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John Zaixin Zhang

 
 
 

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Bhabha on Colonial Discourse as Stereotype  

2009-05-11 16:53:37|  分类: 后殖民理论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Bhabha, Homi K. “The Other Question: The Stereotype and Colonial Discourse.” Ed. Mandy Merck. The Sexual Subject: A Screen Reader in Sexuality. London: Routledge, 1992. 312-331. (First published in Screen 24.6 (1983): 18-36.)

312

       “An important feature of colonial discourse is its dependence on the concept of ‘fixity’ in the ideological construction of otherness. Fixity, as the sign of cultural/historical/racial difference in the discourse of colonialism, is a paradoxical mode of representation: it connotes rigidity and an unchanging order as well as disorder, degeneracy and daemonic repetition. Likewise the stereotype, which is its major discursive strategy, is a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is always ‘in place’, already known, and something that must be anxiously repeated… as if the essential duplicity of the Asiatic or the bestial sexual licence of the African that needs no proof, can never really, in discourse, be proved. It is this process of ambivalence, central to the stereotype that my essay explores as it constructs a theory of colonial discourse. For it is the force of ambivalence that gives the colonial stereotype its currency: ensures its repeatability in changing historical and discursive conjunctures; informs its strategies of individuation and marginalization; produces that effect of probabilistic truth and predicatability which, for the stereotype, must always be in excess of what can be empirically proved or logically construed.”

313

       “The construction of the colonial subject in discourse, and the exercise of colonial power through discourse, demands an articulation of forms of difference – racial and sexual. Such an articulation becomes crucial if it is held that the body is always simultaneously inscribed in both the economy of pleasure and desire and the economy of discourse, domination and power.”

316

       Colonial discourse “is an apparatus that turns on the recognition and disavowal of racial/cultural/historical differences…. The objective of colonial discourse is to construe the colonized as a population of degenerate types on the basis of racial origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of administration and instruction.”

316-7

       “… Edward Said proposes a semiotic [317] of ‘Orientalist’ power, examining the varied European discourses which constitute ‘the Orient’ as an [sic] unified racial, geographical, political and cultural zone of the world.”

317

       Said “hints continually at a polarity or division at the very centre of Orientalism. It is, on the one hand, a topic of learning, discovery, practice; on the other, it is the site of dreams, images, fantasies, myths, obsessions and requirements. It is a static system of ‘synchronic essentialism’, a knowledge of ‘signifiers of stability’ such as the lexicographic and the encyclopaedic. However, this site is continually under threat from diachronic forms of history and narrative sings of instability. And, finally, this line of thinking is given a shape analogical to the dreamwork, when Said refers explicitly to a distinction between ‘an unconscious positivity’ which he terms latent Orientalism, and the stated knowledges and views about the Orient which he calls manifest Orientalism.”

       “Where the originality of this pioneering theory loses its inventiveness, and for me its usefulness, is with Said’s reluctance to engage with the alterity and ambivalence in the articulation of these two economies which threaten to split the very object of Orientalist discourse as a knowledge and the subject positioned therein. He contains this threat by introducing a binarism within the argument which, in initially setting up an opposition between these two discursive scenes, finally allows them to be correlated as a congruent system of representation that is unified through a political-ideological intention which, in his words, enables Europe to advance securely and unmetaphorically upon the Orient. Said identifies the content of Orientalism as the unconscious repository of fantasy, imaginative writings and essential ideas; and the form of manifest Orientalism as the historically and discursively determined, diachronic aspect. This division/correlation structure of manifest and latent Orientalism leads to the effectivity of the concept of discourse being undermined by what could be called the polarities of intentionality.”

318

       “This produces a problem with Said’s use of Foucault’s concepts of power and discourse. The productivity of Foucault’s concept of power/knowledge lies in its refusal of an epistemology which opposes essence/appearance, ideology/science. ‘Pouvoir/Savoir’ places subjects in a relation of power and recognition that is not part of a symmetrical or dialectical relation – self/other, master/slave – which can then be subverted by being inverted. Subjects are always disproportionately placed in opposition or domination through the symbolic decentring of multiple power relations which play the role of support as well as target or adversary. It becomes difficult, then, to conceive of the historical enunciations of colonial discourse without them being either functionally overdetermined or strategically elaborated or displaced by the unconscious scene of latent Orientalism. Equally, it is difficult to conceive of the process of subjectification as a placing within Orientalist or colonial discourse for the dominated subject without the dominant being strategically placed within it too. There is always, in Said, the suggestion that colonial power and discourse is possessed entirely by the colonizer, which is a historical and theoretical simplification. The terms in which Said’s Orientalism is unified – the intentionality and unidirectionality of colonial power – also unify the subject of colonial enunciation.”

318

       “The closure and coherence attributed to the unconscious pole of colonial discourse and the unproblematized notion of the subject, restricts the effectivity of both power and knowledge. It is not possible to see how power functions productively as incitement and interdiction. Nor would it be possible, without the attribution of ambivalence to relations of power/knowledge, to calculate the traumatic impact of the return of the oppressed – those terrifying stereotypes of savagery, cannibalism, lust and anarchy which are the signal points of identification and alienation, scenes of fear and desire, in colonial texts. It is precisely this function of the stereotype as phobia and fetish that, according to Fanon, threatens the closure of the racial/epidermal schema for the colonial subject and opens the royal road to colonial fantasy.”

320

       Bhabha’s reading of the stereotype in terms of fetishism: “The myth of historical origination – racial purity, cultural priority – produced in relation to the colonial stereotype functions to ‘normalize’ the multiple beliefs and split subjects that constitute colonial discourse as a consequence of its process of disavowal. The scene of fetishism functions similarly as, at once, a reactivation of the material of original fantasy – the anxiety of castration and sexual difference – as well as a normalization of that difference and disturbance in terms of the fetish object as the substitute for the mother’s penis. Within the apparatus of colonial power, the discourses of sexuality and race relate in a process of functional overdetermination, ‘because each effect … enters into resonance or contradiction with the others and thereby calls for a readjustment or a reworking of the heterogeneous elements that surface at various points’.”

320-1

       “There is both a structural and functional justification for reading the racial stereotype of colonial discourse in terms of fetishism. My rereading of Said establishes the structural link. Fetishism, as the disavowal of difference, is that repetitious scene around the problem of castration. The recognition of sexual difference – as the precondition for the circulation of the chain of absence and presence in the realm of the Symbolic – is disavowed by the fixation on an object that masks that difference and restores an original presence. The functional link between the fixation of the fetish and the stereotype (or the stereotype as fetish) is even more relevant. For fetishism is always a ‘play’ or vacillation between the archaic affirmation of wholeness/similarity – in Freud’s terms: ‘All men have penises’; in ours ‘All men have the same skin/race/culture’ – and the anxiety associated with lack and difference – again, for Freud ‘Some do not have penises’; for us ‘Some do not have the same skin/race/culture’. Within discourse, the fetish represents the simultaneous play between metaphor as substitution (masking absence and difference) and metonymy (which contiguously registers the perceived lack). 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 [321] division, for the subject must be gendered to be engendered, to be spoken.”

321

       “The stereotype, then, as the primary point of subjectification in colonial discourse, for both colonizer and colonized, is the scene of a similar fantasy and defence – the desire for an originality which is again threatened by the differences of race, colour and culture. My contention is splendidly caught in Fanon’s title Black Skin White Masks where the disavowal of difference turns the colonial subject into a misfit – a grotesque mimicry or ‘doubling’ that threatens to split the soul and whole, undifferentiated skin of the ego.

321

       “There are two ‘primal scenes’ in Fanon’s Black Skins [sic] White Masks: two myths of the origin of the marking of the subject within the racist practices and discourses of a colonial culture. On one occasion a white girl fixes Fanon in a look and word as she turns to identify with her mother. It is a scene which echoes endlessly through his essay ‘The fact of Blackness’: ‘Look, a Negro… Mamma, see the Negro! I’m frightened. Frightened. Frightened.’ ‘What else could it be for me,’ Fanon concludes, ‘but an amputation, an excision, a haemorrrhage that spattered my whole body with black blood.’ Equally, he stresses the primal moment when the child encounters racial and cultural stereotypes in children’s fictions, where white heroes and black demons are proffered as pints of ideological and psychical identification.”

322

       The drama underlying these dramatic ‘everyday’ colonial scenes is not difficult to discern. In each of them the subject turns around the pivot of the ‘stereotype’ to return to a point of total identification. The girl’s gaze returns to her mother in the recognition and disavowal of the Negroid type; the black child turns away from himself, his race, in his total identification with the positivity of whiteness which is at once colour and no colour. In the act of disavowal and fixation the colonial subject is returned to the narcissism of the Imaginary and its identification of an ideal ego that is white and whole. For what these primal scenes illustrate is that looking/hearing/reading as sites of subjectification in colonial discourse are evidence of the importance of the visual and auditory imaginary for the histories of societies.”

322-3

       “My anatomy of colonial discourse remains incomplete until I locate the stereotype, as an arrested, fetishistic mode of representation within its field of identification, which I have identified in my description of Fanon’s primal scenes, as the Lacanian schema of the Imaginary. The imaginary is the transformation that takes place in the subject at the formative mirror phase, when it assumes a discrete image which allows it to postulate a series of equivalences, samenesses, identities, between the objects of the surrounding world. However, this positioning is itself problematic, for the subject finds or recognizes itself through an image which is simultaneously alienating and hence potentially confrontational. This is the basis of the close relation between the two forms of identification complicit with the Imaginary – narcissism and aggressivity. It is precisely these two forms of ‘identification’ that constitute the dominant strategy of colonial power exercised in relation to the stereotype which, as a form of multiple and [323] contradictory belief, gives knowledge of difference and simultaneously disavows or masks it. Like the mirror phase ‘the fullness’ of the stereotype – its image as identity – is always threatened by ‘lack’.”

323

       “The construction of colonial discourse is then a complex articulation of the tropes of fetishism – metaphor and metonymy – and the forms of narcissistic and aggressive identification available to the Imaginary. Stereotypical racial discourse is a four-term strategy. There is a tie-up between the metaphoric or masking function of the fetish and the narcissistic object-choice and an opposing alliance between the metonymic figuring of lack and the aggressive phase of the Imaginary. A repertoire of conflictual positions constitutes the subject in colonial discourse. The taking up of any one position, within a specific discursive form, in a particular historical conjuncture, is thus always problematic – the site of both fixity and fantasy…. As a form of splitting and multiple belief, the ‘stereotype’ requires, for its successful signification, a continual and repetitive chain of other stereotypes. The process by which the metaphoric ‘masking’ is inscribed on a lack which must then be concealed gives the stereotype both its fixity and its phantasmatic quality – the same old stories of the Negro’s animality, the Coolie’s inscrutability or the stupidity of the Irish must be told (compulsively) again and afresh, and are differently gratifying and terrifying each time.”

       “In any specific colonial discourse the metaphoric/narcissistic, and the metonymic/aggressive positions will function simultaneously, strategically poised in relation to each other; similar to the moment of alienation which threatens fetishistic disavowal. The subjects of discourse are constructed within an apparatus of power which contains, in both senses of the word, an ‘other’ knowledge – a knowledge that is arrested and fetishistic and circulates through colonial discourse as the limited form of otherness, that form of difference, that I have called the stereotype.”

324

       “… we must acknowledge some significant differences between the general theory of fetishism and its specific uses for an understanding of racist discourse. First, the fetish of colonial discourse – what Fanon calls the epidermal schema – is not, like the sexual fetish, a secret. Skin, as the key signifier of cultural and racial difference in the stereotype, is the most visible of fetishes, recognized as ‘common knowledge’ in a range of cultural, political and historical discourses, and plays a public part in the racial drama that is enacted every day in colonial societies. Second, it may be said that sexual fetish is closely linked to the ‘good object’; it is the prop that makes the whole object desirable and lovable, facilitates sexual relations and can even promote a form of happiness. The stereotype can also be seen as that particular ‘fixated’ form of the colonial subject which facilitates colonial relations, and sets up a discursive form of racial and cultural opposition in terms of which colonial power is exercised. If it is claimed that the colonized are most often objects of hate, then we can reply with Freud that

affection and hostility in the treatment of the fetish – which run parallel with the disavowal and acknowledgement of castration – are mixed in unequal proportions in different cases, so that the one or the other is more clearly recognisable.

What this statement recognizes is the wide range of the stereotype, from the loyal servant to Satan, from the loved to the hated; a shifting of subject positions in the circulation of colonial power which I tried to account for through the motility of the metaphoric/narcissistic and metonymic/aggressive system of colonial discourse.”

325

       “The difference of the object of discrimination is at once visible and natural – colour as the cultural/political sign of inferiority or degeneracy, skin as its natural ‘identity’.”

326

       “Although the ‘authority’ of colonial discourse depends crucially on its location in narcissism and the Imaginary, my concept of stereotype-as-suture is a recognition of the ambivalence of that authority and those orders of identification. The role of fetishistic identification, in the construction of discriminatory knowledges that depend on the ‘presence of difference’, is to provide a process of splitting and multiple/contradictory belief at the point of enunciation and subjectification. It is this crucial splitting of the ego which is represented in Fanon’s description of the construction of the colonised subject as effect of stereotypical discourse: the subject primordially fixed and yet triply split between the incongruent knowledges of body, race, ancestors. Assailed by the stereotype, ‘the corporeal schema crumbled, its place taken by a racial epidermal scheme. … It was no longer a question of being aware of my body in the third person but a triple person … I was not given one, but two, three places.’

       “This process is best understood in terms of the articulation of multiple belief that Freud proposes in the essay on fetishism. It is a non-repressive form of knowledge that allows for the possibility of simultaneously embracing two contradictory beliefs, one official and one secret, one archaic and one progressive, one that allows the myth of origins, the other that articulates difference and division. Its knowledge ‘value’ lies in its orientation as a defence towards external reality.”

326

       “The visibility of the racial/colonial Other is at once a point of identity (‘Look, a Negro’) and at the same time a problem for the attempted closure within discourse. For the recognition of difference as ‘imaginary’ points of identity and origin – such as Black and White – is disturbed by the representation of splitting in the discourse.”

327

       “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, guilt, aggressivity; the masking and splitting of ‘official’ and phantasmatic knowledges to construct the positionalities and oppositionalities of racial discourse….”

328

       “By acceding to the wildest fantasies (in the popular snese) of the colonizer, the stereotyped Other reveals something of the ‘fantasy’ (as desire, defence) of that position of mastery. For if ‘skin’ in racist discourse is the visibility of darkness, and a prime signifier of the body and its social and cultural correlates, then we are bound to remember what Karl Abraham says in his seminal work on the scopic drive. The pleasure-value of darkness is a withdrawal in order to know nothing of the external world. Its symbolic meaning, however, is thoroughly ambivalent. Darkness signifies at once both birth and death; it is in all cases a desire to return to the fullness of the mother, a desire for an unbroken and undifferentiated line of vision and origin.”

328

       “It is recognizably true that the chain of stereotypical signification is curiously mixed and split, polymorphous and perverse, an articulation of multiple belief. The black is both savage (cannibal) and yet the most obedient and dignified of servants (the bearer of food); he is the embodiment of rampant sexuality and yet innocent as a child; he is mystical, primitive, simple-minded and yet the most worldly and accomplished liar, and manipulator of social forces.”

329

       “The last word belongs to Fanon:

'this behaviour [of the colonizer] betrays a determination to objectify, to confine, to imprison, to harden. Phrases such as ‘I know them’, ‘that’s the way they are’, show this maximum objectification successfully achieved…. There is on the one hand a culture in which qualities of dynamism, of growth, of depth can be recognised. As against this, [in colonial cultures] we find characteristics, curiosities, things, never a structure.'

 

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