Affect and Revolution: On Baldwin and Fanon



This essay explores a philosophical encounter between Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin framed by the problem of the affect of shame. In particular, this essay asks how the affect of shame functions simultaneously as the accomplishment of regimes of anti-black racism and the site of transformative, revolutionary consciousness. Shame threatens the formation of subjectivity, as well as, and as an extension of, senses of home and belonging. How are we to imagine another subjectivity, another relation to home, and so another kind of social and political order? For both Fanon and Baldwin, imagining the future requires an engagement with memory and history that purges black subjects of shame. The two thinkers part ways at that moment, however, with Fanon advocating a forgetting of abject history and Baldwin arguing for a retrieval of meaning and place won through pain and suffering. At the heart of this parting of ways, then, lies a conflict over the meaning of history across the black diaspora and its relation to cultural production, which, in turn, reflects important, differing conceptions of home.

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