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(Course Hero, 2019)
Course Hero. "Black Skin, White Masks Study Guide." March 15, 2019. Accessed April 23, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Skin-White-Masks/.
Course Hero, "Black Skin, White Masks Study Guide," March 15, 2019, accessed April 23, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Black-Skin-White-Masks/.
Argument, Nonfiction, Philosophy
Black Skin, White Masks is the first book by clinical psychiatrist Frantz Fanon (1925–61). He initially intended to submit it as his doctoral thesis, but it was rejected by the doctoral committee for being too controversial. In the book Fanon applies a novel interdisciplinary approach to examine the many ways in which the black colonized man is made a subject of white rule. He draws on the ideas of German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), who explored the relationship between enslaved people and their masters, along with psychoanalytic theory, clinical cases, literature and literary studies, and philosophy. Fanon also drew heavily on his own experience as a middle-class person of color from Martinique—a Caribbean island that was colonized by the French—who had studied in France. He felt that his life and culture were shaped by the dominance of the colonial French culture and government.
Black Skin, White Masks had major theoretical and practical impacts on the fields of postcolonial theory and critical race theory along with civil rights and anti-colonial movements. It provided a keen analysis of the way that European colonizers had exploited the nations and bodies of the colonized. It also showed how the colonizers' attitudes had fundamentally restructured the ways colonized people related to themselves and to others, through the institution of racial hierarchies.Works like Black Skin, White Masks aimed to inject the black experience and the black intellect into fields normally dominated by white people, white culture, and white attitudes, such as psychoanalysis and political theory. Practically, Fanon's forceful call to fundamentally change racist societies through education helped to inspire and inform social movements that aimed to overturn racism and colonialism. Fanon himself took an active part in such a movement in Algeria. The impact of his work was not confined only to the French-speaking world but also helped inspire the more radical parts of the civil rights and black power movements in the United States. Fanon's book was considered revolutionary at the time. Although it has been built upon, criticized, and challenged, especially by feminist anti-racist theorists and activists who were dismayed by Fanon's absolute focus on men and queer theorists who take issue with Fanon's claim that homosexuality is a kind of neurosis that develops as the result of colonization, it remains a work that challenges and provokes the reader to reconsider and remake the world we live in.
Black Skin, White Masks is primarily about the construct of "blackness" and its relationship with "whiteness." Frantz Fanon contends that black people construct their understanding of themselves in relation to whiteness, because they are forced to subject themselves to white culture, power, and attitudes. They try to "whiten" themselves and join white society. But it is only a "white mask," which represents their attempt to hide or escape the black skin that condemns them in the eyes of their racist society. Those who put on the mask are always defined, ultimately, by the black skin that lies beneath.
This study guide for Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.