April 23, 2012
Last Week’s Readings

I love the full quote from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (1961, 1968), so often reduced to the first sentence:

"For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land; the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity. But this dignity has nothing to do with the dignity of the human individual: for that human individual has never heard tell of it. All that the native has seen in his country is that they can freely arrest him, beat him, starve him: and no professor of ethics, no priest has ever come to be beaten in his place, nor to share their bread with him. As far as the native is concerned, morality is very concrete; it is to silence the settler’s defiance, to break his flaunting violence—in a word, to put him out of the picture" (44).

And food for thought about the museum (and beyond?) from Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (1955, 2000):

"And the museums of which M. Caillois is so proud, not for one minute does it cross his mind that, all things considered, it would have been better not to have needed them; that Europe would have done better to tolerate the non-European civilizations at its side, leaving them alive, dynamic, and prosperous, whole and not mutilated; that it would have been better to let them develop and fulfill themselves than to present them for our admiration, duly labelled, their dead and scattered parts; that anyway, the museum by itself is nothing; that it means nothing, that it can say nothing, when smug self-satisfaction rots the eyes, when a secret contempt for others withers the heart, when racism, admitted or not, dries up sympathy; that it means nothing if its only purpose is to feed the delights of vanity" (71).

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