Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

Fanon's Black Skin White Masks: the Scientific Irreducibility of Black Bodies and Inscribing the Psychological and Social experiences of the African Diaspora in the Western Sciences

Jean-Marie VIVALDI

Abstract


Abstract

This piece argues that Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks inscribes the social and psychological experience of the African Diaspora within the conceptual purview of the Western sciences by the means of psychoanalytical and philosophical concepts. The upshots of Fanon’s goal are twofold. Its first implication is that in employing psychoanalytical and philosophical lingo to account for the non-European dimension of the social and psychological experience of the African Diaspora, Fanon commits to delineate a distinct tenet of self-determination for the African Diaspora as well. Such tenet of self-determination consists in a set of norms, beliefs, socio-cultural and political practices. Secondly, besides the stated goal in the Introduction, namely to ‘liberate the black individual from herself’, Fanon is attempting to alter the European perception of black communities as sexual and biological threats. Fanon thinks that such empirical perception confines the humanity of black communities to their bodies. Accordingly, this piece concludes that Fanon’s successful inscription of the psychological and lived experiences of the African Diaspora in the western sciences via his psychoanalytical and philosophical rendition is hampered by the European perception of black bodies which prevents their complete scientific conceptualization. The impediment that black bodies presents to the scientific conceptualization of the social and psychological experience of the African Diaspora is referred to as the scientific irreducibility of black bodies. One of the implications of the scientific irreducibility—non-scientific conceptualization—of black bodies is that it hinders Fanon from drawing out the distinct system of values, beliefs, and norms to secure the recognition of the African Diaspora as an equal group in European society.

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