Our discussion of the Bhabha reading brought to light a few discussion points that we have previously covered in class in addition to a few notes on the reading itself. We focused primarily on Bhabha’s “Location of Culture” as we found it to be the more challenging of the two to understand and spent the majority of our conversation developing our understanding. We began by summarizing the reading to make sure we were all on the same page and then discussed parallels and other concepts that relate to previous readings.
In the Introduction to his The Location of Culture Bhabha demands that we, as members of society and as literary critics, should try to understand cultural differences as being based on hybridities created in moments of historical transformation. We should no longer classify groups of people based on “organic”, pre-existing traits attributed to ethnic groups. Instead, we should locate the differences created “in-between” time and space spanning different cultures. People’s characteristics are not limited to their ethnic heritage, but rather are subject to change and modification through experience. Bhabha discusses the interstitial relationships formed between cultures as well as those formed in the public and private spheres.
After this summary, we discussed some points that parallel previously readings and applications to other material. Unlike previous theorists who divide the world into opposing binaries, Bhabha takes a kind of deconstructionist approach to post-colonialism. He challenges the binary opposition of West/Non-West. Instead, he sees post-colonial cultures as “hybrids” identified by their own people as well as the colonial power. 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: “Social differences are not simply given to experience through an already authenticated cultural tradition; they are the signs of emergence of community envisaged as a project – at once a vision and a construction – that takes you ‘beyond’ yourself in order to return, in a spirit of revision and reconstruction, to the political conditions of the present.” (Page 3)
In summary, our group concluded, through the reading, that members of post-colonial societies and minority populations are defined by much more than their original ethnic traits. The fact is that everyone is shaped by their social experiences and their own heritage, as well as the experiences and histories of everyone they come into contact with. There are no more distinct, monolithic categories of ethnicity. We must look to our present society to see how the interstitial relationships create who we are.