On National Culture

“We should not therefore be content to delve into people’s past to find concrete examples to counter colonialism’s endeavor to distort and depreciate. We must work and struggle in step with the people so as to shape the future and prepare the ground where vigorous shots are already sprouting.” (168). It is important to notice here the amount of time Fanon spends to describe the impossibility of the colonized intellectual to cope with national culture. Again, even though the language is not so simple, we are not, in fact, reading an “angry author”; but we are faced with a description of a form of nationalism turning into humanism measured to the world. It goes without saying that turning towards ones past and root is a natural and even logical tendency when affirming our cultural identity, but Fanon demonizes this process and regards it as having a paralyzing effect. Turning into the past does not seem to be as bad an idea in the first place; in fact, as Fanon himself agrees, it is that very past that the colonist first turn to and portrays it as “the heart of darkness”; and any imperial power needs to Orientalize the indigenes, they need to recreate an image of the other in order to justify their paternalist tendency.
Now, what makes the attempt to reclaim that lost past or that stained identity a paralyzing endeavor for the colonized intellectual? The answer does not reside in the endeavor itself, it is in the past they are trying to revive; the congealed past. This past is, in fact, barren, it is not at all relevant to the national combat, and it is not relevant to the necessary violence, the objective violence. We do not need to run through the three stages that Fanon describes in their works to know that the colonized intellectual’s move is a desperate one, “Fully aware they are in the process of losing themselves, and consequently of being lost to their people, these men work away with raging heart and furious mind to renew contact with their people’s oldest, inner essence, the furthest removed from colonial times.” (148) and what makes these movements useless is that not only are they not intended to open up to the future as has the poem of Fodeba Keita succeeded in doing, but “The colonialist experts” himself, knowing that these works consolidate their agenda “rush to the rescue of the indigenous traditions. It is the colonialists who become the defenders of indigenous styles.” (175) and this happens only when what used to be cathartic is turning into realism, to national culture.

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About sdiouf

Ph.D student in Comparative Literature.
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