Fanon, Freud and the psychological origins of colonial oppression

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2 Scopus citations


I use Freud's theory of the Oedipus complex to illuminate Fanon's diagnosis of the widespread breakdown of intersubjective relations in the colonial Antilles. I argue that the Oedipus complex is a system of symbolization that constitutes the subject as a unified self. The colonial context, however, makes this unification impossible. Fanon claims that what he calls the phobogenic object allows the subject to constitute itself in opposition to the world by directing the super-ego's aggression outward at this phobogenic object. However, once the Antillean child, who has previously considered itself non-black and has been structured by a black phobogenic object, "discovers" that it is itself black through contact with the white man, the direction of the super-ego is reversed and the super-ego attacks the black ego, which it understands as phobogenic. The result is the endemic condition of a feeling of inferiority among the colonial population. The only way out of this problem is a widespread reorganization of the process of social symbolization through revolutionary violence, in which the subject is stripped bare of its symbolic commitments and starts to reconstruct itself anew, reconstituting the colonial master as the phobogenic object instead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalPsychoanalysis, Culture and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Ltd.


  • Colonialism
  • Fanon
  • Freud
  • Oppression
  • Philosophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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