What Fanon Still Teaches Us About ‘Mental Illness’ in Post-Colonial Society


From The Conversation: “Fanon ultimately viewed institutionalised care as a mode of disciplinary power in the regulation of people. He saw it as a proxy mechanism of control directed at those who displayed an inability to manage the double-bind nature of oppressive colonial contexts.

. . . Of course, on the matter of violence, Fanon’s experiences with patients who had been subjected to state repression, brutality and torture revealed the limitations of psychology and psychiatry in addressing problems in the social structure of society.

It also prompted a consideration of revolutionary violence as a way of ‘disintoxifying’ the colonised minds of the oppressed. But his ideas on violence have probably been most misinterpreted, often conspicuously by those who have characterised him as an apostle of violence.

Fanon’s experience with violence and counter-violence in fact led him to be deeply ambivalent about it. He recognised that the distinction between perpetrator and victim becomes blurred. Also, the residual brutality of violence and counter-violence remains a dominant feature in post-colonial societies.

That is a feature that is perhaps all too common today. It requires a much more fine grained analysis, as we attempt to understand and address the scourge of violence that pervades all spheres of contemporary living.”

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  1. The Deaf Community ran into quite a large number of issues in the MH system. One of my graduate school placements was at a pact unit with a significant deaf population. One could be labeled psychotic with a mere misunderstanding of the type, kind, or dialect of sign.
    Interestingly , Joanne Greenberg who wrote “I Never PromisedYou a Rose Garden” had many writings based on the Deaf community. “ In This Sign” a heart wrenching read.An excellent intersectional meme or metaphor for this topic of Fanon.

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  2. The biggest take-away I get from this article, is that this guy Fanon, who I’ve never heard of, thinks that so-called “mental illness” has both cultural/social/society, and environmental factors. Something like that. It’s kind of confusing, really, to make a better judgement with so little information. I really don’t want to waste my time doing a scholarly examination of some long-dead psychiatrist. The BOTTOM LINE for me, is that so-called “mental illness” is something that either ALL of us have, or else NONE of us have. You can choose to believe that nobody has so-called “mental illness” because it doesn’t exist. But I do believe that *SOMETHING* exists, which gets mislabeled as so-called “mental illness”. So-called “mental illnesses” are exactly as “real” as presents from Santa Claus, but not more real. So “mental illness” is something that we ALL HAVE. And we seem to be quite skilled at giving it to others, too. And the greatest single cause of preventable “mental illness” is the pseudoscience of psychiatry. Without psychiatry, “mental illness” wouldn’t exist at all. So at best, this guy Fanon merely perpetuates the modern superstition of “mental illness”.

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