Violence, Justice and Decolonization

If you are looking for a tour de force of colonialism, anti-colonization struggle and decolonization, Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth (1961) should be high on the list. Fanon is a unique voice; in style, content and argument. This work has influenced revolutionaries from Palestine to Sri Lanka and South Africa, as well as the United States. In his day – and undoubted in our times – Fanon was a radical. Fanon is probably most well known for his promotion of the use of violence, which comes out clearly in the first chapter of this book. He begins: "decolonization is always a violent event" (p. 1).

Will people will power – who use that power to entrench severe inequalities and enrich themselves – easily give up that power? Would they do so voluntarily? Fanon suggests not. "In its bare reality, decolonization reeks of red-hot cannonballs and bloody knives. For the last can be the first only after a murderous and decisive confrontation between the two protagonists. This determination to have the last move up to the front, to have them clamber up (too quickly, say some) the famous echelons of an organized society, can only succeed by resorting to every means, including, of course, violence" (p. 3).

Violence is not a means that is sought for its own sake, according to the author. For Fanon, violence is an expression of equality: "If, in fact, my life is worth as much as the colonist's, his look can no longer strike fear into me or nail me to the spot and his voice can no longer petrify me. I am no longer uneasy in his presence. In reality, to hell with him. Not only does his presence no longer bother me, but I am preparing to waylay him in such a way that soon he will have no other solution but to flee" (p. 10). The colonized person "is dominated but not domesticated. He is made to feel inferior, but by no means convinced of his inferiority" (p. 16). "Over the years I have had the opportunity to verify the fundamental fact that honor, dignity and integrity are only truly evident in the context of national and international unity. As soon as you and your fellow men are cut down like dogs there is no other solution but to use every means available to reestablish your weight as a human being. You must therefore weigh as heavily as possible on your torturer's body so that his wits, which have wandered off somewhere, can at least be restored to their human dimension" (p. 221).

There have been tens of books, and hundreds of academic articles, published on the importance of strict non-violence in mass action, citizen movements. For the last decade, efforts have been made to show that violence does not work, and that only strict non-violence should be used. Fanon might suggest that this trend is not, in fact, novel: "At the critical, deciding moment the colonialist bourgeoisie, which had remained silent up till then, enters the fray. They introduce a new notion, in actual fact a creation of the colonial situation: nonviolence. In its raw state this nonviolence conveys to the colonized intellectual and business elite that their interests are identical to those of the colonialist bourgeoisie and it is therefore indispensable, a matter of urgency, to reach an agreement for the common good" (p. 23). However, the author argues that "the underprivileged and starving peasant is the exploited who very soon discovers that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possibility of concession" (p. 23). Furthermore, the control and exploitation need not be direct to be subject to violence, economic domination does also (p. 27). Fanon foresaw the real issue of the day being inequality: "What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a distribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be" (p. 55).

For all his original contributions, however, I found some aspects of Fanon's writing challenging – even self-contradicting. In many ways Fanon speaks for the people – for example: "what the colonized people want…" (p. 13); "the youth of Africa should not be…" (p. 137). This is a disempowering narrative for the people. Rather than advocate for the people to have their voices heard, and for their ability to create their own forms of governance, Fanon speaks on their behalf. Undoubtedly, Fanon argues in favor of governance by the people (e.g. p. 130), but his writing does not always reflect this (e.g. "the government must serve as filter and stabilizer" (p. 137)).

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IDRC Research Awards 2017

Eligibility: This call is open to Canadians, permanent residents of Canada, and citizens of developing countries pursuing OR who have completed a master's or a doctoral degree at a recognized university.

Who can apply: Positions are available at IDRC's head office in Ottawa, Canada and at our regional office for Sub-Saharan Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. Eligibility criteria differ for each location. For the positions located at IDRC's head office in Ottawa, this call is open to: Canadians and permanent residents of Canada, pursuing a master's or a doctoral degree at a recognized university OR who have completed (within the last three years) a master's or doctoral degree at a recognized university.Citizens of developing countries, pursuing a master's or a doctoral degree at a Canadian university and who, prior to applying, have a student visa with a work permit valid in Canada until December 31, 2017, OR who have completed (within the last three years) a master's or doctoral degree at a recognized university and who already have a work permit valid in Canada until December 31, 2017. For the position located at IDRC's Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya, this call is open to: Citizens of Kenya pursuing a master's or a doctoral degree at a recognized university OR who have completed (within the last three years) a master's or doctoral degree at a recognized university. 

Other eligibility requirements: Your proposed research must focus on one or more developing countries. Candidates cannot receive any other Canadian government scholarship, award, subsidy, bursary, or honorarium, or hold any federal government contract in support of a research/work project for the duration of the award; this includes any other IDRC award. In addition, each program has specific eligibility criteria which must be satisfied.These awards may be part of an academic requirement.

Scope: Research award recipients will undertake a one-year paid program of research on the topic they have submitted, and will receive hands-on experience in research management, grant administration, and the creation, dissemination, and use of knowledge from an international perspective. For payroll purposes, awardees are considered as full-time employees of IDRC. Benefits include Employer contributions to Employment Insurance, Employer Health Tax, Canada Pension Plan, and paid vacation leave. Some travel and research expenses are also supported, up to a maximum of CA$15,000.

11 awards will be offered during this call. There is one call per program listed below. You may only choose ONE of the following:

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Post-doc: Justice and Global Food Systems

The Department is pleased to offer a two-year Research Fellowship in the area of the Justice and Global Food Systems: Injustices and Resistance in Global Food Governance. This exciting post-doctoral position offers exceptional applicants the opportunity to develop and deliver an original research project addressing this theme, working within one of the UK's strongest Departments of Politics.

You will be part of a team of academic staff in the Department working on the theme of Global Food Justice which is linked to the wider university Sustainable Food Futures group and the N8 Agri-food network.

You will have or be very near to completing a doctoral degree in Political Science or International Relations, or a closely related area, preferably applied to civil society movements and resistance in global governance, food governance, or global justice and social change. You will also have an excellent early track record of conducting independent, original research and producing publications of high quality.

More details.

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Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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