Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon

Jane Anna Gordon
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon
    Book Description:

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

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5485-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    This book offers a reading of two central themes in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau through insights from the writings of Frantz Fanon. Through this effort, I hope to enrich discussions of the nature of methodology and requirements of democratic legitimacy and provide an example of the creolizing of political theory. In this case, it is a creolization of one canonical figure through the ideas of another as well as of central concepts in Western political thought. Why undergo such an undertaking?

    Rousseau’s unsettling challenges concerning the emancipatory potential of human inquiry and his infamous conception of the general will...

  5. 1 Delegitimating Decadent Inquiry
    (pp. 18-62)

    When Rousseau provocatively diagnosed the Enlightenment as one more example of the moral decay of empires and offered his challenging portrait of political legitimacy he reversed the geopolitical values of his day, suggesting that it was in Europe’s backwaters where freedom and virtue had a present and future. He tied the alternatives that he prized not only to this periphery but to its greater reaches in the brown and black world, seeing in them the elements of the ancient political past that he hoped might still materialize, if now in modern conditions. Still, if cast heroically and as evidence of...

  6. 2 Decolonizing Disciplinary Methods
    (pp. 63-94)

    Although Fanon never explicitly engaged Rousseau—he only names Rousseau once along with other liberal French writers that he mocks—Fanon shared with Rousseau an effort to challenge the ways that reason had been used to advance the singularity of particular models of desirable political arrangements and ways of being human.² Much like Rousseau, Fanon sought out the points where preferred frameworks confronted their opposites. However, if with Rousseau there were men and women ready to affirm themselves in refuting these approaches, for Fanon the advance and normalization of colonial relations pushed the colonized into a complex complicity. Indeed it...

  7. 3 Rousseau’s General Will
    (pp. 95-128)

    Rousseau’s and Fanon’s interests in questions of method and inquiry, as I have shown, were fundamentally tied to their diagnoses of illegitimate politics. For Rousseau, the possibility of an alternative was easier to envisage than to realize. Still, trying to imagine people as we are and laws and institutions as they might be, he offered his effort “to square the circle” through the idea of “the general will” the pursuit of which, he insisted, was the only legitimate basis of government.

    Rousseau made the general will famous and infamous in several fateful strokes. Although a concept with a prior life...

  8. 4 Fanonian National Consciousness
    (pp. 129-161)

    Although his early theoretical work on racism and colonialism focused primarily on the question of disalienation in terms requiring an interrogation of the human sciences, especially psychiatry, Fanon found himself in a difficult situation as head of the psychiatric division at Blida-Joinville Hospital at the dawn of the Algerian War. His experience as a soldier twice decorated for valor in World War II, his medical knowledge, and his commitment to struggles for freedom led to his aiding the Front Liberation Nationale (FLN), his eventual resignation from his state-supported position of head psychiatrist, and his formally joining the FLN. The observations...

  9. 5 Thinking Through Creolization
    (pp. 162-202)

    Thus far, I have argued that Rousseau’s challenging reflections on questions of human inquiry, political illegitimacy and its alternatives remain highly relevant to the presentandare considerably enriched and extended in the work of Frantz Fanon. In other words, the central ideas produced through Rousseau’s efforts to make sense of his shifting world are taken up by Fanon and altered to grapple with the continuous and distinctive predicaments of Martinique and then Algeria. One thereby witnesses a radical critique of the ways in which the project of European modernity implicated everything in its orbit, including what could function as...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 203-220)

    I have offered readings of Rousseau and Fanon in the preceding pages in the hope of demonstrating the productivity of bringing ideas together in acreolizedrather thancomparativeway.

    Readers may well then wonder what they are to make of the relationship of the creolizing that I am arguing for to the now blossoming subfield of comparative political theory. After all, one striking feature of the work that I call “creolizing” is its bringing into constructive conversation figures whose universal significance is undisputed with those that, at least historically in North America and Western Europe, have been considered only...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 221-264)
  12. References
    (pp. 265-286)
  13. Index
    (pp. 287-294)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-296)