Project-Black. In your BLOG……

Fanon is writing from the point of view of a black colonial, a second-class citizen of his own country (although in French law he was a citizen of France).

What are his key points and how do these relate to visual culture?

Black men feel normal amongst their own kind, but in a white society or group they feel like they are abnormal and ‘defined’ as if by only the thoughts of the whites. This  relationship does not exist reciprocally ie. whites are not therefore defined by blacks…..

There is a whole set of thoughts and histories which the white men think or tell which  set up the idea of blackness (are these ideologies?) – and the black man defines himself by them. This is wholly terrible for the author, who just wants to be.

This sort of determination is all consuming, as the black man is identifiable immediately by his skin colour. Compare this to the jews, who have been reviled and hunted in the past, but who are identifiable only through their actions, not their appearance. This makes them less vulnerable than the blacks to  the over-determination of the whites.

This problematizes visual culture with respect to the relationship with Whites and Blacks

  • Even in today’s less prejudicial society, the hierarchies of visual culture are often dominated at the top, by White people, and there is the risk that society views  and defines Black people  by the media’s white people’s  ideas and narratives, rather than how Black people actually feel or are .
  • Because the visible difference between Black and White is greater than  eg between jew and gentile, the potential for prejudiced interpretations of Blacks by white audiences is greater than those interpretations of Jews or less visible minority (or simply ‘different’ )groups of people portrayed in the media.
  • If the negating pressure of prejudiced thinking on Black people is as great as Fanon describes, can we ever have a truly accurate description of Black people as seen through visual culture media ? ie. are Black people ever allowed to be simply themselves in life, let alone in visual media ?
  • could this pressure cause a backlash which makes Black visual media artists overly orientated towards retribution (towards Whites) and redirection, as opposed to development of their own personalities and culture ?
  • do Black visual artists have to act ‘White’ in order to get noticed in White dominated visual media ?
  • How can  interpretation be standardised between different audiences of visual culture ? do they need to be? What are the arguments for and against?
  • Just how damaging and dangerous can Visual media be to differently coloured peoples? Not at all or massively ?  Does ‘sticks and stone can break my bones but calling names means nothing ‘ apply or is hate speech and imagery massively harmful? When should it be illegal?

(As I write these words I am instantly aware of how the situation has improved -at least a little- in the present day, and that in the liberal and ‘foreward-looking’  West we  are constantly told to be careful about the way we use language, and to avoid ‘politically incorrect’ or discriminatory language. I agree with the sentiment, but worry about how one ‘learns the rules’ and indeed whether words alone  can be discriminatory. I remember a conversation with a friend who argued that  ‘a coloured man’ was discriminatory and a ‘man of colour’ was not despite my pleas that this was simply a matter of  syntax)

 Many artists of Afro-Caribbean, African or Asian family origins working in Britain, the country of their birth, make work dealing with their take on, for want of a better term, blackness. Find such a work and make notes and annotations to explain this. Chris Ofili is just one such artist but there are many others.







Fig. 1 Walker, B.  Boundary II (2000) (Painting)  [online] at   [ accessed 26 November 2017]

Fig. 2 Walker, B.  The Big Secret (2015) (Conté on paper) [online] at  [ accessed 26 November 2017]

Walker, B.  The Big Secret III (2015) Conté and paint on paper [online] at  [ accessed 26 November 2017]

References  (2016) Britain’s black servicemen and women  [online] at [ accessed 26 November 2017]

Arts Council Collection (2017) Boundary II [online] at [ accessed 26 November 2017]

June96.wordpress (2014)  Barbara Walker [online] at  [ accessed 26 November 2017]





Text:  ‘The fact of blackness’ by Frantz Fanon


  • The author came into the world with an idealism which was removed by his becoming ‘an object’.
  • He suggests that within the world of black people he felt ok- not different-something like a natural state.
  • But when he was seen by ‘the other’, by whites, the change in him was very physical-like a chemical reaction. They looked and behaved towards him as different
  • Colonized peoples (is this another term for black? Or is it more general?) seem to have a fundamental Flaw in their world view. …They can only understand themselves as black- in relation to the white man. The author believes the converse is not true.


  • the customs and history of black men were wiped out by white men, because their culture and civilisation was different.
  • In the 20th C, the author remembers talking about ‘the black problem’ with friends, but he thought everyone was equal, and the differences between people seemed like an abstraction.
  • This changed massively when he began to meet white men, or more specifically their eyes…..
  • In the white man’s world the author describes a different schema which governs his sense of self. His sense of his consciousness being set apart from his body, (perhaps a little like that of women in John Berger’s text on the nude in art??)
  • He is always aware of how his body is moving in space and time- it’s never completely instinctual and natural-because he is always observing himself-           (like Berger’s woman who is both surveyed and surveyor-here the white man is equivalent to Berger’s observing man)
  •  He had both a sense of himself as a black body (the corporeal schema), but also a sense which came not from anything bodily, but through how he was viewed by ‘the other’-the white man, which was based on ‘stories and anecdotes’.
  • He next describes an incident where his blackness was raised by a white man (albeit a child)


  • as the child ratchets up the tension shouting ‘Look, a negro!’ several times, Fanon moves from initial amusement to nausea.
  • His description of how he changed throughout this encounter is difficult to grasp completely, but he says he ‘crumbles’ from a ‘corporeal self’ (implying that he was inhabiting his own body in unison here) to a ‘racial epidermal schema’ (ie. One defined by being Black with respect to the whites) which seems to involve something of the feeling described earlier (a disembodied consciousness).
  • He seems to have become embroiled in a negative train of thoughts about his blackness, and many stylised characteristics of negroes (ie. Those which prejudiced whites would dwell on).

These negative thoughts seem similar to the imaginary world set up through ideologies. He was subjecting himself at this point to a racist ideological view?

  • ‘On that day’ fanon says, he became an object- against his will (it’s not entirely clear whether this was the first time it happened- the start of his being objectified, and separated among white men)..
  • The child becomes more racist, and his thoughts continue to spiral with caricatured and mean descriptions of the negro, and by extension himself. He is ugly, mean, bad, angry…
  • The author makes comparisons with another ‘different’ group- the jews. The jews are anxious about how people think they might act-in stereotypical jewish ways (‘their conduct is perpetually overdetermined from the inside’).


  • But unlike the jews, Fanon is instantly recognisable as an ‘other’ based on indelible skin colour-not actions which can be hidden (he is over determined from without).
  • Fanon implies that from this movement, he begins to move slowly, to find life difficult and restricting, he is changed from his natural self into one completely determined by the white man.