Conceiving global culture: Frantz Fanon and the politics of identity
The article introduces Frantz Fanon’s notion of cultural humanism as a new way of conceiving global culture and, simultaneously, models a new framework for understanding the ethics and politics of identity today. Drawing critical insights from Fanon’s ‘Racism and Culture’ and The Wretched of the Earth as well as the work of several other non-essentialist thinkers, the article develops an anti-essentialist theory of (global) culture, asserting that culture and its values constitute a contested universal that all human beings are equal claimants to its appropriation, such that a particular putative culture is neither the basis of any individual or group identity, nor the grounds for treating anyone unjustly. In problematising global culture, the article foils Fanon’s cultural humanism against a tradition of essentialist conceptions of culture in the thoughts of prominent Euro-American writers, from Immanuel Kant to Samuel P. Huntington. These other authors are usually thought of as developing theories of global culture, but evidently ended up with narrow/nationalistic, and racist and essentialist, notions of culture. At the same time, we choose Fanon and his theory of global cultureas company throughout the article not only because his work and activism aimed to undo one of the most egregio us consequences of false conceptions of (global) culture, colonialism, but because his work has continued to be relevant in many contemporary liberation/humanistic discourses, even as he has sometimes been narrowly read as defending cultural nationalism.