[Marxism] Fwd: Adam Shatz reviews ‘Écrits sur l’aliénation et la liberté’ by Frantz Fanon, edited by Robert Young and Jean Khalfa · LRB 19 January 2017

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jan 12 06:33:29 MST 2017


Fanon submitted the manuscript of Black Skin, White Masks as his medical 
thesis, but it was rejected. Instead he wrote a 75-page thesis on 
Friedrich’s Ataxia, a hereditary neurological condition often 
accompanied by psychiatric symptoms. Fanon’s most reliable biographers – 
Cherki and the British historian David Macey, whose book also appeared 
in 2000 – have tended to dismiss the dissertation, but Young and Khalfa 
make a strong case for its importance. In the very last line of Black 
Skin, White Masks, Fanon wrote: ‘O my body, make of me always a man who 
always questions!’ In his thesis, reprinted here in its entirety, we see 
him cutting through the compartmentalising assumptions of his 
profession: the ‘systematic indifference’ of neurologists towards the 
‘psychiatric symptom’, the rigid opposition of mind and body, physical 
and mental. He is not yet prepared to call for a politicised psychiatry, 
but he insists on seeing ‘the human being … as a whole, an indissoluble 
unity’, and on the need to investigate what Marcel Mauss called the 
‘total social fact’ – the intricate web of relations, institutions and 
beliefs that forms social reality. The mentally-ill person, he writes, 
is above all an ‘alienated individual’ who ‘no longer finds his place 
among men’, and needs to be reintegrated into ‘the heart of the group’.

These ideas were very much in tune with the theories of the man who 
became Fanon’s mentor at the psychiatric hospital of 
Saint-Alban-sur-Limagnole in the Massif Central. Like Fanon, François 
Tosquelles was both a doctor and a resistance fighter, having led the 
Spanish Republican Army’s psychiatric services before crossing the 
Pyrenees in 1939. Under Tosquelles’s leadership, Saint-Alban had become 
a sanctuary for partisans and left-wing intellectuals, including the 
poet Paul Eluard and the historian of science Georges Canguilhem. 
Tosquelles pioneered ‘institutional’ or ‘social’ therapy, which tried to 
turn the hospital into a recognisable microcosm of the world outside. 
The idea underlying social therapy – and Fanon’s thesis – was that 
patients were socially as well as clinically alienated, and that their 
care depended on the creation of a structure that relieved their 
isolation by involving them in group activities. Fanon spent 15 months 
at Saint-Alban, and observed there for the first time patients playing a 
part in their own recovery.


full: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n02/adam-shatz/where-life-is-seized



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