Race is a topic in today’s society that is unavoidable in many situations, because of the representations and ideologies of race in the world. Frantz Fanon, Louis Althusser, and Hunt Hawkins have each studied race and interpellation in the modern world. Fanon explored race and racial interpellation in The Fact of Blackness, Althusser explored interpellation in Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, and Hawkins explored how race is displayed in Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad.
Conrad’s character development of Kurtz is meant to symbolize the future for Europe if it continues to dominate other people and cultures in other countries. While Fanon, Althusser, and Hawkins all possess different beliefs and ideas of race, all three support the idea that Kurtz is a symbol for Europe, and in Heart of Darkness explores the European ideology that falsely portrays the Europeans as a civilized culture. Fanon considered himself to be both a Marxist and a Psychoanalyst and believed that helping his patients included understanding the social contexts of the world.
Fanon’s title, The Fact of Blackness, is a harsh and blunt title that is meant to reveal the readers the harsh realities that Fanon will explain. In the title, the person is removed and only an image remains for readers, which symbolizes how minorities feel when a single image from an ideology represents them worldwide (Lecture 2/16/17). In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the African people are also portrayed in the same way; the African people are subjected to a stereotype that they are a wild, untamed, and barbaric people whom the Europeans believe they can force to conform to their ideological and societal beliefs.
Additionally. Fanon introduces the idea of the formation of the ego, which is different for everyone based on their social constructs. In ego formation, the body is fragmented in real life; the mirror reflection falsely believes that it sees the whole body (Lecture 2/16/17). For the African people in Heart of Darkness, the body is fragmented because it is controlled and forced to implement the European ideology. Additionally, Fanon argues that people of minority races have a predetermined identity that is created by society.
In The Fact of Blackness, Fanon describes the moment that he understood he was a black man in a white man’s world: “I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things, my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects” (87). With an optimistic view of the world, Fanon was forced to live in the reality of a dominant culture that looks down upon minority races; even the word “minority” forces an ideological view that one race is better than another.
In addition, Fanon describes how synecdoches are important to understanding predetermined identities even further. A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a word, picture, or another part of an object that refers to the whole of something; a synecdoche is a reciprocal relationship, which means that the whole of something can also refer to an element or component of something. When the dominant society or dominant race establishes a predetermined identity for the minorities, it is a representation of that race everywhere.
Fanon himself is an example of a synecdoche because he is a Martinique who has dark skin, he is therefore subjected to the representations of his skin color worldwide. In Heart of Darkness, the synecdoche applies in the same way as it does to Fanon; the African people are subjected to representations of their skin color, even though there are many different ethnicities and races within the African continent. Fanon does not specifically discuss interpellation by itself but instead provides instances where he experienced racial interpellation in his life.
Marxist Louis Althusser argued that interpellation is the moment that a person is called into an ideology (47). An example of Althusser’s definition of interpellation is when a man catcalls (whistling or verbalizing thoughts to) a woman. If a man in his car whistles out of his window at a woman, all the women who hear the whistle, even if it is not directed at them, immediately understand that a man is making it known that he appreciates the woman walking down the street.
The interpellation occurs when every woman that hears the whistle immediately understands that it is a man that typically does the whistling, and it usually means they are interested in th that particular woman looks. Every instance that a person recognizes something in the world, they are pulled into an ideology; a person can also not ignore or reject and ideology, it is something that happens unconsciously (Lecture 2/2/17). Therefore, to be racially interpellated is the moment when a person is called into an ideology based on their race.
Fanon describes this as someone saying, “Look, a Negro” because at that moment the speaker has called the black man into an ideology based on his appearance of race. However, this societal phenomenon is incorrect more than people choose to acknowledge. Society often groups people of different races into the same generic category based on their skin color, even if they are not of the same racial makeup. Literature is a social phenomenon that needs to be understood in the social parameters that it exists in (Lecture 2/2/17).
A Marxist would argue that literature and culture are not separable. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the social context in which Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness because the societal and the world influences that Conrad was subjected to demands an understanding of race, interpellation, and ideology. It is in the moment of racial interpellation that Fanon explains that minorities have to unnaturally choose a part to play because society has many different expectations for the minorities.
Fanon recognizes that although people with darker skin may have different backgrounds, ethnicities, and origins, each one “exists triply” in the sense that there are many different social constructs to which they can play the part; yet each individual also plays every part at once (88). Fanon describes the moment that he realized he was a black man in a white man’s world, “I burst apart. Now the fragments have been put together again by another self,” which means that for minorities, their “self” is not truly their own, but is constructed by society (87).
The society that controls the ideologies are primarily the white males, who consider their race to be dominant. Fanon pushes further, explaining that because the whites dominate the culture, the black self is a colonized self that is shaped within the dominating culture’s ideals and values. Fanon was born in Martinique, which was a colony of France. Therefore, the Fanon’s ego formation was created by the ideology that France valued. Fanon’s description of the colonized self exists in the European society in Heart of Darkness, because the Europeans attempt to colonize the African colonies.
Hawkins believed that Heart of Darkness was not an explicitly racist novel and that Conrad himself was in some ways a racist simply because of the lack of knowledge about racism at that time. While the novel itself is aware of the racism it projects, it is also simply seeking to expose the racism that occurs in society and to exploit the ideologies that the Europeans favored. Hawkins defined race as distinctions made between people based on biological differences; race produces a system of classification to understand people.
When Marlow is describing Kurtz to the readers, he mentions a simple fact about Kurtz’s ancestry that is an implicit example of the European ideology and power. Marlow states: “His mother was half-English, his father was halfFrench. ” (Conrad, 49). This statement shows that Marlow feels the need to explain Kurt’s ancestry as if it is crucial to understanding Kurtz. Marlow’s explanation reveals that the European ideology deems it important and necessary to have knowledge of one’s ancestry and background in order to judge them and place them into their appropriate societal categories.
Furthermore, Marlow also informs readers that “All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz” (Conrad, 49). This statement is another example of Fanon’s argument that the dominate society shapes the ideals and values of a country, but also shape the people of the country as well. It is important to understand Fanon’s argument of the predetermined self Hawkins noted that “much of Heart of Darkness dehumanizes Africans,” but also did not portray them as excessively cannibalistic as many Europeans believed the Africans to be (366).
Hawkins argues that Conrad implements the evolutionary trope in Heart of Darkness, but also exposes the downfall of Europeans by showing their desire for merciless control and inhumane actions to control the African colonies. An evolutionary trope is a developmental logic that white civilization is more advanced than African civilizations (Lecture 2/16/17). Kurtz himself is a representation of Europe because he is a civilized man who becomes barbaric and savage after living in Africa.
In addition, Hawkins noted that in Heart of Darkness, racism explicitly occurred as “Conrad likely didn’t show more of the Africans because he wanted to focus on the Europeans” (370). Much like Kurtz himself, Conrad and Marlow conceal a lot in their use of sophisticated words and diction. In addition, their high-strung eloquence is very underrated; people will do anything that the voice asks them to do, including the African people. Ultimately, by denying the humanity of Africa, Europeans are destroying their own humanity, and therefore, Europe is destroying itself.