Book review – Fanonian Practices in South Africa

2011-10-15 10:22

Percy Mabandu

This is a refreshing and ­imaginative reading of Frantz Fanon’s groundbreaking thoughts regarding the theory and practice of revolutionary transformation.

In 272 pages, Nigel Gibson has found an exciting voice to re-energise the transformation discourse in post-apartheid South Africa – at least for those who will be reached by his work here.

He studies the social trajectory of Fanon’s ideas from the formulations of Steve Biko during apartheid all the way to Abahlali ­baseMjondol – an organisation of landless inhabitants of informal settlements across the country.

Gibson is clear to make the point that his aim here is not to recuperate the historical Fanon. The object of his book is to recreate Fanon’s philosophy of liberation in a new situation – to articulate the state of Fanon’s revolutionary humanism in the experience of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

This is to say that Gibson’s book endeavours to place himself in the footsteps of Steve Biko’s work of the early 1970s when he formed the foundation for Black Consciousness in Fanon’s philosophy.

It is also important not to mistake this for a research project. It is a work in search of revolutionary praxis. In other words, Gibson seeks to uncover Fanon’s teaching in action on the ground – in the shacks, on the township streets and everywhere South Africans are engaged in revolutionary action.

So the central question addressed by this timely text is: “What does Fanon mean for the damned, marginalised and disenfranchised of the world struggling for social change?”

This text is presented in simple enough language to be accessible to non-specialist readers. After turning these pages and reflecting on its meaning, Fanon still emerges as a valuable critique of post-apartheid South Africa – to ground a new emancipator movement.

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