The Global South and Cultural Struggles: On the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization
Duncan Mceachern Yoon
Fanon’s involvement in the AAPSO as the Algerian representative in both 1958 and 1960 provides a lens through which to understand the transnational context of The Wretched of the Earth (1961). While specifically grounded in the Algerian war for independence, this text’s vast scope marks it as one of the first theorizations of what is now called the Global South. As such, Fanon’s involvement with the AAPSO means his own writings on national culture can be read against the organization’s transnationalism.
I would like to return to the epigraph wherein Fanon calls to the peoples of Asia: “[Y]ou have proved that universal culture, [and] the conception of a man to [the] size of the world, have only just started“ (AAPSO 121).
Here, Fanon addresses Asia as “you“−both South and East—as well as echoes a famous line from Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (1955): “a humanism made to the measure of the world“ (Césaire 73).
What is interesting in this brief excerpt is that rather than reject Western categories of universalism−especially as they pertain to the human and culture−Fanon advocates for the retention of them. He sees value in holding on to ethical universals, to the philosophical and cultural efforts to define humanism.
However, for Fanon it is the scale of this definition that must be disaggregated and reimagined. That is, humanism must include definitions that emerge from not only French or other European categories, but also from African and Asian ones—what Fanon would later call the perspective of the “wretched of the earth.” One of the consequences of such a disaggregation of humanism and its accompanying universalism means the cultural realm is crucial to imagining a different kind of modernity.
The AAPSO’s cultural platform at Conakry would take its cues from Fanon’s speech. In the preamble to “Cultural Resolutions and Recommendations” they write:
"Our politics is cultural because it does not mean to us a simple conflict between two opponents anxious to conquer and dominate; but we struggle to create a new order the setting up of which is inspired by the suffering of all those who have known slavery, racial discrimination, colonialism and imperialism. Our cultural aspirations are far more fundamental for our political actions than the power of the West, which has depersonalized us and so altered our institutions." (AAPSO 83)
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