Emily Marker | KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge
A foundational figure in the development of critical race theory and decolonial thought, Frantz Fanon is often mythologized as a sui generis thinker. In a recent rereading of Fanon’s life and work, Christopher J. Lee pushes back against this tendency by rooting Fanon’s evolution as a theorist of race and decolonization in his formative experiences as a young migrant crisscrossing the French empire over three continents. Fanon’s boyhood in Martinique ended when he went to fight with the Free French, first in Morocco and later in metropolitan France; he then left the Caribbean for good after the war to finish his education in France and launch his psychiatric career in Algeria. Through soldiering and studying—well-worn pathways that put young people in empires on the move—Fanon came to know the contradictions of being a black Frenchman under the conditions of late colonialism firsthand. Lee argues it was precisely Fanon’s personal mobility and the expansive geography of his early life that underlay his “uncanny ability” to interpret the world in which he lived.