Journal Article — Reading Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban Before Reading Black Skin, White Masks — by Philip Chassler

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Abstract

In chapter four of his Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks) (1952), Frantz Fanon criticizes Octave Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization (1950). This article argues that Mannoni’s book presents a more cogent examination of European colonization than either Fanon or most subsequent critics suggest. A result of Mannoni’s explorations in psychoanalysis after twenty years of residence and work as a colonial functionary in French controlled Madagascar, his book needs to be read as a critique of European colonialism. Although he is best known for his application of the terms “dependency” and “inferiority” to the consideration of the effects of colonization on its victims, I argue that Mannoni’s more meaningful premise is that colonization can be described and understood as a process of psychological projection–that it is the European, who goes forth seeking compensation for the “inferiority complex” that accompanies the struggle of the autonomous individual typical of modern European society and who then “projects” his desires and fears on the people he colonizes. This results in relationships that lead to the racism, exploitation, and violence that characterize colonization. This article examines this premise while responding to and reconsidering Fanon’s, and others’, readings of Mannoni’s book.

Recommended Citation

Chassler, Philip. 2007. “Reading Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban Before Reading Black Skin, White Masks.” Pp. 71-82 in Reflections on Fanon: The Violences of Colonialism and Racism, Inner and Global—Conversations with Frantz Fanon on the Meaning of Human Emancipation (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume V, Special Issue, 2007.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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