Frantz Fanon’s reception in Brazil

Frantz Fanon’s reception in Brazil

Penser aujourd’hui à partir de Frantz Fanon, Actes du colloque Fanon (Symposium on Frantz Fanon)
Université Paris 7
February 2008

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, Professor of Sociology
University of São Paulo, Brazil

Frantz Fanon is a central figure in cultural, post-colonial and African-American studies, whether in the United States, Africa or Europe. We often speak about Fanonian studies, such is the volume of research that has been based on his work. My black Brazilian colleagues and students have the same admiration, respect and devotion for him as their black North American and African brothers. However, when I looked for material to write this paper, I was met with a conspicuous silence, both in cultural and academic journals which lasted all the way to the mid 1960s.

Although he had previously had a limited readership in Brazil, Fanon became known within cultural circles, as in other parts of the world, when revolutionary violence was the order of the day, championed by thinking revolutionary fighters such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Torres; or by black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X and Eldridge Cleaver; or Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, Kwame N’Krumah. However, after this phase, contrary to what occurred in other places, his thinking did not become the object of elucidating and critical reflection on the part of Brazilian universities and academics who were established in study centres, as was the case with other revolutionary thinkers.

In this paper, I will defend two theses. The first is that his lukewarm reception was due to a national and racial makeup totally opposed to racial conflicts, highly instilled within an intellectual middle class which was white and mixed race, yet racially colourless. That is, the Brazil of racial democracy. The second thesis explains the limited dissemination of Fanonian studies by the small number of black professors and researchers at Brazilian universities who focus on the formation of black identity or the affirmation of racially oppressed subjects as their area of study.

Fanon’s thinking came to Brazil much like all new ideas – in European books – and at a time when Marxism and existentialism competed for the limelight of the Brazilian cultural and political scene.

Read the entire paper here.

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