Crystal Balls and Chicken Bones

We threw Moi out of power, but we did not purge his style of politics from our pysche.
—Lucy Oriang’

Generational change can be a dangerous fiction. Nothing quite approaches hubris as much as the strategic amnesia of those who claim to surpass their predecessors. Yet, we cannot deny the very real psychic and ideological changes that occur over time. To take only one example, Ngugi wa Thiong’o has written eloquently about the trauma of coming to English. For him, I suspect, it will always be associated with a certain loss. In contrast, we who grew up bi- and tri-lingual have a much different relationship to English. I may sympathize with Thiong’o’s narrative, but I do not share it.

In his biography of Frantz Fanon, David Macey warns against the “post-colonial” Fanon who “worries about identity politics, and often about his own sexual identity” (28). Against this defanged figure, Macey wants an “angry Fanon”:

If there is a truly Fanonian emotion, it is anger. His anger was a response to his experience of a black man in a world defined as white, but not to the ‘fact’ of his blackness. It was a response to the condition and situation of those he called the wretched of the earth. The wretched of the earth are still there, but not in the seminar rooms where the talk is of post-colonial theory . . . Had he lived, Fanon would still be angry. His readers should be angry too. (28)

While Macey’s point about the wretched of the earth is well taken, I am more than a little discomfited by his desire for the black Fanon to be angry. It is, I admit, a petty point, but I am always more than a little uncomfortable when white individuals celebrate black anger. In Black Skin, White Masks, Fanon describes white heterosexual women and white homosexual men who desire their black partners be angry. I would erase the mapping of sexual identity and re-read Fanon as articulating white desire for black anger. However, since Macey dismisses the “sexual” Fanon, he need not implicate himself in this reading of white desire. But, as I said, this is a petty reading on my part.

I am more interested in the opposition between the nationalist-era Fanon and the post-colonial Fanon, one who was engaged in action and the other the topic of intellectuals in “seminar rooms.” How might we use this paradigm to understand the coming changes in Kenyan politics? What possible changes might occur as we transition, over the next two decades, from nationalist-era politicians to post-colonial or, post-independence politicians? How might our political rhetoric change? How may our frames of reference change?

No doubt, some brilliant academic has very smart answers. I can only speculate in rather fragmentary ways.


After several attempts at speculation, many of them marked with phrases such as “deepening schisms,” “success of global capital,” “increasingly cosmopolitan and indifferent middle-class,” I have opted to let the future unfold as it will.