Beauvoir and Fanon on Reductive Temporalities Marilyn Stendera (Deakin University)
Beauvoir and Fanon on reductive temporalities
Simone de Beauvoir and Frantz Fanon both argue that oppression fundamentally constrains the subject’s relationship to and embodied experience of time, yet their accounts of temporality are rarely brought together. This paper will explore what we might learn about the operation of different types of reductive temporality if we read Beauvoir and Fanon alongside each other, focusing primarily on the early works that arguably lay out the central concerns of their respective temporal frameworks. At first glance, it appears that the temporal architectures of oppression and resistance move in different, even opposing, directions within these two accounts. Both emphasise the relationship between freedom and futurity, and both cash out the temporality of the oppressed subject in terms of stagnation, repetition, and entrapment within a hollow moment that prevents authentic projection. However, while Beauvoir suggests that reductive temporalities work to sever the future from the past and present, Fanon seems to locate the problem in the heightening of their entanglement. In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir cautions against sacrificing the present for the future or viewing it as “the transitory existence which is made in order to be abolished”. The Fanon of Black Skin, White Masks, meanwhile, is often read as suggesting that the striving for a revolutionary future requires an abnegation of past and present. A closer reading of these accounts, however, reveals deeper affinities between them that help to recast this tension – while showing that it cannot be dissolved entirely without eliding the distinctive insights offered by each approach to time. This encounter between Beauvoir and Fanon, moreover, problematises the endeavour to describe the structures of lived time in ‘neutral’ terms, and underlines the importance of temporality to attempts to undertake a ‘political phenomenology’.
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