Last Displacement

Alejandro De Oto, El Colegio De México, CEAA

Part 4 of the author's "'Escapes' and Displacements: Notes on Frantz Fanon's Oppositional Discourse"

Displacement, the way it is addressed in this essay, is a deferred problem. Fanon's displacement is towards indetermination; however, this could not be explained unless his texts were read as historico-social programs, which would bring about a reduction of their mobility. The experiences of the fragmented world of colonialism, and the frequently upsetting mobility of postcolonial processes interweave to suggest that beyond the separation between the hegemonic I/We and the subordinate Other/They a more complex process of cultural identifications and origins is at stake. Displacement takes place, as already mentioned, with respect to binary logic but from that point, the problem is different. This is a key aspect of the criticism of colonial discourse, and constitutes a link with other postcolonial writings. For example, two stories by the Islamic Indian writer Saadat Hasan Manto (For a historico-political study -- in Spanish -- of Saadat Hasan Mantos' works, see Susana Devalle, Saadat Hasan Manto, Antología de cuentos) occupy the same unsteady space as Fanon's criticism of colonial dualism: "Toba Tek Singh" and "El perro de Tithwal" (The Dog from Tithwal"). In the first story, Manto makes a masterful description of a madhouse where, after the separation of India and Pakistan, "sick" persons are distributed during a exchange in the border. An old man, the main character, refuses to be sent back to any place except Toba Tek Singh. Another patient remains on top of a tree claiming that he wants to live there. The old man finally dies at that no-man's borderland, the space between the Pakistani and Indian lines. "El perro de Tithwal" (The Dog from Tithwal) is about a dog trapped in the battlefront trenches. Indians and Pakistanis permanently "accuse" it of being the Other, and while running between one trench and the other to save its life, it dies. Both tragedies depict the danger of maintaining repetition and preventing nomadism. But above all they represent the actions of a colonial narration that attempts to exorcise, by means of separation, an absolute identity from the dimensions of the same Otherness it institutes.

In both stories, the duality of colonial discourse and despair over fixing identities emerge as a postcolonial trope. The "mad" old man and the dog on the battlefront give proof of the strengthening of social and textual legitimacy. In the metaphor taken to its extreme, both characters are brought back to order through death. However, the tragedies where they appear can also integrate a space for the criticism of colonial narrations. Both characters die in an undetermined, no-man's land which, on the one hand, seems like a barren territory but, on the other, foretells a representation of escape and displacement. It is at the boundaries where the legitimacy of colonial discourse is first questioned. Fanon, with a more evident political determination, but definitely close to Manto, understands the criticism of the colonial discourse as a displacement toward undetermined regions. In the last case, whether or not the place of this displacement is national culture is not the most important issue. What matters is that with Fanon's texts we can image that leaving behind determination, and reintroducing historicity, can lead to a different type of journey, that is, to nomadism.

Political Discourse Home Frantz Fanon