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Vol. 3 No. 2 (2020): Critically sick: New phenomenologies of illness, madness, and disability

The Violent Origins of Psychic Trauma: Frantz Fanon's Theory of Colonial Trauma and Catherine Malabou's Concept of the New Wounded

  • Sujaya Dhanvantari
February 9, 2023


This paper contends that Catherine Malabou’s concepts of cerebrality and the new wounded extend Frantz Fanon’s theory of colonial trauma to illuminate the link between violent oppression and the contemporary profile of psychic disorders, as it relates to the diagnostic measure of PTSD. It begins by showing that colonial psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni failed to negate the racial theses of French colonial psychiatry. Next, it explicates Fanon’s refutation of both Mannoni’s use of the idea of dependence and his theory of social evolutionism to describe the colonial relation. In brief, Fanon critiques Mannoni for neglecting to integrate the effects of colonial violence into his analysis of unconscious complexes in the colonized psyche. Finally, this paper shows that Malabou correlates violent ruptures with the PTSD diagnosis, in order to establish a relation between sociopolitical violence and neuropsychiatric trauma. This paper proposes the mobilization of both Fanon and Malabou to theorize the violent origins of psychic trauma.