Thursday, October 10, 2019
A Critical Analysis of Homi K. BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬ÅHow Newness Enters The WorldÃ¢â¬Â Essay
The Indian theorist Homi K. Bhabha shifted the limelight from the binary1 of the colonizer and the colonized to the liminal spaces in-between in the domain of Postcolonial studies. In Difference, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism, he stated, Ã¢â¬Å"There is always, in Said, the suggestion that colonial power is possessed entirely by the colonizer which is a historical and theoretical simplificationÃ¢â¬ (200). He asserted that colonization is not just a conscious body of knowledge (SaidÃ¢â¬â¢s manifest Orientalism) but also the Ã¢â¬Å"unconscious positivityÃ¢â¬ of fantasy and desire (BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s latent Orientalism) (Young, Ã¢â¬Å"White MythologiesÃ¢â¬ 181). Bhabha used that vantage point Ã¢â¬â of liminal spaces Ã¢â¬â to study the phenomenon of cultural translation in his essay Ã¢â¬Å"How Newness Enters the WorldÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ which was published in a collection of essays titled under The Location of Culture (1994). The liminal zone that the postcolonial immigrant occupies is the guiding question of this essay. Bhabha explains: I used architecture literally as a reference, using the attic, the boiler room, and the stairwell to make associations between certain binary divisions such as higher and lowerÃ¢â¬ ¦. The stairwell became a liminal space, a pathway between the upper and lower areasÃ¢â¬ ¦. (3-4) In Ã¢â¬Å"How NewnessÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ Bhabha directs this framework to critique Fredric JamesonÃ¢â¬â¢s Postmodernism Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. He argues that the category of Postmodern assumes a neat categorization of subject positions, which leaves no room for subjects to exist in the liminal space. He asserts, Ã¢â¬Å"For Jameson, the possibility of becoming historical demands a containment of this disjunctive social time.Ã¢â¬ (217) Bhabha elaborates upon the concept of liminal space with the help of the idea of blasphemy, as it comes out in Salman RushdieÃ¢â¬â¢s Satanic Verses andÃ underlines the controversy of the Rushdie Affair2. Bhabha says, Ã¢â¬Å"Blasphemy is not merely a misrepresentation of the sacred by the secular; it is a moment when the subject-matter or the content of cultural tradition is being overwhelmed, or alienated, in the act of translation.Ã¢â¬ (225) In essence, Bhabha is arguing that the very act of inhabiting the liminal space Ã¢â¬â whether by Rushdie or his characters Ã¢â¬â is blasphemy. However, it is necessary to consider that critics like Timothy Brennan claim that Rushdie Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦ is not abroad at all. Politically and professionally he is at home.Ã¢â¬ (Wars 65) Brennan adds that RushdieÃ¢â¬â¢s knowledge of Islam is limited to some childhood experiences and a course that he did at Cambridge University. If we look at Rushdie from this perspective, then Rushdie would cease to inhabit what Bhabha calls the liminal space between two cultures and instead belong to and speak for the imperial west. Nevertheless, apart from RushdieÃ¢â¬â¢s fiction, Bhabha employs various other kinds of evidence to support his theoretical stand in this essay. The first of which is the epigraph3 from Walter BenjaminÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬Å"On Language as SuchÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ in this essay Benjamin suggests that translation is the origin of all knowledge: Ã¢â¬Å"The language of things can pass into language of knowledge and name only through translationÃ¢â¬ (70-71). It is the gap between the original and the translated text that Bhabha terms as the liminal space. To illustrate this use of translation in cultural terms Bhabha cites Joseph ConradÃ¢â¬â¢s Heart of Darkness. He argues that MarlowÃ¢â¬â¢s lie to the intended (about her fianceÃ¢â¬â¢s last words) is an example of cultural translation where Ã¢â¬Å"Marlow does not merely repress the Ã¢â¬ËtruthÃ¢â¬â¢ Ã¢â¬ ¦ as much as he enacts a poetics of translationÃ¢â¬ ¦.Ã¢â¬ (212). Marlow inhabits the in-between space of the colony and the western metropolis, where nothing crosses from one to the other in its original form, without a certain degree of cultural translation. This essay is organized in three sections: New World Borders, Foreign Relations and Community Matters. However, it is strung together by the common idea of liminality. The first section draws a parallel between MarlowÃ¢â¬â¢s lie and JamesonÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of the postmodern, which Bhabha calls his Ã¢â¬Å"theme parkÃ¢â¬ . Both of these, according to BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s framework, are attempts to keep the Ã¢â¬Å"conversation of humankind goingÃ¢â¬ and Ã¢â¬Å"to preserve the neo-pragmatic universeÃ¢â¬ . (212) Bhabha elucidates his criticism of Jameson by re-visiting the poem China, which Jameson had earlier commented upon in his book4. He contests Jameson for not appropriating the newness of China but translating it back into certain familiar terms. He destabilizes JamesonÃ¢â¬â¢s periodization and claims that communities cannot be explained in pre-modernist terms, the history of communities parallels the history of modernity. In the next section, Bhabha scrutinises JamesonÃ¢â¬â¢s postmodern city through the subject position of migrants and minorities. He challenges the importance given to class relations in the Marxist discourse by shifting the focus to minority groups. It is important to note that minority is a not just a matter of quantity, but as Deleuze and Guattari point out in Ã¢â¬Å"Kafka: Toward a Minor LiteratureÃ¢â¬ , it is a matter of subject position. The last section poses the last challenge to Jameson, as Bhabha pitches communities directly against class, using Partha ChatterjeeÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬Å"A ResponseÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ as evidence. Bhabha comments, Ã¢â¬Å"Community disturbs the grand globalizing narrative of capital, displaces the emphasis on production in Ã¢â¬ËclassÃ¢â¬â¢ collectivityÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ (230). In other words, minority subject position of belonging to a community punctures the larger Marxist narrative of class-consciousness; he calls community the Ã¢â¬Å"antagonist supplement of modernity.Ã¢â¬ Bhabha concludes the essay by proposing an alternative perspective through Derek WalcottÃ¢â¬â¢s poems. Bhabha draws a bridge5 between the central concerns of naming in WalcottÃ¢â¬â¢s poem (Ã¢â¬Å"NamesÃ¢â¬ ) and the central idea of his essay by asserting that the right to signify, the right to naming, is itself Ã¢â¬Å"an act of cultural translation.Ã¢â¬ (234). He suggests a breakthrough in the form of the spaces that lie between Ã¢â¬Å"above and below and heaven and hellÃ¢â¬ . He argues that the only possibility of an agency that enables one to posses something anew lies in the in-between spaces Ã¢â¬â the liminal spaces. Concepts, such as liminality are indispensible in todayÃ¢â¬â¢s ever-globalising context but many other theorists have criticized his theoretical model on various grounds. The Indian Marxist critic Aijaz Ahmad says that Bhabha uses a Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦ a theoretical melange which randomly invokes Levi-Strauss in one phrase, Foucault in another, Lacan in yet another.Ã¢â¬ (68), he asserts that in such a framework Ã¢â¬Å"theory itself becomes a marketplace of ideasÃ¢â¬ ¦.Ã¢â¬ (70). Viewed from a Marxist standpoint, BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s theories may seem as if they leave no room for resistance and action, Ahmad claims that Bhabha is irrelevant for a majority of the population that has been denied access to such benefits of Ã¢â¬Å"modernityÃ¢â¬ (69), and that Bhabha cuts access to Ã¢â¬Å"progressÃ¢â¬ as well as a sense of a Ã¢â¬Å"long pastÃ¢â¬ . AhmedÃ¢â¬â¢s criticism can be taken a step further to conduct a theoretical study of the effectiveness of BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s arguments. In Nation and Narration Bhabha announced that his intention was to engage Ã¢â¬Å"the insights of poststructuralist theories of narrative knowledge Ã¢â¬ ¦ in order to evoke this ambivalent margin of the nation-spaceÃ¢â¬ ¦.Ã¢â¬ (4) Catherine Belsey in PoststructuralismÃ¢â¬ ¦ explains that the simple inference of poststructuralism is that language is Ã¢â¬Å"differentialÃ¢â¬ and not Ã¢â¬Å"referentialÃ¢â¬ in nature. (9) Taking from SaussureÃ¢â¬â¢s theory on language, it studies language synchronically where the signifier is not referentially tied to the signified. On the other hand, it is evident from BenjaminÃ¢â¬â¢s essays6 that he views language as a diachronic system where it represents the Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬ ¦medium in which objects meet and enter into relationship with each other, no longer directly, as once in the mind of the augur or prie st, but in their essencesÃ¢â¬ (68). In other words, BenjaminÃ¢â¬â¢s theory of language is referential, where the word has or once had a direct connection with the thing it represents. These two models of language seem like blocks from different puzzles, which do not really fit with one another. This poses a serious challenge to the effectiveness of BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s theoretical groundwork, as he does not address this rift between the two models and employs them simultaneously. However, we cannot discount BhabhaÃ¢â¬â¢s breakthrough on this ground, as hisÃ theories are essential to make sense of the postcolonial condition of immigrants and diasporic Literature, especially in the ever-globalizing world that we inhabit. He has given an indispensible insight into the possibilities that lie in these liminal spaces. Works Cited Ahmad, Aijaz. In theory: Classes, nations, literatures. London: Verso, 1994. Belsey, Catherine. Poststructuralism: A very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Benjamin, Walter, and Knut Tarnowski. Ã¢â¬Å"Doctrine of the Similar (1933).Ã¢â¬ New German Critique 17 1979: 65-69 Ã¢â¬â. Ã¢â¬Å"On Language as Such and on the Language of Man.Ã¢â¬ Walter Benjamin: selected writings 1 1996: 62-74 Bhabha, Homi K. (1983a), Ã¢â¬Å"Difference, Discrimination, and the Discourse of ColonialismÃ¢â¬ The Politics of Theory. Ed. Francis Barker et al. Colchester: University of Essex. Ã¢â¬â. Ã¢â¬Å"How Newness Enters the World: Postmodern Space, Postcolonial Times and the Trials of Cultural Translation.Ã¢â¬ The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 2004. 212-235. Ã¢â¬â. Nation and narration. New York: Routledge, 1990. Ã¢â¬â. Ã¢â¬Å"The Location of Culture. 1994. Ã¢â¬Å"With a new preface by the author. London: Routledge, 2004. Brennan, Timothy. Wars of position: The cultural politics of left and right. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Chatterjee, Partha. Ã¢â¬Å"A Response to TaylorÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬Å"Modes of Civil SocietyÃ¢â¬ .Ã¢â¬ Public Culture 3.1 1990: 119-132. Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford: WorldÃ¢â¬â¢s Classics, 1990. Deleuze, Gilles. Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature. Theory and History of Literature. Vol. 30. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. 1988.Ã¢â¬ London: Vintage, 1998. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage 1979. Walcott, Derek. Collected Poems, 1948-1984. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1992. Young, Robert. White Mythologies: History Writing and the West. London and New York: Routledge (1991).