Friday, October 27, 2006

Franz Fanon and Scotland

This article (on Z-Net and originally from the Toronto Star) is a fascinating if overly brief examination of the contemporary relevance of anti-colonial theorist Franz Fanon. One important reason that I find this article interesting is because, in my experience of the little corner of the white left in Ontario that nurtured me early during my politicization process, I remember Fanon, to the extent that his name was mentioned at all, being dismissed (or, in other white left spaces, uncritically invoked) without much effort to really understand him or the context that produced him, much as I describe in this post the ways in which Macolm X was mobilized/demobilized in similar ways. In part of the white left, at least, a certain perceived relationship to violence (which the article I'm linking to today problematizes and complexifies in important ways for Fanon) got taken as sufficient reason to dismiss him completely, and to see him exclusively through the lens of his relevance to tactical debates among white leftists. One of the outcomes of both his dismissal and his valorization in different spaces was that his relevance beyond that one narrow debate was largely lost -- the ability of his powerful prose to create productive discomfort and therefore deeper political theory-and-pracitce among privileged citizens of a colonizing nation was somehow avoided.

But actually what really caught my attention sufficiently to lead me to post this is the following sentence about the country my mother grew up in and that I spent enough time in growing up that, thanks to mad cows, I'm currently not allowed to give blood in Canada: "Scotland's brutal orgies of 'booze and blades' among rival gangs of white youth recently led the United Nations to designate it the most violent country in the 'developed' world. It is also one of Europe's poorest countries: A quarter of Scotland's children live in poverty and are dependent on government assistance." And last I remember hearing, the constitutive level of official unemployment in Glasgow was something like 17% or 18%.

Which is perhaps not as significant to the white left in early 21st century Ontario as coming to a deeper understanding of Franz Fanon, but is still of personal interest to me.


Spartacus O'Neal said...

I'd read about the problem of heavy drug addiction in Scotland, but more recently my colleague who does research on prostitution, trafficking, and sex slavery mentioned she was working with public health authorities in Glasgow to curb the violence toward women.

Scott said...

That's mother's younger brother and his wife both work for the city of Glasgow -- he's a senior manager of some sort, but last I heard she was involved in community development...I suppose there's an outside chance she has been connected with the work you mention, though I have no idea if public health is part of municipal responsibilities there or not.

It's a peculiar city, though...for example, the city chambers are gorgeous -- far more opulent than anything you would find serving as a city hall in any city of comparable size in North America -- and a product of colonial wealth when the Empire was at its peak. Yet now they preside over a city that has by and large been abandoened by neoliberal capitalism since the late '70s, at least in terms of the heavy industries that were once the bedrock of working-class employment in the city.