Subjective Elasticity, the “Zone of Nonbeing” and Fanon’s New Humanism in Black Skin, White Masks

Nicholas Webber


This article argues that the all-too-easy dismissal of Frantz Fanon’s bold “new humanism” in Black Skin, White Masks (1952) relies upon a bracketing of the elastic narratorial patterns which make such an imaginative leap possible in the first place. In choosing instead to foreground such triggers, this article seeks to re-establish the link between Fanon’s text, his descent into the “zone of nonbeing” and his subsequent attempt to negotiate this zone by way of a performative, non-ocular and cosmopolitan humanistic reimagining. The article also pays close attention to the ways in which Fanon’s adapted, colonial existentialism (out of which his new humanism grows) dialogues with and necessarily separates from its Sartrean basis, creating along the way a new form of nonbeing which, rather than annul colonial subjectivity, opens up a dynamic, dangerous and germinative space in which new modes of intersubjective connectivity can be imagined.


Frantz Fanon; Black Skin, White Masks; Jean-Paul Sartre; new humanism

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