Fanon's Letter Between Psychiatry and Anticolonial Commitment

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Menozzi, F

The name of Frantz Fanon has become a symbol of anticolonial militancy and the struggles of national emancipation against colonial rule. However, Fanon was also a psychiatrist, who never abandoned clinical practice even after resigning from his post in colonized Algeria in 1956. The coexistence, in Fanon, of medicine and political involvement represents one of the most productive and contradictory aspects of his life and work. Fanon was highly critical of colonial ethnopsychiatry, but never abandoned his commitment to improving the condition of psychiatric patients. After his escape from Algeria, he wrote extensively for El Moudjahid, the journal of the anticolonial resistance, but also practised in the hospital of Charles Nicolle in Tunis. In this essay I propose a new assessment of the relation between psychiatry and politics by addressing Fanon's influence on Franco Basaglia, leader of the anti-institutional movement in Italian psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s. Basaglia was deeply inspired by the example of Fanon and the contradictions he had to confront. Rereading Fanon through the mirror of Italian anti-institutional psychiatry will define a new understanding of Fanon as committed intellectual. Indeed, this may suggest a new perspective on the function of intellectuals in contexts signed by the aftermath of colonial history, drawing on the example of two psychiatrists who never ceased to inhabit the borderline between the clinical and the critical, medicine and militancy, the necessity of cure and the exigency of freedom.
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