Black Skin, White Masks and the Paradoxical Politics of Black Historiography


  • Tacuma Peters Michigan State University



Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, historiography, Black history


Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks has the paradoxical status of being a text that rejects historiography and History as a primary means of facilitating radical political transformation while also being a key point of departure for histories concerning modern colonial and decolonial thought.1 This reflection is an examination of the tensions in Black Skin, White Masks as a political work and as an intervention into philosophical, psychoanalytic, literary, and existential debates. Prompted by the 70th anniversary of the publication of Black Skin, White Masks, I examine the richness of the past two decades of historiographical scholarship on slavery, abolition, and freedom struggles in the Caribbean and North America alongside arguments that Fanon made about the limited role of history in sustaining and guiding anti-colonial thought and praxis. Black Skin, White Masks remains relevant, albeit troubling, for querying the presumed connections between historical knowledge, political action, and scholarly production facilitated by academic and political trends. I am interested in how the provocations of Black Skin, White Masks, in particular its last chapter “By Way of Conclusion,” provides fertile grounds for questioning, positioning, and refining contemporary historiographical production.