“A World Divided in Two”: Civil Rebellions in Manichean America
Mentor:Amy Tahani-Madain, Professor of core program , Occidental College
In this paper, I compare the works of Ralph Ellison and Alex Haley, focusing on how these texts demonstrate Frantz Fanon’s theory of the “new man.” In his renowned philosophical analysis of colonialism in The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon’s denigrations of the white power structure emulate contemporary descriptions of the post-Reconstruction era of the American South. As a psychiatrist and a victim of colonization, Fanon was deeply critical of European expansionism stating, “The colonized world is a world divided in two” and “the colonial world is a Manichaean world.” His works suggest that a colonized population can only attain liberation through violent rebellion, which would transform the colonized into “new men” through “the very process of decolonization.” Augmenting the established norms of contemporary insurgents, Fanon’s “new man” achieved liberation upon acknowledging his own self worth, thus enabling him attain a social responsibility that was inaccessible in his past life. Fanon’s “new man” experiences liberation in a gradual progression, dissimilating himself from the colonial “bourgeoisie” and rejecting the ideological oppression propagated by the colonizers. The liberation of the mind is arguably the most vital stage of any revolution as it signifies the development of the “new man’s” morality. All too often, the oppressed become tainted by the rhetoric of their oppressor, and “willingly take his place” (Fanon 9). While Fanon asserts that a successful rebellion is a violent one, an intense revolution of the mind, triggered by external violence, is equally viable to an armed insurrection. In their rejection of the racism of Post-Reconstruction America, Malcolm X and “the gutless wonder from Cincinnati” (Ellison) evolve into "new men,” and present the opening stage of Fanon’s grand revolution. Consequentially, Fanon’s theories about the “new man” are applicable to an array of revolutionary movements, where “violence” is conveyed through writing and reaction.