Homi Bhabha - Various Extracts and Quotations

The Location of Culture ( NY: Routledge 1994)

[Bhabha posits a “third Space” between the stereotypical differences of colonial discourse:]

‘It is significant that the productive capacities of this Third Space have a colonial or postcolonial provenance. For a willingness to descend into that alien territory may open the way to conceptualising an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture’s hybridity.’ (The Location of Culture, 1994).

[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, ongoing 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 the persistence of tradition; it is resourced by the power of tradition to be reinscribed through the conditions 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. (p.2; quoted by Bernard McKenna in PGLIB Conference Transactions, 1998.)

'[T]he interstitial passage [liminality] between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy.’ (Ibid., p.4.)

‘The enunciation of cultural difference problematizes the binary division of past and present, tradition and modernity, at the level of cultural representation and its authoritative address. It is the problem of how, in signifying the present, something comes to be repeated, relocated and translated in the name of tradition, in the guise of a pastness that is not necessarily a faithful sign of historical memory but a  strategy of representing authority in terms of the artifice of the archaic.’ (Homi Bhabha, The Locations of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 34-35; quoted in Alex Davis, ‘Irish Poetic Modernisms: A Reappraisal’, in Critical Survey 8, 2, 1996, pp.186-97.)

‘The problem is not simply the “selfhood” of the nation as opposed to the “otherness” of other nations. We are confronted with the nation split within itself, articulating the heterogeneity of its population.’ (p.98.)

‘The recesses of the domestic space become sites for history’s most intricate invasions. In that displacement, the borders between home and world become confused; and, uncannily, the private and public become part of each other, forcing upon us a vision that is as divided as it is disorienting.’ (Quoted as epigraph to Richard Pine, The Diviner: The Art of Brian Friel, Dublin: UCD Press 2000, [p.161].)

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'‘Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817’, in Race, Writing and Difference, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Chicago UP 1985)

Bhabha speaks of the power of hybridity that enables the colonized the appropriate the language, the texts, the knowledge of the colonizer in such a way as to ‘'estrange the basis of its authority - its rules of recognition.’

Further: ‘it is the power of hybridity that enables the colonized to challenge ‘the boundaries of discourse’, and which ‘breaks down the symmetry and duality of the self/Other, inside/outside’ and establishes another space of power/knowledge. (pp.175, 177; summarised in Susan Bazargan, ‘Mapping Gibraltar: Colonialism, Time, and Narrative in “Penelope“, in Molly Blooms: A Polylogue on “Penelope“ and Cultural Studies, ed., Richard Pearce, Wisconsin UP 1994, pp.119-38, p.125.)

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H. K. Bhabha, ‘The Other Question’, in Padmini Mongia, Contemporary Postcolonial Theory, Arnold 1996)

‘The objective of colonial discourse is to construe the colonised as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin … colonial discourse produces the colonised as a fixed reality which is at once an “other” and yet entirely knowable and visible.’ (p.41; quoted in Klaus Gunnar Schneider, ‘Irishness and Postcoloniality in Glenn Patterson’s Burning Your Own, in Irish Studies Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1998, pp.55-62.)

‘The visibility of the racial/colonial other is at once a point of identity and at the same time a problem for the attempted closure within discourse. For the recognition of difference as “imaginary” points to identity and origin [and] is disrupted by the representation of splitting in the discourse.’ (ibid. p.50; Klaus Gunnar, op. cit., 1998, p.59.)

‘Stereotyping is not the setting up of a false image which becomes the scapegoat of discriminatory practices. It is a much more ambivalent text of projection and introjections, metaphoric and metonymic strategies, displacement, overdetermination … It is the scenario of colonial fantasy which, in staging the ambivalence of desire, articulates the demand of the Negro which the Negro disrupts.’ (ibid. p.41; Klaus Gunnar, op. cit., 1998.)

‘My reading of colonial discourse suggests that the point of intervention should shift from the identification of images as positive or negative, to an understanding of the process of subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereotypical discourse. To judge the stereotyped image on the basis of a prior political normativity is to dismiss it, not to displace it, which is only possibly by engaging with its effectivity; with the repertoire of positions of power and resistance, domination and dependence that constructs the colonial subject (both coloniser and colonised). (ibid., pp.37-38; Klaus Gunnar, op. cit., 1998.)

Further: ‘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, for it is a form of multiple and contradictory belief in its recognition of difference, and disavowal of it. This conflict of pleasure/unpleasure, mastery/defence, knowledge/disavowal, absence/presence, has a fundamental significance for colonial discourse. For the scene of fetishism is also the scene of the reactivation and repetition of primal fantasy - the subject's desire for a pure origin that is always threatened by its division, for the subject must be gendered to be engendered. (‘The Other Question: Difference, Discriminiation and the Discourse of Colonialism’, in Literature, Politics and Theory, ed. Peter Hulme, Methuen 1986, pp.161-62; quoted in Susan Bazargan, ‘Mapping Gibraltar: Colonialism, Time, and Narrative in “Penelope"”’, in Molly Blooms: A Polylogue on “Penelope” and Cultural Studies, ed., Richard Pearce, Wisconsin UP 1994, p.124.)

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‘Of mimicry and man: the ambivalence of colonial discourse’, in October 28 (Spring, 1984); rep. as The Location of Culture, Chap. 4

'Universalism does not merely end with a view of immanent “spiritual” meaning produced in the text. It also interpellates, for its reading, a subject positioned at the point where conflict and difference resolves and all ideology ends. It is not that the Transcendental subject cannot see historical conflict or colonial difference as mimetic structures or themes in the text. What it cannot conceive, is how it is itself structured ideologically and discursively in relation to those processes of signification which do not then allow for the possibility of whole or universal meanings.’ (q.pp.)

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