In her book Frantz Fanon, Conflicts and Feminisms, Vanderbilt Professor Tracy Denea Sharpley-Whiting provides an illuminating critique of postmodern academic feminism.
Through an appropriation of Fanon’s social-democratic vision of liberation, she develops her own approach of a political-conscious, activist feminism squarely grounded in the works of Fanon and other black feminist writers.
The first part of the book is dedicated to a discussion of the conflicts that have shaped feminists scholarships over the last decades and serves as an illustration of the conflicts that have shaped modern feminist scholarship. Here, Sharpley-Whiting convincingly illustrates the crux of the matter, namely the divergent ideas of what constitutes feminism, hence her title choice of feminisms. She bases her observations on the divergent interpretations of Fanon’s work that have evolved from three different groups of scholars: Liberal Euro-American Lit-Crit Feminists, Algerian National Feminists, and Radical U.S. Black Feminists (24). Central to her analysis is Fanon’s radical humanism, which, in her view, entails a clear commitment to the liberation of women (6). She makes clear that Fanon was not a feminist and never presented himself as such; however, she wants to recover his legacy, identify his intellectual and activist contributions to an inclusive struggle for liberation, the foundation for “a transformational feminism, committed to and engaged in resisting alienation and oppressive practices embedded in racism, sexism, and capitalism” (6). In her concluding epilogue, this call becomes even more vigorous and expansive, as it proceeds into a call for political activism that chastises the ivory tower mentality of a great number of her colle...
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...t times, her references to him have a hagiographic character (23) and she too easily dismisses any criticism of his work. Here again, she fails to live up to her humanist agenda by creating a larger than life person that is not reflective of what Fanon stood for. We all have our quirks and shortcomings that is what makes us human. A thorough understanding of humanism needs to include this dimension and it must make sure that those who struggled most obviously with the effects of internalized racism are not left behind.
Sharpley-Whiting provides us with a comprehensive critique of diverse interpretations of Fanon’s work and shows that he was not a perverse anti-female supporter of black nationalism that was opposed to interracial relationships. However, she fails to give us a coherent idea of what she sees as his “radically humanist pro-feminist consciousness” (24).
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