Colonial and Anti-Colonial Conflict in Colonial Period

A Critical Study of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks

- Sujoy Barman

This research article is based on the theme of delineation of the function of power in the field of the theory of post colonialism with the explicit references of postcolonial theorist Frantz Fanon and his work Black Skin, White Masks. The article explains the domination of the colonized people by the European colonialists on the basis of the importance of language, colour of skin, culture and race during the colonial period. The article also explains the formation of the anti-colonial platform and the decolonization towards the end of the European colonialism. It identifies the different issues which play the significant role to form the nationalist or anti- colonial power to stand against the colonial power and the different steps of decolonization and for liberation.
Keywords: Decolonization, Domination, Mimicry, Power, Violence.

The title of the article suggests that it describes the definition of colonialism, the struggle between colonial power and anti- colonial power, the importance of the colonial language for the colonized people in the indigenous land, cultural domination or cultural hegemony, racism according to the colour of skin. It is an explanation of the multiple reasons for the colonial exploitation and domination of one country by another country. Frantz Fanon (1925-61) was a Martinique psychiatrist, a postcolonialist and his theory is based on the context of African (especially Algeria and Martinique) and French colonial relation. The paper describes the colonial and imperial relation among the countries from Africa and Europe and as well as between Europe and the rest of the world; and also the article focuses on the reasons behind the formation of European – African power relation and European domination over Africa and the  rest of world.

Definitions of Power, Imperialism, Colonialism and Postcolonialism
In general, power stands for the ability or strength that provides one to work according to wills and at the same time it provides the capability to enforce other to act according to the wills of the possessor of power. According to French thinker and philosopher Michel Foucault: ‘power is exercised, rather than possessed; it does not belong to anyone, nor does it all emanate from one specific location, such as the state. Rather power is diffused throughout social institutions, as it is exercised by innumerable, replaceable functionaries’. Next imperialism is a strategy where a powerful country spreads its border and aims to extend its control forcibly beyond its own border over other countries and people. Such control is usually not found in military but through the economic and cultural systems. And colonialism quite resembles with imperialism. Like imperialism, colonialism talks about the expansion of land, domination of culture, economical exploitation and military suppression. But at the same time colonialism is the practice by which a powerful country directly controls less powerful countries and uses their natural resources to increase its own power and wealth. On the other hand postcolonialism is an interdisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of the European colonialism and its impact on the society, culture, history and politics of the formerly colonized countries in the African continent, the Caribbean, the Middle East, South- Asia and the Pacific. It covers the terms of postcolonial studies, postcolonial theory and postcolonial literature. It depicts the pre- colonial, colonial and post- colonial societies. Anti- colonial thinking is also included to the postcolonialism. Anti- colonialism is the indigenous thinking about the colonial rule during and after the colonial period by the colonized people against the colonial authority. Postcolonialism is the study of pre- colonial, colonial and post- colonial periods of the formerly colonized country.

Formation of power in European colonialism
According to the possession of power in colonialism, all the countries across the world have been divided into two power zones. The first power zone belongs to the colonial countries and the second power zone belongs to the colonized countries. The first power zone possesses the dominating power and the countries of that power zone exercise the power over the countries of the second power zone. And the countries of the second power zone don’t have any dominating power. They are dominated and the countries of the first zone exercise the power over the countries of the second zone. In the colonial history, the European countries belong to the first power zone and the countries from Africa, East Asia, Latin America, Middle East etc belong to the second power zone. There are some reasons behind this powerful condition of the European countries. The first and major reason is the industrial revolution in Europe. The industrial revolution provided the power of economy to the European countries and the excessive industrial development automatically created the platform for the European countries to make colonies in the rest of the world for the raw materials for the industries and the markets for the industrial products and goods.During the British colonial rule in India, the British East India Company enforced the Indian farmers to cultivate tea, coffee and indigo in order to export to England and their factories as raw materials.The European colonial countries could utilize the natural resources of their colonies in their factories and industries and at the same time the colonized people were the customers for their industrial goods. Thus they have received a big consumer society. Besides this economical profit, the European countries also used the colonized people as their slaves. They found the slave trade was very much profitable. They exported slaves from Africa to their native lands in Europe to work in the farms and at the same time they also exported slaves from Africa to America. This inhuman slave trade was much profitable to the European trade companies. In short, these are the basic reasons behind the inauguration of the colonialism in the world. But to establish colonies, to sustain the authority over the colonies a colonial country must be powerful, because without power a country can never establish a colony or sustain the authority over a colony. Likewise for decolonization or to liberate, a colonized country also needs power. To challenge the colonial power, a colonized country also needs another super power and this power is the nationalist power inaugurated with the anti colonial thinking. In order to dominate a colonized country, a colonial country exercises the power in two ways. French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser has divided the power into soft power and hard power according to the exercising systemsof power. Soft power is also known as Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) because it is operated by means of ideology through the institutes like school, colleges, hospitals and cultural programs etc. The hard power is also known as the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA) and it is operated by means of violence, physical coercion. In the colonial power system, to dominate the colonized people, the colonial government exercises both the soft power and hard power. The colonial countries use police, military force, gun, judicial system as the hard power domination; and the language and literature, colour of skin, race, culture, religion as the soft power domination during the colonial period. 

Power of colonial language and literature
During the colonial period, the colonial government uses the colonial language and literature as the medium of domination without using violence over the colonized people.  Such colonial influences are explicitly explained in the chapter ‘The Negro and Language’ of the theoretical text “Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon who has explained the important role of the European colonial language to sustain the colonial power over the Negroes and black people in Africa. He witnesses the harsh reality of the French colonialism in Algeria where he was appointed as a psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital of Blida- Joinville in 1953 and it was the time of the Algerian revolution against the French colonial rule. The colonial language and literature create some situations in which colonized coloured people are ideologically and economically dominated. There are some reasons behind the powerful condition of the colonial language and literature during the colonial period for the native people. These reasons enforce the colonized people to adopt the colonial language and literature and at the same time to neglect the native language and literature. The first reason belongs to the economical background. Because of the knowledge over colonial language and literature a colonized person can change the life both economically and socially. It becomes a source of income for a native and at the sametime it increases the reputation in the society. During the colonial period, if a native wants to be a serviceman or wants to be recruited for any governmental service, the native at first needs to be educated with colonial language. Without knowing the colonial language the native is never offered the service because the native plays the role as the interlocutor between the colonial officers and his fellow natives and because the native is the conveyor of the orders of the colonial government to his fellow natives. So to work as a government officer and to support his family economically, a native must have knowledge about the colonial language. This is the economical reason for adopting the colonial language and the next reason belongs to the reputation and rank in society. As the natives become the conveyors of the orders of the colonial government and speak like their colonial masters, the natives feel superior, think superior being from the other fellow natives. Through this mimicry the natives increase the social reputation. “In the French colonial army, and particularly in the Senegalese regiments, the black officers serve first of all as interpreters. They are used to convey the master’s orders to their fellows, and they too enjoy a certain position of honor” (Black skin, White Masks 18-19). For the dignity as an employee of the colonial government and as a superior among the fellow natives, many colonized people prefer to the colonial language and at the same time they also motivate their next generation to do so, and teach and educate their children according to the colonial educational norms or educate with the colonial education. Thus the priority of the colonial language and literature gradually increases for the colonized people and at the same time it also decreases the importance of the indigenous language and literature at the indigenous people. The colonial parents teach their children to hate their indigenous language and literature and to adopt the colonial language. “The middle class in the Antilles never speak Creole except to their servants. In school the children of Martinique are taught to scorn the dialect. One avoids Creolisms. Some families completely forbid the use of Creole, and mothers ridicule their children for speaking it” (20). Thus colonial language and literature plays a significant role to dominate the indigenous people without using violence.

Power of colour of skin
Like the language and literature, the colour of skin during the colonial period brings discrimination of power. In the colonial studies, the European white skinned people are powerful and superior whereas the non- European black skinned people are powerless and inferior. And the colour of skin varies power and position.  It is regarded that the white skinned people are the sons of god and black skinned people are very close to nature, animal like creatures and sons of beasts. In the two chapters of the theoretical text Black Skin, White Masks, entitled The Woman of Color and the White Man and The Man of Color and the White Woman, Frantz Fanon scrutinizes the relations between black woman- white man and black man- white woman. In the chapter The Woman of Color and the White Man, Frantz Fanon shows that a black woman has the fantasy for the white man. A black woman wants to be the wife of a white man who does not show any respect to the black woman. She considers that “I loved him because he had blue eyes, blond hair, and a light skin” (43). In that regard the black woman knows the importance of the colour of skin. In the colonized society, the European white colour stands for the authority, and a white man is the representative of this authority. That is why a black woman selects a white man rather than a black man as her life partner. In the fiction, Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad explains this fantasy with the relation between the black lady and Mr. Kurtz. After the marriage, the black woman has to face the humiliation in the white world both by the white man and woman for the system of colour. In the chapter, The Man of Color and the White Woman, Frantz Fanon explains the system of colour through the relation of man of colour and the white woman. But in that case the situation is quite difference from the earlier. For a coloured man, the colour does not very any discrimination if he proves himself as intelligent as the white man.  Here Frantz Fanon exemplifies that a black man is accepted to the white society very easily if he proves his capability over education, science like a white man and he is offered a white sister by a white brother. And in that sense, the black man has to deny his Negro culture. “When the question is put directly, then, the white man agrees to give his sister to the black- but on one condition: You have nothing in common with real Negroes. You are not black, you are “extremely brown” (69). But whatever Frantz Fanon explains about the coloured man in The Man of Color and the White Woman,but in practical the situation is different. In short, according to Frantz Fanon, thus the colour of skin for the colonized people varies two distinctive situations according to sex and gender, and the colour stands for power.

Power of Race and Culture
During the colonial period, a colonized country is divided into two power zones according to the socio- economical, and religio- cultural backgrounds. One zone belongs to the colonial culture and race, and another zone belongs to the indigenous culture and race.  These two zones are totally different from each other and they oppose each other. The colonial cultural zone is superior, enjoys every facility of life because it possesses power and on the other hand the colonized indigenous cultural zone is inferior, separated from almost every facility of life because it has no power. These two cultural zones are separated from each other by barracks and police stations which stand like the border line between these colonial and colonized zones. The policemen and the soldiers are the spokesmen of the settlers and the representatives of the colonial authority. In ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, Frantz Fanon very skilfully explains the distinction between the European settler’s cultural zone and the native’s cultural zone in the chapter ‘Concerning Violence’. Here he says: “The settler’s town is a strongly- built town, all made of stone and steel. It is a brightly-lit town; the streets are covered with asphalt, and the garbage- cans swallow all the leavings, unseen, unknown, and hardly thought about. The settler’s feet are never visible, except perhaps in the sea, … The town belonging to the colonized people, or at least the native town, the Negro village, the medina, the reservation, is a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute” (30). Such socio- economical condition according to the cultural differences stands for superiority and inferiority and shows the suppressed situation of the colonized people by the settlers. The indigenous people find that by adopting the colonial culture, they may be regarded as superior as the settlers, and it may increase their socio- economical position and in order to be superior in socio- economical and cultural fields, the indigenous people begin to imitate culture of the settlers and the colonial people. Thus the colonized people are culturally dominated by the colonial people. Such domination has been identified as the cultural hegemony by the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. So during the colonial period, the culture of the colonial country is the master culture and the indigenous culture is the culture for the subjects. Like culture, race also plays the important role at the time of colonialism. People are divided into races according to the colour of skin, white skinned race and black skinned race. The white skinned race is superior and the black skinned race is inferior. A white man never feels inferior or be treated as inferior being in the colonized land. But a colour man or a black skinned man is inferior or always treated as inferior being in his own land because his skin is coloured. That is why a few numbers of white people can very easily dominate and rule over a huge number of black people. At the same time, the European colonial culture is regarded as the master culture and the indigenous culture is the culture for subjects. As their culture is the master culture, they neglect the culture of the indigenous people.

Power and Psychology
Frantz Fanon in his ‘Black Skin, White Masks’ exemplifies the effect of the colonial impact over the psychology of children through the background of the family. In the chapter ‘The Negro and Psychopathology’, Frantz Fanon shows how the structure of the family in the colonial period influences the psychology both of white and black children. A white child from the very childhood is taught to think superior, master of the world, protector of the world and the possessor of power through teaching and lesson from the stories of the white legends and mythical characters in comic books, TV shows in a family. And such background makes white children psychologically strong and they later in future intend to play the role of master. On the other hand black children from the childhood notice the slaved and subjective life of their parents and guardians by the European settlers. Thus a black child finds out that the whites are the masters of the black people, and generally in future the black child will also behave as a subject to the white people. Thus the discrimination in the power system between the colonizer and colonized people influences the psychology both of the black and white children who as black think to be powerless and as white to be powerful.”In the magazines the Wolf, the Devil, the Evil Spirit, the Bad Man, the Savage are always symbolized by Negroes or Indians; since there is always identification with the victor, the little Negro, quite as easily as the little white boy, becomes an explorer, an adventurer, a missionary “who faces the danger of being eaten by the wicked Negroes” (146).

Decolonization is the ending footmark of the colonization and colonial power in the colonized countries. In the previous chapters, the inequality of power between colonial and colonized people has been described and this chapter contains the explanation of the two powers, colonial and nationalist powers; and these are equally strong, and this chapter also focuses on the formation of the nationalist power against the colonial power and the mode of decolonization. In the chapter ‘Concerning Violence’ of The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon defines the concept of ‘decolonization’. He says: “decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men” (27). Here he talks about masters of the colonized people of a country during and after colonialism. During the colonial period, the European settlers are the masters of the colonized people and after the decolonization when the country gains its liberty the masters of the formerly colonized country are the selected members among the indigenous people. A group of people has been selected as the masters of the newly liberated country.  Secondly Frantz Fanon says: “Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a programme of complete disorder” (27). It means that decolonization is a movement of violence; it is a conflict between the colonial power and the nationalist power, a political struggle between the settlers and the indigenous people. At the time of the decolonization, the colonized people oppose the colonial power.And this movement has been formed in two ways, first is in the field of ideology or the colonized people deny the authority of the colonial government refusing the importance of the colonial culture, colonial language and literature without using any violence, the second way of decolonization has been formed with the violence or the nationalist movement with arms. During the process of decolonization, nationalist leaders use arms, weapons to uproot the settler’s government from the indigenous land. This is known as the hard power conflict in the field of colonialism. And on the other hand some nationalist leaders use the indigenous literature, culture etc as the weapons against the settler’s government. In Indian nationalist movement Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and many other nationalists used the arms, weapons against the British colonial government in India. And on the other hand, Ghandhiji used the ideology like non-violence during the period of decolonization in India against the British authority in India. In the chapter ‘The Pitfalls of National Consciousness’ of the theoretical text ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, Frantz Fanon explains the system by which the national consciousness has been formed among the colonized people: “History teaches us clearly that the battle against colonialism does not run straight away along the lines of nationalism. For a very long time the native devotes his energies to ending certain definite abuses: forced labour, corporal punishment, inequality of salaries, limitation of political rights…” (119). After such minor revolutions, when the colonized people find that the minor revolutions are not effective, they think about a nationwide revolution as they find out that it is the settler’sgovernment who dominates whole nation and gradually all people from different groups according to culture, religion, race, caste across the nation, meet one place, rise voice altogether against the settler’s government. Thus the nationalist movement moulds against the colonial government.
Now it is right that Frantz Fanon explains the struggle between colonial authority and the colonized authority in the postcolonial studies from the Afro- European context and he has pointed out the dominating, suppressing relation between blacks and whites. The white people always make the black people as their subjects from different grounds. Frantz Fanon’s explanation of the relation between natives and settlers has been based on the socio- economical, religio- political and cultural backgrounds and he attempts to find out the socio- economical, political, psychological reasons for this slave- master relation between European white and African black people in the African countries. Thus the colonialism contains multidimensional shapes of power, its exercising form from the beginning of colonialism to the end of colonialism.

Works Cited
Buchanan, Ian. A Dictionary of Critical Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markman. London: Pluto Press, 1986. Print.
---. Peau Noire, Masques Blancs. France: E`ditions du Seuil, 1952. Print.
---. The Wretched of the Earth. Trans. Constance Farrington. UK: Penguin Books, 2001. Print.
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. Print.
Leitch B, Vincent. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2010. Print.

About Sujoy Barman:

Sujoy Barman is an independent researcher. He has completed M.A in English Literature from Malda College, University of Gour Banga. He has qualified NET (UGC) and SET (WBCSC). His most interesting areas of study and research are postcolonial theory, gender studies, and Indian drama in English.

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