Cross-Mirrorings of Alterity: The Colonial Scenario and Its Psychological Legacy

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 12,674 words

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[(essay date 2005) In the following essay on stereotypes and cultural identification in Indian literature, Fludernik seeks to expand upon the colonizer/colonized binary in postcolonial discourse. The critic examines the Indian Self/British Other alterity from additional perspectives, including those of the female, the cultural hybrid, the transnational elite, and--in the case of Desai's Bye-Bye, Blackbird--the expatriate.]

I have lived that moment of the scattering of the people that in other times and other places, In the nations of others, becomes a time of gathering. Gatherings of exiles and émigrés and refugees; gathering at the edge of "foreign cultures"; gathering at the frontiers; gathering in the ghettos or cafés of city centres; gathering in the half-life, half-light of foreign tongues, or in the uncanny fluency of another's language; gathering the signs of approval and acceptance, degrees, discourse, disciplines; gathering the memories of underdevelopment, of other worlds lived retroactively; gathering the past in a ritual of revival; gathering the present. Also the gathering of people in the diaspora: indentured, migrant, interned; the gathering of incriminatory statistics, educational performance, legal statutes, immigration status.--Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture

Although postcolonial issues and terminology form the frame of my analysis, I am concerned in this article with defining transferential projections of stereotypes within a fairly traditional imagological framework.1 Imagological research has for the most part concentrated on the portrayal of foreigners: the image of the German in English literature, the image of the Englishman in national European literatures. These heterostereotypes traced in the various national literatures of Europe are part of a long imagological tradition,2 in which several key characteristics of the national character have become attached to the national stereotype: the drunken German, the proud Spaniard, the stingy Scotsman.3 Autostereotypes, by contrast, are rarely discussed, and the complex transfer between projections that one finds under the conditions of colonial oppression or, more complicated still, in the circumstances of migration, exile, and cultural hybridity has not had much attention from the discipline of imagology.4 It is no coincidence that poststructuralist approaches have flourished in postcolonial studies that deal precisely with this murky realm of dislocated and displaced identities, whether in the area of racially tinged colonialism (as portrayed in Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks5), the gender-oriented inflection of colonial oppression (Spivak 197-221, 241-68), or the state of intercultural homelessness,6 a situation that is portrayed in numerous texts by expatriate Indian writers.

If my analysis initially skirts some of the famous recent studies in postcolonial theory, such as Homi Bhabha's The Location of Culture (1994), the reason for this temporary neglect is not hostility but a strategic bracketing of the poststructuralist framework. By putting Lacanian and Derridean formulations of the circulation and displacement of transferential images under erasure, I want to ensure that the more traditional imagological toolbox is exhausted for its full conceptual potential before turning to different methodological frameworks. Rather than, as yet, indulging in "reading between the lines" (Bhabha, Location 188) or employing "catachrestic...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100090480