The Humanism Effect: Fanon, Foucault, and Ethics without Subjects

Anthony C. Alessandrini


This article addresses a tendency within postcolonial studies to place the work of Michel Foucault and Frantz Fanon in opposition. This has obscured the real, and potentially very productive, similarities between them. The most important of these links has to do with their shared critique of the sovereign subject of humanism: for Fanon and Foucault, this critique of the traditional humanist subject provides a way of opposing what they both see as the dangerous nostalgia for a lost moment of origin. Furthermore, Fanon and Foucault both end in a moment of ethics, but it is an ethics without the sort of stable subjects assumed by humanism. I offer a consideration of some of the links that can be found in several texts by Fanon and Foucault. I then attempt to define the term I will be using to describe their shared strategy of an ethics without subjects: the “humanism effect.” I conclude by trying to suggest some of the strategic possibilities of an ethics without subjects in the postcolonial context.

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Copyright (c) 2009 Anthony C. Alessandrini

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