 1950s and 1960s, especially the "Anti-Colonial Revolutions," which would be such a determining factor in her intellectual work. The first Fanon she cites here in the introduction is the ultimate Fanon—of Les Damnés de la terre, whose title she is at pains, again, to retranslate as "The Condemned of the Earth."2 Part 1 of "The Ceremony Found" next presents itself as a manifesto meant to retrieve the "failure" of "The Ceremony Must Be Found" and to practice a heresy—"after Frantz Fanon"—in providing a "profoundly 'narcissistic' and revalorizingly new answer to the question of who-we-are as humans."3 Soon, Black Skin, White Masks is uniquely engaged to craft the "new Fanonian answer" of "The Ceremony Found" in a manner that matches him, again, with Copernicus in worldly significance. Here's where "sociogeny" is key, departing equally from the biologist or biocentric "ontogeny" foundational to "ethno-class" "Man" and the "phylogenetic" expression of Western individualism systematized by Freud's psychoanalytic thought. After the Copernican Revolution, en route to his "African Revolution," this Fanonian Revolution motivates Wynter's proposition in part 2 of a counter-cosmogonic "Autopoetic Turn/Overturn" with Rastafarian intonations...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 857-865
Launched on MUSE
2018-12-14
Open Access
No
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