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Extravagant AbjectionBlackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination$
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Darieck Scott

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814740941

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814740941.001.0001

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Fanon’s Muscles

Fanon’s Muscles

(Black) Power Revisited

(p.32) 1 Fanon’s Muscles
Extravagant Abjection

Darieck Scott

NYU Press

This chapter interprets the argument Frantz Fanon makes throughout his corpus that blackness (as well as nativity) is an invented racial category created by the enslavers of Africans. It unfolds the ramifications of Fanon's sociogenic understanding of blackness in order to uncover what, in the process of being made black, of being blackened, can be seen to evince the power, pleasures, and freedom that blackness was created to deny its bearers. Glimpses of that power begin from Fanon's “mirage of muscle power,” which appears in several of his texts as a recurring metaphor, “tensed muscle.” “Tensed muscles” represent a form of bodily (un)knowing that recognizes its existence in a history of defeat while instancing its unconscious preparation to meet and resist that defeat. The chapter then considers the possibilities latent in this stance by referencing the existentialist (Jean-Paul Sartre), phenomenological (Maurice Merleau-Ponty), and psychoanalytic (Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva) tenets that inform or parallel it: temporal dispersal, anonymous existence, double-bodiedness, vertigo, trauma, abjection. What each of these (anti)concepts share is a nonconscious, nonunified, and dispersed relation to selfhood, action, or change in which the ego is not defended. Thus, in reading the metaphor of tensed muscles of the black/native, it makes a set of conceptual moves, a number of which is enunciated in the terms of the existential philosophy and existential psychology with which Fanon is in conversation.

Keywords:   Frantz Fanon, blackness, black power, muscle power, tensed muscle, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva

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