Third Space Theory of Postcoloniality. Note Quote.


Writers, such as Homi Bhabha and Salman Rushdie, who proceed from a consideration of the nature of postcolonial societies and the types of hybridization these various cultures have produced, proposed a radical rethinking—an appropriation of the European thinking by a different discourse. Whereas in European thinking, history and the past are the reference point for epistemology, in postcolonial thought space annihilates time. History is rewritten and realigned from the standpoint of the victims of the destructive progress.  Hybridity replaces a temporal linearity with a spatial plurality. Salman Rushdie  makes this obvious when commenting on the message of his controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, in an essay called “In Good Faith” as follows:

The Satanic Verses celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Melange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world, and I have tried to embrace it. The Satanic Verses is for change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining. It is a love-song to our mongrel selves.

Even though on the surface postcolonial texts may contain race divisions and cultural differences, they all contain germs of community which, as they grow in the mind of the reader, they detach from the apparently inescapable dialectic of history. Thus, postcolonial literatures have begun to deal  with problems of transmuting time into space and of attempting to construct a future. It highlights the acceptance of difference on equal terms. Now both literary critics and historians are recognizing cross-culturality as the possible ending point of an apparent endless human history of conquest and occupations.  They recognize that the myth of purity or essence, the Eurocentric viewpoint must be challenged. The recent approaches show that the power of postcolonial theory lies in its comparative methodology and the hybridized and syncretic view of the modern world which it implies.

Of the various points in which postcolonial texts intersect, place has a paramount importance. In his dialogism thesis, Mikhail Bakhtin emphasizes a space of enunciation where negotiation of discursive doubleness gives birth to a new speech act:

The  hybrid is not only double-voiced and double-accented . . . but is also double-languaged; for in it there are not only (and not even so much) two individual consciounesses, two voices, two accents, as there are [doublings of] socio-linguistic consciousnesses, two epochs . . . that come together and consciously fight it out on the territory of the utterance.

Also, Homi Bhabha talks about a third space of enunciation, a hybrid space or a new position in which communication is possible. Third Space theory emerges from the sociocultural tradition in psychology identified with Lev Vygotsky. Sociocultural approaches are concerned with the “… constitutive role of culture in mind, i.e., on how mind develops by incorporating the community’s shared artifacts accumulated over generations”. Bhabha applies socioculturalism directly to the postcolonial condition, where there are, “… unequal and uneven forces of cultural representation”. For Bhabha, such negotiation is neither assimilation nor collaboration as it makes possible the emergence of an “interstitial” agency that refuses the binary representation of social antagonism. The “interstitial perspective” as Bhabha calls it replaces the “polarity of a prefigurative self-generating nation ‘in-itself’ and extrinsic other nations” with the notion of cultural liminality within the nation. the liminal figure of the nation-space would ensure that no political ideologies could claim transcendent or metaphysical authority for themselves. this is because the subject of cultural discourse – the agency of a people – is spilt in the discursive ambivalence that emerges in the contest of narrative authority between the pedagogical and the performative, which is to say, between the peoples’ status as historical objects of a nationalist pedagogy and their ability to perform themselves as subjects of a process of signification that must erase any prior or originally national presence. Hybrid agencies find their voice in a dialectic that does not seek cultural supremacy or sovereignty. They deploy the partial culture from which they emerge to construct visions of community, and versions of historic memory, that give narrative form to the minority positions they occupy: “the outside of the inside; the part in the whole”.

This “new position” Bhabha proposes is closely related to the “homeless” existence of post-colonial persons. It certainly cannot be assumed to be an independent third space already there, a “no-man’s-land” between the nations. Instead, a way of cultural syncretization, i.e. a medium of negotiating cultural antagonisms, has to be created. Cultural difference has to be acknowledged: “Culture does imply difference, but the differences now are no longer, if you wish, taxonomical; they are interactive and refractive”. This position emphasizes, contrary to the too facile assumption of world literature and world culture as the stages of a multicultural cosmopolitanism already in existence, that the “intellectual trade” takes place mostly on the borders and in the border crossings between cultures where meanings and values are not codified but misunderstood, misrepresented, even falsely adopted. Bhabha explains how beyond fixed cultural (ethnic, gender- and class-related) identities, so-called “hybrid” identities are formed by discontinuous translation and negotiation. Hybridity, liminality, “interrogatory, interstitial space” – these are the positive values Bhabha opposes to a retrograde historicism that continues to dominate Western critical thinking, a “linear narrative of the nation,” with its claims for the “holism of culture and community” and a “fixed horizontal nation-space”. We must, he argues eloquently, undo such thinking with its facile binary oppositions. Rather than emphasizing the opposition between First World and Third World nations, between colonizer and colonized, men and women, black and white, straight and gay, Bhabha would have it, we might more profitably focus on the faultlines themselves, on border situations and thresholds as the sites where identities are performed and contested. Bhabha says, “hybridity to me is the ‘third space’ which enables other positions to emerge”.


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