Iycee Charles de Gaulle Summary Mimicry and Hybridity Essay

Mimicry and Hybridity Essay

In reply to what she considered “Imperial apologists peddling fairytales,” Priyamvada Gopal attacks Niall Ferguson’s assertion that “when a Chinese woman marries a European man, the chances are relatively high…that only the first child they conceive will be viable” in defense of his thesis that preference for the “Other” is unnatural while racism or, as is preferred today “preference,” is innate and instinctive. Such an allegation recalls the fear, resistance and disgust with which the colonizer approached hybridity.

In the effort to constrain hybridity, the colonizer categorized the culture of the colonized, through mechanisms such as Anderson’s Census, Map and Museum. Nevertheless, it was to mimicry that the colonizer turned to rule over the colonized, at once weakening its claim to authority as mimicry encourages the hybridity that the colonizer resists and equips the colonized to resist the authority of the colonizer. By refusing to accept hybridity yet utilizing mimicry within the colonized, the colonizer becomes a manifestation of ambivalence as he creates the conditions necessary for the drive for liberation and inevitably further hybridity.

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In a sense consideration of hybridity assumes the existence of distinct categories that must some how mix and merge; moreover, in its opposition to hybridity, the colonizer appealed to the concrete existence of these categories that it arguably created. Some of the methods through which the colonizer created the identity and hence category of the colonized were the Census, the Map and the Museum. The census demonstrates the colonizer’s preoccupation with category, more specifically, categories that held meaning only for the colonizer.

In interpreting Hirschman, Anderson notes “as the colonial period wore on, the census categories became more visibly and exclusively racial…it is extremely unlikely that, in 1911, more than a tiny fraction of those categorized and subcategorized would have recognized themselves under such labels” (Anderson, 164-165). Not only were these categories the singular imaginings of the colonial power, they were also inescapable as “one notes, in addition, the census-makers’ passion for completeness and un-ambiguity.

Hence their intolerance of multiple, politically ‘transvestite,’ blurred, or changing identifications. Hence the weird subcategory, under each racial group, of ‘Others’—who, nonetheless, are absolutely not to be confused with other ‘Others’;” consequently, “the fiction of the census is that everyone is in it, and that everyone has one—and only one—extremely clear place. No fractions” (Anderson 166). In their inescapability, in their concrete immobile parameters, they denied, ignored or denigrated hybridity.

In a manner similar to the way in which the Census represents the desire of the colonizer to seal itself and principally the colonized into fixed categories, the Map too in the hands of the colonizer becomes a action against hybridity. The map, it may be said, is a method through which a group of appreciates its cosmology—the order of things in its world. For example, prior to the creation of its firm national borders by the colonization of the lands surrounding it, Siam possessed only two maps.

One, contrary to the Western tradition, was a vertically oriented cosmograph marking the heavens and the hells. The other, also divergent from the Western sort, ignored scale, “were usually drawn in a queer oblique perspective or mixture of perspectives, as if the drawers’ eyes, accustomed from daily life to see the landscape horizontally, at eye-level, nonetheless were influenced subliminally by the verticality of the cosmograph,” and charted military campaigns and coastal trade (Anderson, 171).

In terms of hybridity and the rejection of hybridity, what is most important to note about both types of maps found in Siam prior to the influence, however external, of colonialism is that these maps marked no borders—the concept of such tangible, immutable boundaries was lacking (Anderson, 172). The impact of colonialism on Southeast Asia by linking power with the map and in annexing the lands around/constituting Siam, saw the creation of the creation of borders along the Western sense in the collective psyche of Siam (Anderson, 174).

While the data gathered from the census might lend legitimacy to the creation of the map, the problem arises of maintaining the categories created, and so we consider the third method by which the colonizer perpetuates its categories and resists hybridity—the museum. At first little interest existed on the part of the colonizer to consider the artifacts of its colonized let alone preserve them until Thomas Stamford Raffles became the first considerable colonizer to collect and, once again, categorize a significant volume of local, southeast Asian artifacts. Thereafter, with increasing speed, the grandeurs of the Borobudur, of Angkor, of Pagan, and of other ancient sites were successively disinterred, unjungled, measured, photographed, reconstructed, fenced off, analyzed and displayed” (Anderson, 179). Subsequently the colonizing powers took to the institution of museum and memorializing the colonized with increasing fervor. The reasons for this, Anderson tells us, are three fold. The first being resistance of conservative colonial powers to the education of the masses.

One might argue that in the case of the colonizer-colonized relationship, any education of the colonized by the colonizer invites hybridity. In what language will the colonized be taught? What ideals? From what texts? Those conservative powers, aligning themselves against the more “progressive” colonials, as termed by Anderson, and desirous of education natives, “preferred the natives to stay native” (Anderson, 181). Secondly, the museum served as a way to reaffirm the inferiority of the colonized.

In many cases the builders in reconstructive projects were, as far as the colonizers were concerned, not of the same race to which the monument in question belonged. In the case of Burmese projects the builders were “Indian. ” Furthermore, the idea was propagated that the monuments not only belonged to a different time but also to a different people, and the “natives were no longer capable of their putative ancestor’s achievements” (Anderson, 181). Finally, it allowed for the colonizer to assume the role of “guardian of a generalized, but also local tradition” (Anderson, 181).

However, as guardian, we will soon find in examining Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, guarding really meant constraining any dynamism, hence hybridity, to be found in the culture of the colonized to stagnation. Despite the resistance of the colonizer to hybridity, it was through mimicry, which arguably results in hybridity, that the colonizer executed authority over the colonized, for “mimicry emerges as one of the most elusive and effective strategies of colonial power and knowledge” (Bhabha, 122).

In order to create subjects able to be ruled, the British (but the same can be said of the French and so on) needed an anglicized colonial subject. Markedly the goal was the creation of a mimic, not a hybrid. It was with dis-ease that Charles Grant approached the issue of reforming the Indian. Only partially was the Indian to become “Christian,” only partially was he to be “morally improved,” only to the extent that he became like Foucault’s docile bodies, a ready and willing subject upon which the colonizer could exercise power.

He was to become “Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and intellect,” for this mimic man “is the effect of a flawed colonial mimesis, in which to be Anglicized is emphatically not to be English” (Bhabha, 124-125). But in giving the colonized subject even the semblance of Europeanism and its ideals, the colonizer gave the colonized the weapons with which to tear down the power structure of colonialism. That is to say that the implementation of mimicry as a machinery or arm of power at once affirmed the authority of the colonizer and undermined this same authority as well.

This interplay of mimicry and hybridity and the resulting ambivalence can be seen clearly in the idealized formation of nationalism in Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. In the method of census and map “the area of culture is then marked off by fences and signposts,” and in the method of museum “every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit the inferiority of his culture which has been transformed into instinctive patterns of behaviour” (Fanon).

The response, Fanon tells us, of the colonized is to grasp for a culture to then defend. Simultaneously the colonizer, seeking to diffuse the power of the intellectual, the artist and the activist, lends credence to the works these parties produce that became producible in the form and language in which they appear (the novel, for example) by the mimicry implemented by the colonizer. The colonizer has little to fear, for in this “talking back,” it is to the colonizer that the colonized writes. However, Fanon notes a shift. While at the beginning the native intellectual used to produce his work to be read exclusively by the oppressor, whether with the intention of charming him or of denouncing him through ethnical or subjectivist means, now the native writer progressively takes on the habit of addressing his own people” (Fanon). This is precisely what Grant feared when he concluded that that the Indian must only be partially recreated, for “’partial reform’ will produce an empty form of ‘the imitation of English manners which will induce them to remain under our protection” (Said, 124).

Although in the hands of the colonized mimicry was “meant to be “like camouflage, not a harmonization of repression of difference, but a form of resemblance, that differs from or defends presence by displaying it in part, metonymically,” specifically because “mimicry conceals no presence or identity behinds its mask: it is not what Cesaire describes as ‘colonization-thingification’ behind which there stands the essence of the presence Africaine.

The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority” (Bhabha, 128, 126). The colonizer thought to merely give the colonizer a semblance of itself, to create a barely recognizable other, but in doing so it invited the colonized to appropriate its essence and become hybrid (Bhabha, 122). Beneath the mimicry stood not a whole, complete, untouched Indian or African. Rather there stood a new being Indian and British, French and African in identity.

From this hybrid stance, the colonized stood ready to reject the authority of the colonizer and simultaneously build national identity through culture. It is at this moment, according to Fanon, that the liberation movement for national identity and culture is truly born. The colonizer resists this dynamism in hybridity. “On the whole such changes are condemned in the name of a rigid code of artistic style and of a cultural life which grows up at the heart of the colonial system…It is the colonialists who become the defenders of the native style” (Fanon).

The colonizer is justified in his fear, for what really is happening is that the colonized are breaking out of the museum; they are representing themselves. Moreover, the colonized leave the exhibit halls of the museum never to return, for revolution then paves the path for further hybridization as “the struggle for freedom does not give back to the national culture its former value and shapes; this struggle which aims at a fundamentally different set of relations between men cannot leave intact either the form or the content of the people’s culture” (Fanon).

The dynamism, the hybridity enabled through mimicry, of culture beneath the yoke of colonial oppression and the refusal of that defining, subjective colonial oppression to acknowledge that dynamism and hybridity creates the conditions for revolt. “After the conflict,” states Fanon, “there is not only the disappearance of colonialism but also the disappearance of the colonised man. ” So it is that Ambivalence is the death of colonialism, mimicry its suicide, hybridity its homicide.

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi. ¬The Location of Culture. London and New York: Routledge Classics. 1994. 2006. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communites. London and New York. Routledge 1991 Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of The Earth. 1959