Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse
Author(s): Homi Bhabha
Source: October, Vol. 28, Discipleship: A...
Of Mimicry and Man:
The Ambivalence of
Colonial Discourse*

HOMI

BHABHA

in
reveals
Mimicry
something sofar as it is
be
w...
OCTOBER

126

The discourse of post-Enlightenment
English colonialism oftenspeaks in
a tongue that is forked,not false. If...
TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse
of

127

trope foran intolerable, illegitimateexercise of power. What is articulated in
b...
OCTOBER

128

colonial subject.
ing untilfaced withthe challenge of conceivingof a "reformed"
of
Then the greattradition E...
The Ambivalence ColonialDiscourse
of

129

in
representative, a narrativethat refusesto be representational.The desire to
...
OCTOBER

130

What is the nature of the hidden threat of the partial gaze? How does
mimicryemerge as the subject of the sc...
TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse
of

131

of
mimicry,the representation identityand meaning is rearticulatedalong the
axis...
132

OCTOBER

which it deauthorizes them. Similarly,mimicryrearticulatespresence in terms
that which it disavows. There is...
TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse
of

133

ality, genitalia, grotesquerie,which reveal the phobic mythof the undifferentiat...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

The concept of Mimesis

353 views

Published on

Published in: Education, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
353
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
4
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
3
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The concept of Mimesis

  1. 1. Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse Author(s): Homi Bhabha Source: October, Vol. 28, Discipleship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis (Spring, 1984), pp. 125-133 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/778467 . Accessed: 22/11/2013 11:14 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . The MIT Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to October. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  2. 2. Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse* HOMI BHABHA in reveals Mimicry something sofar as it is be whatmight calledan itself distinct from is thatis behind.The effect mimicry camof It is nota question harmonizof ouflage .... a but the ingwith background, against mottled like mottledexactly of background,becoming in the technique camouflage practised human of warfare. -Jacques Lacan, "The Line and Light," Of theGaze. at It is outofseasonto question thistime of theoriginal on policy conferring every of day, a represenEmpire mimic colony the of British But tation theBritish Constitution. ifthe of has creature endowed sometimes so forgotten its real insignificance under fancied and the and and importance speakers maces, all the of and paraphernalia ceremonies theimperial of has to the counlegislature, dared defy mother she the try, has tothank herselfforfolly conof such on ferring privileges a condition society of has a that no earthly claimtoso exalted position.Afundamental to principle appears have been in or forgotten overlooked oursystem of colonial policy thatofcolonialdependence. To givetoa colony forms independence the of is a mockery; wouldnotbea colony a she for an hourifshecouldmaintain indepensingle dent station. Sir Edward Cust, . "Reflections West AfricanAffairs . on addressed to the Colonial Office," Hatchard, London 1839. - This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  3. 3. OCTOBER 126 The discourse of post-Enlightenment English colonialism oftenspeaks in a tongue that is forked,not false. If colonialism takes power in the name of of it throughthe figures farce. For the history, repeatedlyexercisesits authority epic intentionof the civilizingmission, "human and not whollyhuman" in the of famous words of Lord Rosebery, "writby the finger the Divine" 1 oftenproduces a textrichin the traditionsof trompe l'oeil,irony,mimicry,and repetition. In this comic turn fromthe high ideals of the colonial imagination to its low mimeticliteraryeffects, mimicryemerges as one of the most elusive and effective strategiesof colonial power and knowledge. Withinthatconflictual economy ofcolonial discourse which Edward Said2 describes as the tension between the synchronicpanoptical vision of domination- the demand for identity,stasis- and the counter-pressureof the diacomprochrony of history change, difference mimicryrepresentsan ironic of mise. If I may adapt Samuel Weber's formulation the marginalizingvision of castration,3then colonial mimicryis the desire for a reformed,recognizable that the Other, as a subject a difference is almost same,butnot quite.Which is to say, of in that the discourse of mimicryis constructedaround an ambivalence; order to must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its be effective, mimicry The authorityof that mode of colonial discourse that I have called difference. mimicryis thereforestrickenby an indeterminacy:mimicryemerges as the that is itselfa process of disavowal. Mimicry is, of representation a difference of the sign of a double articulation;a complex strategy reform, thus, regulation, and discipline, which"appropriates"the Other as it visualizes power. Mimicry or is also the sign of the inappropriate, however, a difference recalcitrance which coheres the dominant strategicfunctionof colonial power, intensifies surveillance, and poses an immanent threatto both "normalized"knowledges and disciplinarypowers. of The effect mimicryon the authorityof colonial discourse is profound and disturbing.For in "normalizing"the colonial state or subject, the dream of civilityalienates its own language of libertyand produces post-Enlightenment another knowledge of its norms. The ambivalence which thus informsthis strategyis discernible, for example, in Locke's Second Treatise which splits to reveal the limitationsof libertyin his double use of the word "slave": first as simply,descriptively the locus of a legitimateformof ownership,then as the * This paper was firstpresented as a contribution to a panel on "Colonialist and PostColonialist Discourse," organized by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak for the Modern Language Association Convention in New York, December 1983. I would like to thank ProfessorSpivak for inviting me to participate on the panel and Dr. Stephan Feuchtwang for his advice in the preparation of the paper. 1. Cited in Eric Stokes, The PoliticalIdeas ofEnglishImperialism, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1960, pp. 17-18. New York, Pantheon Books, 1978, p. 240. Edward Said, Orientalism, 2. Samuel Weber: "The Sideshow, Or: Remarks on a Canny Moment," ModernLanguage 3. Notes,vol. 88, no. 6 (1973), p. 1112. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  4. 4. TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse of 127 trope foran intolerable, illegitimateexercise of power. What is articulated in between thatdistance between the two uses is the absolute, imagined difference the "Colonial" State of Carolina and the Original State of Nature. It is fromthis area between mimicryand mockery,where the reforming, civilizingmission is threatenedby the displacing gaze of itsdisciplinarydouble, thatmy instancesof colonial imitationcome. What theyall share is a discursive of process by which the excess or slippage produced by the ambivalence mimicry (almost the same, but notquite)does not merely "rupture"the discourse, but into an uncertainty which fixesthe colonial subject as a becomes transformed "partial"presence. By "partial"I mean both "incomplete"and "virtual."It is as if the very emergence of the "colonial" is dependent for its representationupon the some strategiclimitationor prohibitionwithin authoritative discourse itself. The success of colonial appropriationdepends on a proliferation inappropriate of objects that ensure its strategicfailure,so that mimicryis at once resemblance and menace. A classic text of such partialityis Charles Grant's "Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain"(1792)4 whichwas only superseded by James Mills's History India as the most influentialearly of account of Indian manners and morals. Grant's dream of nineteenth-century an evangelical system of mission education conducted uncompromisinglyin English was partlya belief in political reformalong Christian lines and partly an awareness that the expansion of company rule in India required a systemof "interpellation"-a reformof manners, as Grant put it, thatwould provide the colonial with"a sense of personal identityas we know it." Caught between the desire for religious reformand the fear that the Indians might become turbulent for liberty,Grant implies that it is, in fact the "partial" diffusionof and the"partial"influenceof moral improvements whichwill conChristianity, structa particularly formof colonial subjectivity. What is suggested appropriate is a process of reformthroughwhich Christian doctrines might collude with divisive caste practices to preventdangerous political alliances. Inadvertently, Grant produces a knowledge of Christianityas a formof social controlwhich conflictswith the enunciatory assumptions which authorize his discourse. In that"partial reform" will produce an emptyformof"the imsuggesting,finally, of itation English manners which will induce them [the colonial subjects] to remain under our protection,"'5 Grant mocks his moral project and violates the Evidences of central missionary forbade any Christianity--a tenet--which tolerance of heathen faiths. The absurd extravagance of Macaulay's Infamous Minute(1835)- deeply influencedby Charles Grant's Observations- makes a mockeryofOriental learn4. Charles Grant, "Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain," SessionalPapers1812-13, X (282), East India Company. 5. Ibid., chap. 4, p. 104. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  5. 5. OCTOBER 128 colonial subject. ing untilfaced withthe challenge of conceivingof a "reformed" of Then the greattradition European humanismseems capable onlyofironizing of itself.At the intersection European learning and colonial power, Macaulay between us and the can conceive of nothingother than "a class of interpreters millions whom we govern- a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect'6- in other words a mimic man raised "throughour English School," as a missionaryeducationist wrote in 1819, "to form a corps of translatorsand be employed in different departmentsof Labour."' The line of descent of the mimic man can be traced throughthe worksof Kipling, Forester,Orwell, Naipaul, and to his emergence, most recently,in Benedict Anderson's excellent essay on nationalism, as the of anomalous Bipin Chandra Pal.8 He is the effect a flawedcolonial mimesis,in not which to be Anglicized, is emphatically to be English. The figureof mimicryis locatable withinwhat Anderson describes as "the inner incompatibilityof empire and nation."' It problematizes the signs of racial and cultural priority,so that the "national" is no longer naturalizable. a What emerges between mimesis and mimicryis a writing, mode of represenof tation, that marginalizes the monumentality history,quite simplymocks its power to be a model, thatpower which supposedly makes it imitable. Mimicry and repeatsrather than re-presents in that diminishing perspective emerges Decoud's displaced European vision of Sulaco as where follyseemed even harder to bear the endlessness of civil strife than its ignominy. . . the lawlessness of a populace of all colours and races, barbarism, irremediabletyranny.. . . America is ungovernable.10 Or Ralph Singh's apostasy in Naipaul's TheMimic Men: We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves forlife,we mimic men of the New World, one unknowncornerof it, with all its remindersof the corruptionthat came so quickly to the new.11 Both Decoud and Singh, and in theirdifferent ways Grant and Macaulay, are the parodists of history.Despite theirintentionsand invocations theyinscribe across a body politicthatrefusesto be the colonial texterratically, eccentrically vol. II, ed. William T. B. Macaulay, "Minute on Education," in Sources Indian Tradition, 6. of Theodore de Bary, New York, Columbia University Press, 1958, p. 49. Mr. Thomason's communication to the Church Missionary Society, September 5, 1819, in 7. The Missionary 1821, pp. 54-55. Register, Benedict Anderson, ImaginedCommunities, 8. London, Verso, 1983, p. 88. 9. Ibid., pp. 88-89. 10. Joseph Conrad, Nostromo, London, Penguin, 1979, p. 161. V. S. Naipaul, The Mimic Men, London, Penguin, 1967, p. 146. 11. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  6. 6. The Ambivalence ColonialDiscourse of 129 in representative, a narrativethat refusesto be representational.The desire to as "authentic" through mimicry through a process of writing and emerge the final irony of partial representation. repetition-is is colonial What I have called mimicry not the familiarexerciseof dependent so relations throughnarcissisticidentification that, as Fanon has observed,12 the black man stops being an actional person foronly the whiteman can reprebehind its mask: sent his self-esteem. Mimicry conceals no presence or identity it is not what Cesaire describes as "colonization-thingification"13 behind which The of is therestandsthe essence of thepresence Africaine. menace mimicry itsdouble vision which in disclosingthe ambivalence of colonial discourse also disruptsits authority.And it is a double-vision that is a resultof what I've described as the of partial representation/recognition the colonial object. Grant's colonial as partial imitator,Macaulay's translator,Naipaul's colonial politician as playof actor, Decoud as the scene setterof the opirabouffe the New World, these are the appropriate objects of a colonialist chain of command, authorized versions of otherness.But theyare also, as I have shown, the figuresof a doubling, the of part-objectsof a metonymy colonial desire which alienates the modalityand of normality those dominantdiscoursesin which theyemerge as "inappropriate" colonial subjects. A desire that, throughthe repetitionofpartial which presence, is the basis of mimicry,articulates those disturbances of cultural, racial, and that menace the narcissisticdemand of colonial authority. historicaldifference It is a desire thatreverses"in part"the colonial appropriationby now producing a partial vision of the colonizer's presence. A gaze of otherness,that shares the acuity of the genealogical gaze which, as Foucault describes it, liberates marginal elements and shattersthe unityof man's being throughwhich he extends his sovereignty.'4 I want to turn to this process by which the look of surveillancereturnsas the displacing gaze of the disciplined,where the observerbecomes the observed and "partial" representation rearticulates the whole notion of identity and alienates it from essence. But not before observing that even an exemplary in history like Eric Stokes's The English Utilitarians India acknowledges the anomalous gaze of otherness but finally disavows it in a contradictoryutterance: Certainly India played no central part in fashioningthe distinctive qualities of English civilisation. In many ways it acted as a disturbing force, a magnetic power placed at the periphery tending to distortthe natural development of Britain's character. . . .5 Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White 12. Masks, London, Paladin, 1970, p. 109. 13. Aime Cesaire, Discourse Colonialism, on New York, Monthly Review Press, 1972, p. 21 14. Michel Foucault, "Nietzche, Genealogy, History," in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, p. 153. 15. Eric Stokes, TheEnglishUtilitarians India, Oxford, Oxford UniversityPress, 1959, p. xi. and This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  7. 7. OCTOBER 130 What is the nature of the hidden threat of the partial gaze? How does mimicryemerge as the subject of the scopic drive and the object of colonial surveillance? How is desire disciplined, authoritydisplaced? If we turnto a Freudian figure address theseissues ofcolonial textuality, to that form of differencethat is mimicry-almost the same but not quite-will become clear. Writing of the partial nature of fantasy,caught inappropriately, between the unconscious and the preconscious,making problematic,like mimicry,the very notion of "origins,"Freud has this to say: Their mixed and splitoriginis what decides theirfate.We may compare themwithindividuals of mixed race who taken all round resemble white men but who betraytheircoloured descent by some striking featureor other and on that account are excluded fromsociety and enjoy none of the privileges.16 the Almost samebutnotwhite:. visibility mimicryis always produced at the of It the site of interdiction. is a formof colonial discourse thatis utteredinter dicta: a discourse at the crossroads of what is known and permissibleand that which though known must be kept concealed; a discourse utteredbetween the lines and as such both against the rules and within them. The question of the is representationof difference thereforealways also a problem of authority. thatreveals so littlebut The "desire"of mimicry,which is Freud's striking feature is of makes such a big difference, not merelythat impossibility the Other which The desire of colonial mimicry an interdictory resistssignification. repeatedly not have an object, but it has strategicobjectiveswhich I shall call desire-may the metonymypresence. of beThose inappropriate signifiersof colonial discourse- the difference tween being English and being Anglicized; the identitybetween stereotypes the identities which, throughrepetition,also become different; discriminatory constructedacross traditional cultural norms and classifications,the Simian Black, the Lying Asiatic- all these are metonymies of presence. They are of strategiesof desire in discourse that make the anomalous representation the colonized somethingotherthan a process of "the returnof the repressed,"what characterized as collective catharsis.17These instances Fanon unsatisfactorily and multiple of metonymyare the nonrepressiveproductionsof contradictory belief. They cross the boundaries of the culture of enunciation through a strategicconfusionof the metaphoricand metonymicaxes of the cultural prothat is almost duction of meaning. For each of these instances of "a difference creates a crisis forthe cultural priority the same but not quite" inadvertently as given to the metaphoric the process of repression and substitutionwhich between paradigmatic systemsand classifications.In negotiates the difference 16. 17. Sigmund Freud, "The Unconscious" (1915), SE, XIV, pp. 190-191. Fanon, p. 103. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  8. 8. TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse of 131 of mimicry,the representation identityand meaning is rearticulatedalong the axis of metonymy.As Lacan reminds us, mimicryis like camouflage, not a harmonization or repression of difference,but a form of resemblance that differs/defends presence by displaying it in part, metonymically.Its threat, I would add, comes fromthe prodigious and strategicproductionof conflictual, in effects" the play of a power that is elusive fantastic,discriminatory "identity because it hides no essence, no "itself." And that formof resemblancethe most is to behold, as Edward Long testifiesin his History Jamaica terrifying thing of (1774). At the end of a tortured,negrophobicpassage, that shifts anxiouslybetween piety, prevarication, and perversion, the text finallyconfronts fear; its other than the repetitionof its resemblance "in part": nothing (Negroes) are representedby all authors as the vilestof human kind, to which they have littlemore pretensionof resemblance thanwhat arises exterior fromtheir forms (my italics).18 From such a colonial encounterbetween the white presence and its black semblance, there emerges the question of the ambivalence of mimicryas a of problematicof colonial subjection. For if Sade's scandalous theatricalization then the language repeatedlyremindsus thatdiscourse can claim "no priority," workof Edward Said will not let us forget thatthe"ethnocentric and erraticwill to power fromwhich textscan spring"''19 itselfa theaterof war. Mimicry, as is the metonymyof presence is, indeed, such an erratic, eccentric strategyof authorityin colonial discourse. Mimicry does not merely destroynarcissistic and desire. It is the proauthority throughthe repetitiousslippage of difference cess of thefixation the colonial as a formofcross-classificatory, of discriminatory discourse, and therefore knowledge in the defilesof an interdictory necessarily raises the question of the authorization colonial representations. question of of A authority that goes beyond the subject's lack of priority(castration) to a historicalcrisis in the conceptualityof colonial man as an object regulatory of power, as the subject of racial, cultural, national representation. "This culture . . . fixed in its colonial status," Fanon suggests,"(is) both presentand mummified,it testified against its members. It definesthem in fact without appeal.'"20 The ambivalence of mimicry almost but not quite - sugthat the fetishizedcolonial culture is potentiallyand strategically inan gests What I have called its "identity-effects," always are surgent counter-appeal. crucially split. Under cover of camouflage, mimicry,like the fetish,is a partof object that radically revalues the normativeknowledgesof the priority race, writing,history. For the fetishmimes the formsof authorityat the point at 18. Edward Long, A History ofJamaica, 1774, vol. II, p. 353. 19. Edward Said, "The Text, the World, the Critic," in TextualStrategies, J. V. Harari, ed. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1979, p. 184. 20. Frantz Fanon, "Racism and Culture," in Toward theAfrican Revolution, London, Pelican, 1967, p. 44. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  9. 9. 132 OCTOBER which it deauthorizes them. Similarly,mimicryrearticulatespresence in terms that which it disavows. There is a crucial difference of its "otherness," between this colonialarticulationof man and his doubles and that which Foucault dethe scribes as "thinking unthought"21 which, fornineteenth-century Europe, is the ending of man's alienation by reconcilinghim withhis essence. The colonial discourse that articulatesan interdictory "otherness" preciselythe "otherscene" is of this nineteenth-century European desire for an authentic historical consciousness. The "unthought" across whichcolonial man is articulatedis thatprocess of confusionthatI have describedas themetonymy the substitutive of classificatory chain of ethical and cultural discourse. This results in the splitting colonial of discourse so thattwo attitudestowardsexternalrealitypersist;one takes reality into consideration while the other disavows it and replaces it by a product of desire that repeats, rearticulates"reality"as mimicry. So Edward Long can say withauthority, quoting variously, Hume, Eastwick, and Bishop Warburton in his support, that: Ludicrous as the opinion may seem I do not thinkthatan orangutang husband would be any dishonour to a Hottentotfemale.22 Such contradictoryarticulations of reality and desire- seen in racist statements, jokes, myths- are not caught in the doubtfulcircle of stereotypes, the returnof the repressed. They are the effects a disavowal that denies the of of differences the otherbut produces in its stead formsof authority and multiple beliefthat alienate the assumptions of "civil"discourse. If, fora while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetitionof guilt, theories, superstition,spurious authorities,and justification,pseudoscientific to the classificationscan be seen as the desperate effort "normalize"formally disturbance of a discourse of splittingthat violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatorymodality. The ambivalence of colonial authorityrepeatedly turns from mimicry-a differencethat is almost nothing but not that is almost total but not quite. And in that quite-to menace-a difference other scene of colonial power, where historyturns to farce and presence to "a part," can be seen the twin figuresof narcissismand paranoia that repeat furiously, uncontrollably. In the ambivalent world of the "not quite/notwhite," on the margins of of objects the Western world become the ermetropolitandesire, thefounding trouvis the colonial discourse- the part-objects of ratic,eccentric,accidentalobjets of presence. It is then that the body and the book loose theirrepresentational authority.Black skin splitsunder the racist gaze, displaced into signs of besti21. 22. Michel Foucault, The Order Things,New York, Pantheon, 1970, part II, chap. 9. of Long, p. 364. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
  10. 10. TheAmbivalence ColonialDiscourse of 133 ality, genitalia, grotesquerie,which reveal the phobic mythof the undifferentiated whole white body. And the holiest of books - the Bible - bearing both the dismemstandard of the cross and the standard of empire findsitselfstrangely bered. In May 1817 a missionarywrote fromBengal: Still everyonewould gladly receive a Bible. And why?- that he may lay it up as a curiosityfora fewpice; or use it forwaste paper. Such it is well known has been the common fate of these copies of the Bible. . . . Some have been bartered in the markets, others have been thrownin snuffshops and used as wrapping paper.23 23. The Missionary Register, May 1817, p. 186. This content downloaded from 200.7.141.5 on Fri, 22 Nov 2013 11:14:21 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

×