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

Sujaya Dhanvantari


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 contemporary profile of psychic disorders, as they relate to the diagnostic measure of PTSD. It begins by demonstrating colonial psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni’s failure to engage psychoanalytic theory 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 psychic effects of colonial violence into his analysis of unconscious complexes in the colonized. Finally, this paper shows that Malabou corelates violent ruptures with the PTSD diagnosis, in order to better understand the relation between sociopolitical violence and neuropsychiatric trauma. This paper proposes that both Fanon and Malabou be mobilized to theorize the violent origins of psychic trauma.

Peer review process: Guest edited


Fanon; Malabou; Mannoni; psychiatry; psychoanalysis; PTSD; colonialism; globalization


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