Colonialism & Psychology

Colonialism & Psychology

Spring 2023
©️ Omnia El Shakry

And who can affirm that vertigo does not haunt the whole of existence?

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth


This is an advanced seminar designed primarily for history majors that entails intensive reading, discussion, and writing. Our course will be a thematic exploration of colonialism as an historical, cultural, and, above all psychological experience. We will explore topics such as the relation between Self and Other (Colonizer and Colonized) in the colonial encounter; the psychoanalysis of race and racism; violence and decolonization; psychopolitics; gender, language, and the intimacy of the colonial encounter; and the psychic life of the postcolony. 

We will follow the itineraries of the renowned Martinican psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon (1925–1961) from the Antilles, to metropolitan France, to colonial Algeria. We shall begin in the colony – ‘Albert Camus’s Algeria’ – and end in postcolonial Paris. We will mobilize a diverse array of primary and secondary sources, novels, and films in our exploration, traversing Europe, the Antilles, and North Africa, with a primary emphasis on French colonialism in Algeria and its aftermath in the postcolony. Much like the colonial and postcolonial subjects we will be studying, we may often experience vertigo, a spinning sensation that we are everywhere and nowhere – in the interstitial space between psychology and politics; war and revolution; and metropole and colony. 

Required Texts

Albert Camus, The Stranger, trans. Matthew Ward (New York: Vintage, 1989).

Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. Charles Markmann (New York: Grove Press, [1952]1967).

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, [1961] 1963). 

David Marriott, Whither Fanon? Studies in the Blackness of Being (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2018). 

Stefania Pandolfo, Knot of the Soul: Madness, Psychoanalysis, Islam (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018). 

Assia Djebar, Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade Cavalcade (Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1993).

Required Films & Videos:

Snoop Dog Says Read the Syllabus, Snoop Dog (2020, 25 seconds)

Battle of Algiers, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo (1966, 2:02 minutes)

Black Skin, White Masks, dir. Isaac Julien (1996, 1:12 minutes)

Caché, dir. Michael Haneke (2005, 1:58 minutes).