Homi Bhabha - Various Extracts and Quotations

See pages from Nation and Narration (Routledge 1990), 333pp. - at Google Books - online.
See also
“DesemiNation: time, narrative and the margins of the modern nation”, in Homi K. Bhabha, ed., Nation and Narration, ed. Bhabha (London: Routledge 1990), pp.292-321 - as infra.
Toni Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality (Pantheon Books 1992) [contribs. Homi K. Bhabha, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Margaret A. Burnham, A. Leon Higginbotham, Paula Giddings, Andrew Ross, Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Wahneema H. Lubiano, Michael Thelwell, Manning Marable, Kendall Thomas, Nellie Y. McKay, Nell Irvin Painter, Gayle Pemberton, Christine Stansell, Carol Miller Swain, Cornel West, Patricia J. Williams.

Bhabha, Nations and Narration (London: Routledge 1990): ‘Nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind’s eye. Such an image of the nation - or narration - might seem impossibly romantic and excessively metaphorical, but it is from these traditions of political thought and literary language that the nation emerges as a powerful historical idea in the west.’ (‘Introduction: narrating the nation’, in Nation and Narration, Routledge 1990, p.1; available online; accessed 23.05.2021.)

Quotes Franz Fanon’s revolutionary credo: "National consciousness, which is not nationalism, is the only thing that will give us an international dimension." (Wretched of the Earth, Penguin, 1967, p.199; here p.1.)

The Location of Culture ( London & NY: Routledge 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.’ (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.’ (The Locations of Culture, 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].)

[Bhabha argues that the experience of colonialism created a textuality which] ‘anticipated, avant la lettre, many of the problematics of signification and judgement that have become current in contemporary theory.’ (‘The Postcolonial and the Postmodern’, in The Location of Culture, 1994, p.173; quoted in Shaun Richards, ‘Placed Identities for Placeless Times: Brian Friel and Post-Colonial Criticism’, Irish University Review, Spring-Summer, 1997, p.55.) Note that Richards further quotes: the ‘seemingly unnegotiable poco-pomo fusion’ predicated on ‘the impossibility of claiming an origin of the Self (or Other) within a tradition of representation that conceived of identity as the satisfaction of a totalising, plenitudinous object of vision.’ (Bhabha, op. cit., p.46; Richards, idem. [p.55].

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

[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; q.p.).

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Susan Bazargan, ‘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, op. cit. 1994, 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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George Handley, review of Bhabha, Nation and Narration, in Qui Parle, 5:2 [Issue: Distractions] (Duke UP Spring/Summer 1992), pp.148-53: ‘Bhabha declares that Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities [...] explores the possibility that the “symbolic structure of the nation ... works like the plot of a realist novel” and that narration “links together diverse acts and actors on the national stage who are entirely unaware of each other.” (Nation and Narration, Routledge 1990, p.308.)

Further: ‘Bhabha stresses [...] that national identity is always hybrid, unstable and ambivalent, negotiating between private interests and the public significance given to those interests. This ambivalence means that the nation inevitably excludes certain interests even as it attempts to incorporate them. Bhabha writes that “[i]t is the cultural representation of this ambivalence of modern society that is explored in this book. If the ambivalent figure of the nation is a problem ... of its conceptual indeterminacy ... then what effect does this have on narratives and discourses that signify a sense of ‘nationness’?”’ (Handley, p.148.)

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, ‘The Nation We Knew: After Homi Bhabha’s “DissemiNation”’, on Post45 [Blog] (19.05.2020): ‘“DissemiNation” was first collected in Nation and Narration, edited by Homi Bhabha and published by Routledge. In the essay and his editorial introduction to the volume, Bhabha follows Ernest Renan (in particular his 1882 “Qu’est-ce qu ’une nation?”) and Benedict Anderson (in particular his 1983 Imagined Communities) in theorizing the nation as a “form of cultural elaboration” unfolding in time. The nation, Bhabha writes, is “a system of cultural signification” that must be understood “as it is written,” “through its narrative address,” as “a form of social and textual affiliation,” and as “a narrative strategy.” Importantly, the national narrative is not singular, and key to Bhabha ’s account (as well as the place where he most significantly departs from Anderson) is that the nation itself “opens up the possibility of other narratives of the people and their difference.” (Available online - accessed 23.05.2021.)

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