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Black Skin, White Masks + Battle of Algiers (film), Fanon

Black Skin, White Masks + Battle of Algiers (film), Fanon

This month we’re mixing things up: Fanon’s lesser-known Black Skin White Masks is a more accessible, shorter read than the infamous Wretched of the Earth (also a great text), and because it’s so short (roughly 200 pages depending on the publisher) we’re giving you a bit of time to catch up on Assata Shakur if needed AND watch a film to supplement the reading. Because we’re cool like that and there are more ways to learn than just from books.

You cannot talk about colonization as it’s manifested in the individual today without talking about Fanon. Despite being born nearly a century ago, Fanon’s work continues to be deeply influential in both academic spaces and liberation movements, from Palestine to South Africa. Certainly an integral foundational read for any radical book club. Born in the then-French colony of Martinique and educated as psychiatrist in France, Fanon published Black Skin White Masks as his first book (after it was rejected as a dissertation for his doctoral program) exploring anti-Blackness, identity, and internalized colonialism, among other themes.

The 1966 film Battle of Algiers documents a particular set of moments from the Algerian resistance movement against their French colonizers, focusing particularly on the years 1954-1957 at the height of the resistance, and was banned in France when first released (can we commit to hosting an in-person meetup in France this month?). This incredibly powerful film is not only entangled in many of the same concepts that is grappled with in Black Skin White Masks, but Fanon himself was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front, and was deeply inspired by, and inspired, the liberation movement. It was filmed on location with only a single “professional” actor (the rest of the cast are local non-actors), and indigenous Algerian drumming and music can be heard throughout the film. A resistance movie at its finest.

The additional suggested reading is a contemporary complement of the themes present in both Black Skin White Masks and the Battle of Algiers film: identity, anti-Blackness, colorism, internalized colonialism, resistance, and self-love.

Additional resources

Battle of Algiers film (complete):