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The representation of difference must not be hastily read as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural traits set in the fixed tablet of tradition. The social articulation of difference, from the minority perspective, is a complex, on going negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation. The ‘right’ to signify from the periphery of authorized power and privilege does not depend on persistence of tradition; it is resourced by the power of tradition to be reinscribed through the conditions of contingency and contradictoriness that attend upon the lives of those who are ‘in the minority’. The recognition that tradition bestows is a partial form of identification. In restaging the past it introduces other, incommensurable cultural temporalities into the invention of tradition. This process estranges any immediate access to an originary identity or a ‘received’ tradition. The borderline engagements of cultural difference may as often be consensual as conflictual; they may confound our definitions of tradition and modernity; realign the customary boundaries between the private and the public, high and low; and challenge normative expectations of development and progress. (Bhabha, p. 2) *** “Where, once, the transmission of national traditions was the major theme of a wold literature, perhaps we can now suggest that transnational histories of migrants, the colonized, or political refugees---these border and frontier conditions---may be the terrains of world literature. The centre of such a study would neither be the ‘sovereignty’ of national cultures, nor the universalism of human culture, but a focus on those ‘freak social and cultural displacements’ that Morrison and Gordimer represent in their ‘unhomely7 fictions. Which leads us to ask: can the perplexity of the unhomely, intrapersonal world lead to an international theme? (Bhabha, p. 12) *** “My reading of colonial discourse suggests that the pont of intervention should shift from the ready recognition of images as positive or negative, to an understanding of the processes of subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereotypical discourse…In order to understand the productivity of colonial power it is crucial to construct its regime of truth, not to subject its representations to a normalizing judgment. Only then does it become possible to understand the productive ambivalence of the object of desire and derision, an articulation of difference contained within the fantasy of origin and identity. What such a reading reveals are the boundaries from the space of that otherness.” Bhabha, p. 67) *** “I want to take my stand on the shifting margins of cultural displacement---that confounds any profound or ‘authentic’ sense of a ‘national’ culture or an ‘organic ‘ intellectual---and ask what the function of a committed theoretical perspective 1
My contention is splendidly caught in Fanon’s title Black Skin. with the repertoire of positions of power and resistance. for both colonizer and colonized. constitutes a problem for the representation of the subject in significations of psychic and social relations. which is its major discursive strategy. fixated form of representation that. My reading of colonial discourse suggests that the point of intervention should shift form the ready recognition of images as positive or negative to an understanding of the processes of subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereotypical discourse. 75) *** Stereotype “An important feature of colonial discourse is its dependence on the concept of ‘fixity’ in the ideological construction of otherness. as the sign of cultura l/historical/ racial difference in the discourse of colonialism. p. then.” (Bhabha. The stereotype is not a simplification because it is a false representation of a given reality.” (Bhabha. which is only possible by engaging with its effectivity. is a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always ‘in place’. once the cultural and historical hybridity of the postcolonial world is taken as the paradigmatic place of departure. 21) “colonial fantasy” *** “The stereotype. It is a simplification because it is an arrested. is the scene of a similar fantasy and defence---the desire for an originality which is again threatened by the differences of race. White Masks where the disavowal of difference turns the colonial subject into a misfit000a grotesque mimicry or ‘doubling’ that threatens to split the soul and whole. p. The analytic of ambivalence questions dogmatic and moralistic positions on the meaning of oppression and discrimination. 66] relationship between discourse and politics. degeneracy and daemonic repetition. and something that must be anxiously repeated… The absence of such a perspective has its own history of political expediency. Likewise the stereotype. colour. already known. is a paradoxical mode of representation: it connotes rigidity and an unchanging order as well as disorder. To judge the stereotyped image on the basis of a prior political normativity is to dismiss it. not to displace it. Fixity.In order to understand the productiovity of colonial power it is crucial to construct its regime of truth. and culture. not to subject its representations 2 . domination and dependence that constructs colonial identification subject (both colonizer and colonized)…. in denying the play of difference (which the negation through the Other permits). as the primary point of subjetification in colonial discourse.might be. To recognize the stereotype as an ambivalent mode of knowledge and power demands a theoretical and political response that challenges deterministic or functionalist modes of conceiving of the [end of p. undifferentiated skin of the ego.
thught. name. a topic of learning. However. discovery. colonial discourse: Philosophically. fantasies of myths. that is structurally similar to realism. images. on the other. a knowledge of ‘signifiers of stability’ such as the lexicographic and the encyclopaedic. and the stated knowledges and views about the Orient which he calls manifest Orientalism. an articulation of difference contained within the fantasy of origin and identity. point too. It is a static system of ‘synchronic essentialism’. anyone employing orientalism. Only then does it become possible to understand the productive ambivalence of the object of colonial discourse---that ‘otherness’ which is at once an object of desire and derision. this site is continually under threat from diachronic forms of history and narrative. which then is considered either to have acquired. 71) *** “The closure and coherence attributed to the unconscious pole of colonial discourse and the unproblematized notion of the subject. will designate. What such a reading reveals are the boundaries of colonial discourse and it enables a transgression of these limits from the space of that otherness. to calculate the traumatic impact of the return of the oppressed---those terrifying stereotypes of savagery. objects. examining the varied European discourses which constitute ‘the Prient’ as a unified racial. p. (see note #7 by Bhabha) For Said. the kind of language. what he is talking or thinking about with a word or phrase. reality…The tense they employ is the timeless eternal. scenes 3 . it is the site of dreams. cannibalism. pp. on the one hand. geographical. It is. Nor would it be possible.” (Bhabha. which is the habit for dealing with questions. Said’s analysis is revealing of. practice. lust and anarchy which are the signal points of identification and alienation. finally. Said is aware when he hints continually at a polarity or division at the very centre of Orientalism. they convey an impression of repetition and strength… For all these functions it is frequently enough to use the simple copula is. this line of thinking is given a shape analogical to the dreamwork when Said refers explicitly to a distinction between ‘an unconscious positivuty’ which he terms latent Orientalism. And it is in order to intervene with that system of representation that Edward Said proposes a semiotic of ‘Orientalist’ power. It employs a system of representation. without the attribution of ambivalence to relations of power/knowledge. restrict the effectivity of both power and knowledge. It is not possible to see how power functions productively an incitement and interdiction. or simply to be. qualities and regions deemed Oriental. a regime of truth. signs of instability. obsessions and requirements. political and cultural zone of the world. then. and relevant to. the copula seems to be the point at which western rationalism preserves the boundaries of sense for itself. fix. too. “ (Bhabha. and vision that I have been calling orientalism very generally is a form or radical realism. 66-67) *** “It resembles a form of narrative whereby the productivity and cirvulation of subjects and signs are bound in a reformed and unrecognizable totality.to a normalizing judgment. Of this. And.
For fetishism is always a ‘play’ or vacillation between the archaic affirmation of wholeness/similarity---in Freud’s terms: ‘All men have penises’. It is a simplification because it is an arrested. 74-75) *** Mimicry 4 . The stereotype is not a simplification because it is a false representation of a given reality. fixated form of representation that. My contention is splendidly caught in Fanon’s title Black Skin. This conflict of pleasure/unpleasure. the fetish represents the simultaneous play between metaphor as substitution (masking absence and difference) and [end of p. for the subject must be gendered to be engendered. is the scene of a similar fantasy and defence---the desire for an originality which is again threatened by the differences of race. for it is a form of multiple and contradictory belief in its recognition of difference and disavowal of it. according to Fanon. For the scene of fetishism is also the scene of reactivation and repetition of primal fantasy---the subject’s desire for a pure origin that is always threatened by its division. undifferentiated skin of the ego.” (Bhabha. The fetish or stereotype gives access to an ‘identity’ which is predicated as much on mastery and pleasure as it is on anxiety and defence.of fear and desire. It is precisely this function of the stereotype as phobia and fetish that. pp.” (Bhabha. has a fundamental significance for colonial discourse. White Masks where the disavowal of difference turns the colonial subject into a misfit---a grotesque mimicry or ‘doubling’ that threatens to split the soul and whole. knowledge/disavowal. and culture. 72] epidermal schema for the colonial subject and opens the royal road to colonial fantasy. mastery/defece. is that repetitious scene around the problems of castration. 71-72) *** “There is both a structural and functional justification for reading the racial stereotype of colonial discourse in terms of fetishism. Fetishism.’ Within discourse. absence/presence. for us ‘Some do not have the same skin/race/culture. as the primary point of subjectification in colonial discourse for both colonizer and colonized. The functional link between the fixation of the fetish and the stereotype (or the stereotype as fetish) is even more relevant. threatens the closure of the racial/ [end of p. The recognition of sexual difference---as the precondition for the circulation of the chain of absence and presence n the realm of the Symbolic---is disavowed by the fixation of an object that masks that difference and restores an original presence. pp. as the disavowal of difference. to be spoken. in denying the play of difference which the negation through the Other permits). My rereading of Said establishes the structural link. 74] metonymy (which contiguously registers the perceived lack). constitutes a problem for the representation of the subject in significations of psychic and social relations. colour. in colonial texts. The stereotype then.
and poses an immanent threat to both ‘normalized’ knowledges and disciplinary powers. its excess. A desire that. But they are also. Mimicry is. Which is to say. The authority of that mode of colonial discourse that I have called mimicry is therefore stricken by an indeterminacy: mimicry emerges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal. a difference or recalcitrance which coheres the dominant strategic function of colonial power. it is not what Cesair describes as ‘colonization-thingification’ behind which there stands the essence of the presence Africaine. its difference. where the reforming. the black man stops being an actional person for only the white man can represent his selfesteem. […] It is from this area between mimicry and mockery. which ‘appropriates’ the Other as it visualizes power. 86) *** “What I have called mimicry is not the familiar exercise of dependent colonial relations through narcissistic identification so that. the figures of a doubling. but not quite. Decoud as the scene setter of the opea bouffe of the New World. that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence. these are the appropriate objects of a colonialist chain of command authorized versions of otherness.“If I may adapt Samuel Weber’s formulation of the marginalizing vision of castration. but not quite does not merely ‘rupture’ the discourse. so that mimicry is at once resemblance and menace.” (Bhabha. Naipaul’s colonial politician as play-actor. intensifies surveillance. civilizing mission is threatened by the displacing gaze of its disciplinary double. however. as a subject of difference that is almost the same. It is as if the very emergence of the ‘colonial’ is dependent for its representation upon some strategic limitation or prohibition within the authoritative discourse itself. as I have shown. that my instances of colonial imitation come. recognizable Other. The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority. And it is a double vision that is a result of what I’ve described as partial imitator. regulation and discipline. mimicry must continually produce its slippage. but becomes transformed into an uncertainty which fixes the colonial subject as a ‘partial’ presence. then colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed. the part-objects of a metonymy of colonial desire which alienates the modality and normality of those dominant discourses in which they emerge as ‘inappropriate’ colonial subjects. Mimicry is also the sign of the inappropriate. p. thus the sign of a double articulation. 5 . Mimicry conceals no presence or identity behind its mask. as Fanon has observed. The success of colonial appropriation depends on a proliferation of inappropriate objects that ensures its strategic failure. a complex strategy of reform. Macaulay’s translator. By ‘partial’ I mean both ‘incomplete’ and ‘virtual’. What they all share is a discursive process by which the excess or slippage produced by the ambivalence of mimicry almost the same. in order o be effective.
but it has strategic objectives which I shall call the metonymy of presence. writing. The ‘desire’ of mimicry. cultural. racial and historical difference that menace the narcissistic demand of colonial authority. history.” (Bhabha. mimicry. It is a form of colonial discourse that is uttered inter dicta: a discourse at the crossroads of what is known and permissible and that which though known must be kept concealed. as the metonymy of presence is. Mimicry does not merely destroy narcissistic authority through the repetititious slippage of difference and desire. 90) *** “Under cover of camouflage. The question of the representation of difference is therefore always also a problem of authority. liberates marginal elements and shatters the unity of man’s being through which he extends his sovereignty. eccentric strategy of authority in colonial discourse. Mimicry. like the fetish.may not have an object. as the subject or racial. indeed such an erratic. a discourse uttered between the lines and as such both against the rules and within them. which is the basis of mimicry. p. that shares the acuity of the genealogical gaze which. p. 88] of otherness. The desire of colonial mimicry---an interdictory desire--. a question of authority that goes beyond the subject’s lack of priority (castration) to a historical crisis in the conceptuality of colonial man as an object of regulatory power. It is a desire that reverses ‘in part’ the colonial appropriation by now producing a partial version of the colonizer’s presence: a gaze [end of p. is a part-object that radically revalues the normative knowledges of the priorty of race. then the work of Edward Said will not let is forget that the ‘ethnocentric and erratic will to power from which texts can spring?” is itself a theatre of war. For the fetish mimes the forms of authority at the point at which it deauthorizes them. there emerge the question of the ambivalence of mimicry as a problematic of colonial subjection. articulates those disturbances of cultural. “ (Bhabha. For if Sade’s scandalous theatricalization of language repeatedly reminds us that discourse can claim ‘no priority’.through the repetition of partial presence. pp. 6 . discriminatory knowledge within an interdictory discourse and therefore necessarily raises the question of the authorization of colonial representations. national representation. 89) *** “From such a colonial encounter between the white presence and its black semblance. which is Freud’s ‘striking feature’ that reveals so little but makes such a big difference. as Foucault describes it. It is the process of the fixation of the colonial as a form of cross-classificatory. (Bhabha. is not merely that impossibility of the Other which repeatedly resists signification. 88-89) *** “Almost the same but not white: the visibility of mimicry is always produced at the site of interdiction.
The Location of Culture. Relevant works: Conrad’s “The Secret Agent”. 2. Homi. Homi. 1994.1.” (Bhabha. Look for definition of Bhabha’s theories online Michael Warner and Amy Hollywood http://muse. The colonial discourse that articulates an interdictory otherness is precisely the ‘other scene’ of this nineteenth-century European desire for an authentic historical consciousness. p. Keyword search: literary secularism 6. Homi. London: Routledge." Bhabha. "The Other Question. mimicry rearticulates presence in terms of its ‘otherness’.edu/journals/criticism/toc/crt49. The Location of Culture. 7 . discrimination. There is a crucial difference between this colonial articulation of man and his doubles and that which Foucault describes as ‘thinking the unthought’ which. Bhabha. and the discourse of colonialism. Bhabha. The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (2000) by James Wood 7. Homi. 4. for nineteenth-century Europe.Similarly. political philosophy in the vein of Marx's “On the Jewish Question. Homi. such as the controversy over Nietzsche’s “death of God. Don DeLillo’s “Mao II” Works Cited Bhabha. The Location of Culture: Stereotype. London: Routledge. 1994. Homi." Bhabha. 66-84. 1994. Matthew Arnold 9. is the ending of man’s alienation by reconciling him with his essence. 3. Try if UP diliman is subscribed to the New York Times 10." Bhabha.jhu. London: Routledge. the sociology of Max Weber. 85-92. "Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse. 1-18. that which it disavows. 8.” as well as broad trends in philosophy.html Theorists of secularis: running from Said through Asad and Viswanathan 5. 91) Notes 1. "Introduction: Locations of Culture.