THE FACT OF BLACKNESS by Alan Read

THE FACT OF BLACKNESS

Frantz Fanon and Visual Representation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 This exploration of Frantz Fanon's continuing impact on the visual arts is a woefully maladroit collection of third-rate essays and dialogues. It strenuously defies its subtitle, the English language,, and common sense. The volume grew out of a Fanon conference at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts, where editor Read is director of talks. But at this point can you really gather together a collection of reasonable people interested in a psychoanalyst/political philosopher whose marginal ideas faded long ago into musty obscurity? True, there was a brief moment when Fanon's books, such as The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks, enjoyed a trendy popularity in certain leftist circles. But most of the conference participants/essayists seem interested in him (never mind his impact on visual representation) only as a rickety launch platform for their own convoluted pratings. A game few, such as bell hooks and Homi K. Bhabha, do offer elaborate postmodern defenses of the man that try to alchemize Fanon's leaden irrelevance. But the richest irony here is that the once exquisitely politically correct Fanon is now hoist on his own tendentious petard. Academics have become very good at witching out heresies, particularly among the supposedly faithful. So the man who passionately cried out for justice for the oppressed is now revealed by several essayists--using their full deconstructionist tool kit--as a homophobe, and a sexist to boot. As feminist critic Lola Young notes, ``In Fanon's writing there is evidence of a deep seam of fear and rage regarding black women.'' One wishes this postmodern muddle were a pointed satire. Then, at least, it might have something to say. (20 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-941920-43-7
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1996