Fanon's Frame of Violence: Undoing the Instrumental/Non-Instrumental Binary

Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 23 (8):1106-1123 (2021)
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The scholarship on Frantz Fanon’s theorization of violence is crowded with interpretations that follow the Arendtian paradigm of violence. These interpretations often discuss whether violence is instrumental or non-instrumental in Fanon’s work. This reading, I believe, is the result of approaching Fanon through Hannah Arendt’s framing of violence, i.e. through a binary paradigm of instrumental versus non-instrumental violence. Even some Fanon scholars who question Arendt’s reading of Fanon, do so by employing a similar binary logic, hence repeating the same either/or paradigm of instrumental versus non-instrumental violence. I aim to challenge such interpretations of Fanon by demonstrating that in the context of anticolonial armed struggle in which Fanon writes, the either/or framework of the instrumental/non-instrumental binary of violence cannot fully capture his perspective. Violence can indeed be conceived as having both constructive and instrumental aspects. My argument is supported by Fanon’s corpus, including his 1960 Accra speech, “Why We Use Violence” in Alienation and Freedom. This piece, I suggest, together with Fanon’s other writings, poses a direct challenge to the Arendtian binary of violence. My analysis resists positioning the difference between Arendt and Fanon through the instrumental/non-instrumental binary. By using Judith Butler’s notion of “frame” I complicate their difference and argue Arendt’s framing of violence prevents her from apprehending Fanon and – more importantly – interpretations of Fanon based on this Arendtian frame of violence inevitably lead to misinterpretations.

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Imge Oranli
Arizona State University


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