Center for German and European Studies

Comparing and Contrasting Structural Racism in Postwar Western Europe and the U.S.: A Critical Reading of Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks (1952)

Monday, November 14, 2022
4 - 5:30 pm Eastern Time (US)
Hybrid In-Person Event and Zoom Webinar
G10, Mandel Center for Humanities, Brandeis University

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About the Event

Digital silhouettes of people from varying ethnicity in profiles overlapping each otherThis lecture and discussion will offer a critical reading of Frantz Fanon's "Black Skin, White Masks" (1952) as a conceptual framework to analyze recurrent dynamics of structural racism in contemporary U.S. and Western Europe. Frantz Fanon was born in the French colony of Martinique, trained as a psychiatrist in France, and spent years fighting for Algerian independence in the early 1950s. He is widely recognized as one of the first major thinkers of decolonization whose impact endures to this day.  We want to explore potential ways the work of critical race studies in the U.S. may be applied in examining diverse European values, culture, and social structures, which descend from the Enlightenment but are not unproblematic. Of course, we need to be careful not to conflate the two contexts and their complex histories. We will critically analyze racialized societal and state violence in the U.S against POC and intersectional minoritized groups, specifically Black Americans, indigenous, and queer folks of color, and the European context of white identity concealed in language and "cultural preservation" given the rise of right-wing political parties; the latter, in particular, affect all people of color, migrants, refugees, and religious minorities given the presence of Islamophobia and ant-Semitism in Western Europe. Ideally we would like to bring into dialogue Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality by BIPOC scholars here in the U.S. with the self-critiques of 'Western Man' starting with Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche on to major figures in twentieth-century continental European thought. Fanon's scintillating work presupposes many of these historic thinkers of the modern West while also critically questioning their limits to understand racial oppression.

About the Speakers

Headshot of Rajesh Sampath smilingRajesh Sampath, PhD, is Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights, and Social Change at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. His graduate training is in the humanities, with a focus on nineteenth and twentieth-century continental European philosophers and social theorists. His current teaching and research interests are in comparative studies of Western thought and Global South/Eastern thinkers and social critics of decolonization. He teaches courses on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality in the U.S. and courses in development studies and decolonization.