15th of April, 2014
We began class on Tuesday by attempting to distinguish the connection between stereotypes and mimicry. We understood the term mimicry as “imitation”, ridiculing someone, pretending to be someone else.In his essay “Of Mimicry and Man”, Homi Bhabha borrows his concept of mimicry” from Jacques Lacan and writes:“The effect of mimicry is camouflage…. It is not a question of harmonizing with the background, but against a mottled background, of becoming mottled – exactly like the technique of camouflage practiced in human warfare (Bhabha 85)”. The colonized are mimicking the way the colonizer talks, the ideology of nationhood, educational system, clothing, the economic and political structure.
The question that we posed further was “Why is this considered mimicry?” and we concluded that mimicry makes the colonized almost the colonizer but not exactly; colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite” (Bhabha, 86). The colonized can never reach the position of the colonized because they are inherently different due to the color of their skin, their place of birth, etc. The conversation then turned to discussing the concept behind the colonized mimicking the colonizer because when before the colonizer arrived, the colonized was not attempting to mimic anyone, they were just living their own life with their own language, economic and political system. Ferit then stated that mimicry can expand beyond the colonizer and colonized distinction because it's not like there is something essential to being colonized, therefore you are always going to be that. Because of the power of the dynamics between the two, the colonizer is always above the colonized and will not allow the colonized to be as equal, even if they try to mimic the colonizer's way of functioning as a society, the colonized still cannot be considered equal from the perspective of the colonizer. We then raised the question “What does the colonizer want?” The colonizer wants authority and authority can be achieved by creating a system where one is superior and where the other will always remain inferior. Fanon claims that the colonized always wants to be the colonizer but the fact that they will never be leads to a type of envy from the colonized to the colonizer. The colonizers' sense of superiority regarding the colonized results in the colonized to view themselves as inferior. Therefore, it evidently initiates the belief that the West is always educated, civilized, and knowledgeable, and the East is illiterate, primitive and ignorant. Mimicry represents the method of copying the person who is in power, the colonized copies the colonizer. This leads to the repression of one's cultural identity and results in leaving the person to an ambivalent and confused state. Bhabha says that “…the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence”(86).
In his essay “Of Mimicry and Man,” Bhabha depicts mimicry as sometimes unintentionally subversive (Bhabha, 86). According to Bhabha, mimicry represents a type of performance that reveals the artificiality of all symbolic expressions of power (Bhabha). In other words if a Turk, desiring to mimic the German, becomes obsessed with some particular codes associated with Germaness, such as the German colonial obsession with the concept of punctuality, his performance of those codes might show how hollow the codes really are. This example demonstrates that stability is the issue because identity is not stable and it is never fixed. Even Germans have to keep repeating it, they have to mimic themselves too.
We concluded the class by analyzing the paragraph on page 91 that focuses on interdictions (undoing the kind of identity that is presumed in the things that one are imitating) “Similarly, mimicry rearticulates presence in terms of its otherness, that which it disavows” (Bhabha, 91). In other words,…