Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 3

RACE, TIME, AND THE REVISION OF MODERNITY

Summary

In this essay Homi K. Bhabha has deliberated on three important aspects of


the post-colonial theory which are : race , time and modernity. At the very
outset of the essay Bhabha made it clear that he does not intend to separate
the problem of the ambivalent temporality of modernity from the discussion
of race as it is often done in postmodern theory. Bhabha also tries to
challenge and transform our ideas of what it means to be modern. He states
that modernity and post colonialism are inescapably connected. He suggests
the post-colonial perspective on modernity. He states further that modernity
has repressed its colonial origins. So we need the new analysis of modernity
to uncover this repression. Bhabhas project foregrounds modernitys
complex hybridity. We should see modernity as something that needs to be
hybridized. We should acknowledge and explore all ways and contributions
for complete understanding of the modern world.

Bhabha exposes the split consciousness and colonial disjunction of modern


times by quoting the example of the Black Jacobins in the immediate post-
revolutionary period in France. While in France revolution meant librty
,equality, fraternity for the people, for blacks in Haiti the demand for these
rights was brutally denied .Toussaint LOuverture ,the black leaders fight
for the same cause in Haiti was incomprehensible for the Europeans. Bhabha
writes that Toussaint tragically realized that, the moral, modern disposition
of mankind, enshrined in the sign of the Revolution, only fuels the archaic
racial in the society of slavery. According to Bhabha this example shows the
ethnocentric limitations Foucaults spatial sign of modernity.

Bhabha postulates that such definition of modernity forces us to introduce


the question of subaltern agency and he is skeptic about this repeated
demand for modernization and contrasts it to the situation of repressive
places like San Domingo in Haiti where progress is only heard of never seen.
Furthermore Bhabha mentions the New ethnicity used by Stuart Hall in the
black British context to build a discourse of cultural difference that marks
ethnicity as the struggle against ethnicist fixing and in favor of a wider
minority discourse that represents sexuality and class. Bhabha also relates
Cornel Wests genealogical materialist view of race and Afro-American
oppression to Nietzsches and Foucaults ideas on race.

According to Bhabha, every culture is an original mixedness within every


form of identity. He states that the cultures are not discrete phenomena, but
being always in contact with one another, we find mixedness in cultures.
Bhabha insists on hybriditys ongoing process- hybridization. He further
asserts that no cultures that come together lead to hybrid forms but cultures
are the consequence of attempts to still the flux of cultural hybridities. He
directs our attention to what happens on the borderlines of cultures, and in-
between cultures. He used the term, liminal on the border or the threshold
that stresses the idea that what is in between settled cultural forms or
identities is central to the creation of new cultural meaning. He further states
that modernity is both spatial and temporal: so the terms- hybridity and
liminality do not refer only to space, but also to time. So he asserts that the
people living in different spaces are living at different stages of progress.

Bhabha sites repetition as a mode of resistance to todays neocolonialism,


particularly the recolonization of migrants within the contemporary Western
metropolis. For Bhabha, the human subject is not grounded in a fixed identity
but rather is a discursive effect generated in the act of enunciation. When
migrants, refugees, and the decolonized take up positions in Western
discourse, they divide it from itself by repeating it and a clear space within it
for new, hybrid subjectivities. The hybrid postcolonial subject negotiates the
interstices of Western discursive systems, operating in-between the
dichotomies of colonizer and colonized, self and other, East and West. Once a
mode of Western discourse is altered through repetition, moreover, it loses
its Westness and exposes itself to difference. Iteration is therefore a way of
translating between cultures. It opens the possibility of an international
culture of hybridity generated through discursive activity.

Bhabha claims that modern racism, according to Foucault in the History of


Sexuality, was first articulated as a discourse of social war in the 18th
century and it was developed during the second half of the 19th century, and
finally, it was integrated by modern state apparatuses as a technology of
power. For Foucault, it is, the great historical irony of modernity that the
Hitlers extermination of the Jews was carried out in the name of the archaic,
premodern signs of race and blood, death, skinrather than through the
politics of sexuality. What is profoundly revealing is Foucaults complicity with
the logic of the contemporaneous within Western modernity. Characterizing
the symbolics of blood as being retroverse, Foucault disavows the time lag
of race as the sign of cultural difference and its mode of repetition.
Foucaults account is rather incomplete, lacking for example any substantial
discussion of European colonialism or the history of the idea of race.
Moreover, Foucault directly links the rationality of social Darwinism to Nazi
ideology, while entirely ignoring colonial societies which were the proving
grounds for social Darwinist administrative discourses all through the 19th
and early 20th centuries.

Bhabha also takes Benedict Anderson to task for placing the modern
dreams of racism outside history altogether. If for Foucault race and blood
interfere with modern sexuality, for Anderson racism has its origins in historic
ideologies of class that belong to the aristocratic prehistory of the modern
nation. Race represents an archaic ahistorical moment outside the
modernity of the imagined community as Bhabha quotes Anderson that
nationalism thinks in historical destinies, while racism dreams of eternal
contaminations outside history. Foucaults spatial notion of the conceptual
contemporaneity of power as sexuality limits him from seeing the double and
over determined structure of race and sexuality that has a long history in
colonial societies; for Anderson the racism of colonial empires is part of an
archaic acting out, a dream text of a form of historical retroversion that
appeared to confirm on a global, modern stage outdated conceptions of
power and privilege. Bhabha asserts that Benedict Anderson and Foucault
both ignore the temporality of modernity, focus on the contemporaneous or
the homogeneous empty time.

Bhabha introduces the idea that we need to end the massive classifications
based on ethnic traits. He describes existence today as living on the
borderlines of the 'present'. Today's society is made up of hybrids of different
ethnic backgrounds and present social experiences. He asserts that we must
move to the "beyond" to understand this difference. This is the place where
the crossing over of time and cultural differences occurs and where new
signs of identity are formed and where the questions of cultural difference
would not be dismissed with a barely concealed racismas primitive tribal
instincts that afflict Irish Catholics in Belfast or Muslim fundamentalists in
Bradford.