In Defense of Fanon’s Conception of the Struggle to the Death

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Heather Stewart


In this paper, I examine two competing interpretations of Hegel’s “master-slave dialectic” from his classic text, The Phenomenology of Spirit. These interpretations, offered by Frantz Fanon and Ato Sekyi-Out respectively, disagree on what they see as the central feature of the process of obtaining mutual recognition, as Hegel understands and presents it in The Phenomenology. While Fanon upholds the importance of the violent nature of the struggle “to the death,” Sekyi-Otu criticizes this endorsement of violence and aims to highlight instead the features of reciprocity and mutuality. I argue that Fanon’s focus on the violent nature of the struggle can withstand this criticism, seeing it as essential that oppressed groups play a role in obtaining their own recognition from those occupying dominant positions in oppressive systems. Considering this claim in contemporary social contexts allows us to shed light on current resistance efforts, and how true independence and the possibility of recognition for marginalized groups often requires the willingness to “risk one’s life” or “struggle to the death” for recognition. As such, I endorse Fanon’s reading of Hegel’s dialectic and consider how it can be applied to contemporary social movements.

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Stewart, H. (2018). In Defense of Fanon’s Conception of the Struggle to the Death. HUMANITIES BULLETIN, 1(2), 85-102. Retrieved from