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The CLR James Journal

Volume 23, Issue 1/2, Fall 2017

Gamal Abdel-Shehid, Zahir Kolia
Pages 175-192
DOI: 10.5840/clrjames2017102440

In Light of the Master
Re-reading Césaire and Fanon

While there has been significant literature concerning the relationship between Frantz Fanon and European philosophy; particularly, Marxism, psychoanalysis, phenomenology and existentialism, there has been little work addressing the influence of Aimé Césaire to Fanon’s work. In this essay we argue that Césaire’s ethical sensibility concerning freedom and transformation had a major role in shaping Fanon’s thought. We suggest that Césaire’s work cannot be reduced to an essentialist reading of blackness, or a retrograde form of African nativism. Rather, we argue his anti-colonial philosophy can be understood as an “ethics of acceptance” that seeks to journey to the inward of human consciousness in order to transcend the black’s negative self-concept under colonialism. Contrasting Césaire’s ethics of acceptance, we trace Fanon’s external ethics of confrontation through his reading of Césaire, and also the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In doing so, we argue that Fanon departs from Césaire not based on the latter’s conception of blackness, or négritude, but rather his ethics of acceptance.