‘Decolonization is always a violent event,’ Frantz Fanon, who popularized the term, wrote in 1961
Georgetown University’s international relations school champions a theory originally proposed for revolutionary violence.
The Georgetown Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service “was founded in 1919…to prepare the U.S. to engage on the global stage and has been preparing future leaders to make the world safer, more equitable, more prosperous, and more peaceful ever since,” according to its website.
The school offers an “Inclusionary Developmental Series,” the aim of which is to “increase awareness of perpetual colonialism in international development and convene on different topics towards decolonizing the study and practice of international development.”
The Catholic university’s SFS recently offered a course called “Decolonizing Global Health,” taught by Professors Emily Mendenhall and Claire Standley, which “studied how systemic racism and neocolonialism operate within the sphere of public health,” the school’s website stated.
The term “decolonization” was invented or popularized by the Francophone Afro-Caribbean psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon, from the former French colony of Martinique, in his 1961 book “The Wretched of the Earth.” The first sentence of Fanon’s work, in a section called “On Violence,” states, “decolonization is always a violent event.”
“At whatever level we study it-individual encounters, a change of name for a sports club, the guest list at a cocktail party, members of a police force or the board of directors of a state or private bank-decolonization is quite simply the substitution of one ‘species’ of mankind by another,” Fanon (pictured) wrote.
The publisher of the book’s sixtieth-anniversary edition, Grove Atlantic, describes it as “a masterful and timeless interrogation of race, colonialism, psychological trauma, and revolutionary struggle, and a continuing influence on movements from Black Lives Matter to decolonization.”
New York University English Professor Robert Young wrote in a description for his 2019 course “Frantz Fanon and Decolonization” that Fanon’ was “centrally engaged from the first with this decolonization process and the question of how to achieve it” and that his 1961 work “The Wretched of the Earth” rapidly “became a central text for the Black Panthers in the US.”
In the wake of in Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, academics took to Twitter in support of Palestinian “decolonization,” The College Fix reported at the time.
For example, Texas Tech University education Professor Jairo Fúnez-Flores wrote on X hours after Oct. 7 attacks that “decolonization is not a metaphor. It’s about a free Palestine.”
Decolonization is about dreaming and fighting for a present and future free of occupied Indigenous territories. It’s about a Free Palestine. It’s about liberation and self-determination. It’s about living with dignity. DECOLONIZATION IS NOT A METAPHOR
— Jairo I Fúnez-Flores (@Jairo_I_Funez) October 7, 2023
Politics Professor Uahikea Maile of the University of Toronto told X users in the immediate aftermath of the attacks that Israeli “occupation is a crime.”
Maile is a “professor of Indigenous politics,” according to his X bio, and a “scholar, activist, and practitioner” whose interests include “indigenous critical theory; settler colonialism; political economy; feminist and queer theories; and decolonization,” according to his university page.
He urged solidarity with the Palestinian cause: “a lāhui [group] that stands for decolonization and deoccupation should also stand behind freedom for Palestine.”
As Hawaiians wake up to the news of Palestinian anticolonial resistance in Gaza to Israeli settler colonialism, remember that—from Hawaiʻi to Palestine—occupation is a crime. A lāhui that stands for decolonization and deoccupation should also stand behind freedom for Palestine.
— Uahikea Maile (@uahikea) October 7, 2023
Political scientist Wilfred Reilly of Kentucky State University described “decolonization” on X at the time as “just ethnic cleansing, but woke.”
The professor said that “actually ‘de-colonizing’ the USA would mean deporting or killing 96% of the population.”
However, “the hard left is never going to fully succeed in this country” in carrying out such a plan, he wrote.
The Fix asked Reilly on X whether he had seen any examples of “decolonization” as violence being taught in universities.
“This varies,” Reilly responded. “Obviously, there are many staffed Departments of Post-Colonial Studies and the like.”
“How explicit the revolutionary message is within them varies – but widely taught thinkers from Fanon to Malcolm X to Che are quite open about their goals,” he said. “Phrases like “BAMN” [‘by any means necessary’] and ‘the right to violent resistance cannot be denied’ are de rigeur.”
IMAGE: Verso Books