Resisting Ideological English: Agency and Valuing Against Reified Abstractions and Erasures

M. Véronique Switzer


By preserving the intent of the original French title of Franz Fanon’s great work, Les Damnés de la Terre as The Damned of the Earth, Lewis Gordon makes a critical contribution beyond his already notable contribution to Fanon Studies. At the start of What Fanon Said, Gordon says in the notes, “The title of [The Wretched of the Earth] is one with which I have much disagreement, so in this book it will be referred to in its proper translation as The Damned of the Earth” (2015, 151). Hearing in Gordon’s point here a philosophy of translation, I will explain how the proper translation of “les damnés” as “the damned” serves our understanding of resisting ideological language such as “the wretched” or connotations of wretchedness in daily language, which erase being, agency, and the value of living beings. “The damned,” a noun born of and still a verb, connotes the active colonial damning as a historical process driven by culpable agents.1 Put differently, “the damned” “preserves” in the meaning of the words, the reality or fact of active colonial damning as a historical process driven by culpable agents; it does so in naming that action is done upon peoples, who are by that fact, colonized peoples. Gordon thus provides remedy to the ideological consequences of the better-known translation of the title of the work that would have the reader or listener more readily call up the sense of “unfortunate or unhappy people,” which the “wretched” “translation” connotes.2 I develop and defend the theoretical and socio-political centrality of Gordon rejecting “the wretched” in favor of “the damned,” preserving in translation the essential agency of those doing the damning on the condition of the damned.

Full Text:



Abdullah, Melina. 2012. “Womanist Mothering: Loving and Raising the Revolution.” Western Journal of Black Studies 36 (1): 57-67.

Batchelor, Kathryn. 2013. “Fanon’s Les Damnés de la Terre: Translation, De-Philosophization and the Intensification of Violence.” In Nottingham French Studies. Edinburgh University Press.

Baucom, Ian. 2005. Spectres of the Atlantic: Finance Capital, Slavery, and the Philosophy of History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Cohen, G. A. 2011. “Rescuing Conservativism: A Defense of Existing Value.” In Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T.M. Scanlon, edited by J. Wallace, R. Kumar, and S. Freedman, 203-230. New York: Oxford University Press.

⎯. 2007. “A Truth in Conservativism: Rescuing Conservativism from the Conservatives.” UCLA Legal Theory Workshop: 1-39.

Coleman, Carolyn. 1982. A Grammar of Gunbarlang: With Special Reference to Grammatical Relations. M.A. thesis, Australian National University.

Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, 2nd edition. New York: Routledge University Press.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 2016. “The Urgency of Intersectionality,” 14 November 2016.

Gordon, Lewis. 2015. What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Work. New York: Fordham University Press.

Dotson, Kristie. 2013. “Radical love: Black philosophy as deliberate acts of inheritance.” The Black Scholar 43 (4): 38-45.

Du Bois, W.E.B. 1903. The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.

Frye, Marilyn. 1992. “White Woman Feminist.” Willful Virgin: Essays in Feminism, 1976-1992. Freedom, California: The Crossing Press.

Flournoy, Angela. 2021. “Melina Abdullah is Showing L.A. How to be Accountable to a Future We Can’t Yet See.” Los Angeles Times, 18 August 2021.

Kazembe, Lasana. 2018. “Listen to the Blood: Du Bois, Cultural Memory, and the Black Radical Tradition in Education.” Socialism and Democracy 32 (3): 146-163.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2011. “Learning the Grammar of Animacy.” In Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World, edited by A.H. Deming and L.E. Savoy, 167- 177. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions.

Lugones, María. 2020. “Gender and Universality in Colonial Methodology.” Critical Philosophy of Race 8 (1-2): 25-47.

—. 2003. Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield.

Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One-Dimensional Man. Boston: Beacon Press.

Mills, Charles. 2018. “Through a Glass Whitely: Ideal Theory as Epistemic Injustice.” Central Division Presidential Address, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 92 (2018): 43-77.

Motha, Suhanthis. 2020. “Is Antiracist and Decolonizing Applied Linguistics Possible?” Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 20 (June 2020).

Nussbaum, Martha. 1995. “Objectification.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (4): 249-291.

Ortega, José-Guadalupe. 2014. “Freedom, identity, and the social history of empire in Atlantic Cuba, 1795-1817.” Slavery and Abolition 35 (2): 273-291.

Orwell, George. (1964) 2021. Politics and the English Language. London: Renard Press Limited.

Oyěwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ ́. 1997. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rocco, Raymond A. 2014. Transforming Citizenship: Democracy, Membership, and Belonging in Latino Communities. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Sigal, Pete. 2000. From Moon Goddesses to Virgins: The Colonization of Yukatecan Maya Sexual Desire. Austin: University of Texas Press.

‘Skipp Coon.’ “Assata Taught Me (page 181).”

Snorton, C. Riley. 2017. Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Switzer, Véronique M. 2023. “Placed: Respect for Existing Value in Decolonizing Philosophy.” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 38.1 (Winter 2023) [in press].



  • There are currently no refbacks.

E-ISSN: 2564-2154

In affiliation with: