Frantz Fanon’s Decolonized Dialectics: The Primacy of the Affective Weight of the Past



Drawing from the critical phenomenology of Alia Al-Saji, Christina Sharpe’s notion of “the wake,” and Jan Slaby’s work on affect, this paper offers a critique of George Ciccariello-Maher’s (2017) formulation of Frantz Fanon’s decolonized dialectic. I argue that Ciccariello-Maher’s formulation, while excellent in most respects, nevertheless contains a significant lacuna. While he is correct to point out that Fanon’s critique of universal reconciliation forces his dialectical activity to remain firmly rooted in the present, by failing to fully draw out how the past always already weighs on the present, Ciccariello-Maher runs the risk of obscuring the affective weight of Fanon’s historical critique. This is problematic for the way it obscures the full range of ethical possibilities that stem from this particular affective experience—possibilities that Jan Slaby (2020: 189–95) makes clear via Christina Sharpe’s notion of “the wake.” In other words, while Ciccariello-Maher seems to frame Fanon’s recourse to infinitely deferred reconciliation as a reflection of the “ethical nihilism” (2017: 62) that characterizes the system of oppression he is responding to, a reformulation of Ciccariello-Maher’s observations with respect to affectivity re-frames this infinite deferral as an “embodied ethics of being and knowing” (Slaby 2020: 189). I will ultimately argue that this reformulation helps us understand Fanon’s parting words in Black Skin White Masks—“Oh my body, always make me a man who questions!” (Fanon 2008b: 206; 1952: 188)—as a call for the type of ethics suggested by Sharpe’s notion of “the wake” (2016).

Keywords: Frantz Fanon, Black studies, critical phenomenology, affect theory, decolonization, decolonized ethics, temporality

How to Cite: MacLeod, E. (2022) “Frantz Fanon’s Decolonized Dialectics: The Primacy of the Affective Weight of the Past”, Ergo. 8(0). doi: