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

M. Véronique Switzer

Abstract


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.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2021%2Fju.v1i1.2318

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