Figures of interpellation in Althusser and Fanon

The text that Althusser published in 1970 under the title ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, where he puts forward the thesis of the individual’s interpellation as subject, is no doubt one of his most innovative, but it is also particularly disconcerting: its exposition, in exploiting a rhetoric that combines ellipses and brute force, winds up constructing an enigma, which the reader herself is left to decrypt. It is in an effort to help with that decryption that we will try to confront that text with Black Skin, White Masks, published some twenty years earlier. Althusser and Fanon target their respective analyses on two formulas of interpellation – ‘Look, a nigger!’ (Fanon), ‘Hey, you there!’ (Althusser) – and it is interesting to compare them with one another as a way of bringing out the contrast between these two ways of taking up the problem of subjectivation [subjectivation].


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