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From "Signs taken for wonders: Questions of ambivalence and authority under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817," in The Location of Culture, pp.102-122.

A remarkable peculiarity is that they (the English) always write the personal pronoun I with a capital letter. May we not consider this Great I as an unintended proof how much an Englishman thinks of his own consequence?

Robert Southey, Letters from England

There is a scene in the cultural writings of English colonialism which repeats so insistently after the early nineteenth century - and, through that repetition, so triumphantly inaugurates a literature of empire - that I am bound to repeat it once more. It is the scenario, played out in the wild and wordless wastes of colonial India, Africa, the Caribbean, of the sudden, fortuitous discovery of the English book. It is, like all myths of origin, memorable for its balance between epiphany and enunciation. The discovery of the book is, at once, a moment of originality and authority. It is, as well, a process of displacement that, paradoxically, makes the presence of the book wondrous to the extent to which it is repeated, translated, misread, displaced. It is with the emblem of the English book - 'signs taken for wonders' - as an insignia of colonial authority and a signifier of colonial desire and discipline, that I want to begin this chapter.

In the first week of May 1817, Anund Messeh, one of the earliest Indian catechists, made a hurried and excited journey from his mission in Meerut to a grove of trees just outside Delhi.

He found about 500 people, men, women and children, seated under the shade of the trees, and employed, as had been related to him, in reading and conversation. He went up to an elderly looking man, and accosted him, and the following conversation passed.

'Pray who are all these people? and whence come theyT 'We are poor and lowly, and we read and love this book.' - 'What is that book?' 'The book of God!' -'Let me look at it, if you please.'

Anund, on opening the book, perceived it to be the Gospel of our Lord, translated into the Hindoostanee Tongue, many copies of which seemed to be in the possession of the party: some were PRINTED, others WRITTEN by themselves from the printed ones. Anund pointed to the name of Jesus, and asked, 'Who is that?' 'That is God! He gave us this book.' - 'Where did you obtain it?' 'An Angel from heaven gave it us, at Hurdwar fair.' -'An Angel?' 'Yes, to us he was God's Angel: but he was a man, a learned Pundit.' (Doubtless these translated Gospels must have been the books distributed, five or six years ago, at Hurdwar by the Missionary.) 'The written copies we write ourselves, having no other means of obtaining more of this blessed word.' - 'These books,' said Anund, 'teach the religion of the European Sahibs. It is THEIR book; and they printed it in our language, for our use.' 'Ah! no,' replied the stranger, 'that cannot be, for they eat flesh.' - 'Jesus Christ' said Anund, 'teaches that it does not signify what a man eats or drinks. EATING is nothing before God. Not that which entereth into a man's mouth defileth him, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this difileth a man: for vile things come forth from the heart. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts; and these are the things that defile.'

'That is true; but how can it be the European Book, when we believe that it is God's gift to us? He sent it to us at Hurdwar.' 'God gave it long ago to the Sahibs, and THEY sent it to us.'.... The ignorance and simplicity of many are very striking, never having heard of a printed book before; and its very appearance was to them miraculous. A great stir was excited by the gradual increasing information hereby obtained, and all united to acknowledge the superiority of the doctrines of this Holy Book to every thing which they had hitherto heard or known. An indifference to the distinctions of Caste soon manifested itself; and the interference and tyrannical authority of the Brahmins became more offensive and contemptible. At last, it was determined to separate themselves from the rest of their Hindoo Brethren; and to establish a party of their own choosing, four or five, who could read the best, to be the public teachers from this newly-acquired Book.... Anund asked them, 'Why are you all dressed in whiteT 'The people of God should wear white raiment,' was the reply, 'as a sign that they are clean, and rid of their sins.' - Anund observed, 'You ought to be BAPTIZED, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Come to Meerut: there is a Christian Padre there; and he will shew you what you ought to do.' They answered, 'Now we must go home to the harvest; but, as we mean to meet once a year, perhaps the next year we may come to Meerut.'... I explained to them the nature of the Sacrament and of Baptism; in answer to which, they replied, 'We are willing to be baptized, but we will never take the Sacrament. To all the other customs of Christians we are willing to conform, but not to the Sacrament, because the Europeans eat cow's flesh, and this will never do for us.' To this I answered, 'This WORD is of God, and not of men; and when HE makes your hearts to understand, then you will PROPERLY comprehend it.' They replied, 'If all our country will receive this Sacrament, then will we.' I then observed, 'The time is at hand, when all the countries will receive this WORD!' They replied, 'True!

Almost a hundred years later, in 1902, Joseph Conrad's Marlow, travelling in the Congo, in the night of the first ages, without a sign and no memories, cut off from the comprehension of his surroundings, desperately in need of a deliberate belief, comes upon Towson's (or Towser's) Inquiry into some Points Of Seamanship.

Not a very enthralling book; but at the first glance you could see there a singleness of intention, an honest concern for the right way of going to work, which made these humble pages, thought out so many years ago, luminous with another than a professional fight.... I assure you to leave off reading was like tearing myself away from the shelter of an old and solid friendship....

'It must be this miserable trader - this intruder,' exclaimed the manager, looking back malevolently at the place we had left. 'He must be English,' I said.

Half a century later, a young Trinidadian discovers that same volume of Towson's in that very passage from Conrad and draws from it a vision of literature and a lesson of history. 'The scene', writes V. S. Naipaul,

answered some of the political panic I was beginning to feel.

To be a colonial was to know a kind of security; it was to inhabit a fixed world. And I suppose that in my fantasy I had seen myself coming to England as to some purely literary region, where, untrammeled by the accidents of history or background, I could make a romantic career for myself as a writer. But in the new world I felt that ground move below me.... Conrad ... had been everywhere before me. Not as a man with a cause, but a man offering ... a vision of the world's half-made societies ... where always 'something inherent in the necessities of successful action ... carried with it the moral degradation of the idea.' Dismal but deeply felt: a kind of truth and half a consolation.

Written as they are in the name of the father and the author, these texts of the civilizing mission immediately suggest the triumph of the colonialist moment in early English Evangelism and modern English literature. The discovery of the book installs the sign of appropriate representation: the word of God, truth, art creates the conditions for a beginning, a practice of history and narrative. But the institution of the Word in the wilds is also an Entstellung, a process of displacement, distortion, dislocation, repetition - the dazzling light of literature sheds only areas of darkness. Still the idea of the English book is presented as universally adequate: like the 'metaphoric writing of the West', it communicates 'the immediate vision of the thing, freed from the discourse that accompanied it, or even encumbered it.

Shortly before the discovery of the book, Marlow interrogates the odd, inappropriate, 'colonial' transformation of a textile into an uncertain textual sign, possibly a fetish:

Why? Where did he get it? Was it a badge - an ornament - a charm - a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas.
Such questions of the historical act of enunciation, which carry a political intent, are lost, a few pages later, in the myth of origins and discovery. The immediate vision of the book figures those ideological correlatives of the Western sign - empiricism, idealism, mimeticism, monoculturalism (to use Edward Said's term) - that sustain a tradition of English 'cultural' authority. They create a revisionary narrative that sustains the discipline of Commonwealth history and its epigone, Commonwealth literature. The conflictual moment of colonialist intervention is turned into that constitutive discourse of exemplum and imitation, that Friedrich Nietzsche describes as the monumental history beloved of 'gifted egoists and visionary scoundrels'. For despite the accident of discovery, the repetition of the emergence of the book, represents important moments in the historical transformation and discursive transfiguration of the colonial text and context.

Anund Messeh's riposte to the natives who refuse the sacrament - 'The time is at hand, when all countries will receive this WORD' (my emphasis) - is both firmly and timely spoken in 1817. For it represents a shift away from the 'Orientalist' educational practice of, say, Warren Hastings and the much more interventionist and 'interpenative' ambition of Charles Grant for a culturally and linguistically homogeneous English India. It was with Grant's election to the board of the East India Company in 1794 and to Parliament in 1802, and through his energetic espousal of the Evangelical ideals of the Clapham sect, that the East India Company reintroduced a 'pious clause' into its charter for 1813. By 1817 the Church Missionary Society ran sixty-one schools, and in 1818 it commissioned the Burdwan Plan, a central plan of education for instruction in the English language. The aim of the plan anticipates, almost to the word, Thomas Macaulay's infamous 1835 'Minute on Education': 'to form a body of well instructed labourers, competent in their proficiency in English to act as Teachers, Translators, and Compilers of useful works for the masses of the people."' Anund Messeh's lifeless repetition of chapter and verse, his artless technique of translation, participate in one of the most artful technologies of colonial power. In the same month that Anund Messeh discovered the miraculous effects of the book outside Delhi - May 1817 - a correspondent of the Church Missionary Society wrote to London describing the method of English education at Father John's mission in Tranquebar:

The principal method of teaching them the English language would be by giving them English phrases and sentences, with a translation for them to commit to memory. These sentences might be so arranged as to teach them whatever sentiments the instructor should choose. They would become, in short, attached to the Mission; and though first put into the school from worldly motives alone, should any of them be converted, accustomed as they are to the language, manners and climate of the country, they might soon be prepared for a great usefulness in the cause of religion.... In this way the Heathens themselves might be made the instruments of pulling down their own religion, and of erecting in its ruins the standards of the Cross.

(MR, May 1817, p. 187)

Marlow's ruminative closing statement, 'He must be English', acknowledges at the heart of darkness, in Conrad's fin de siécle malaise, the particular debt that both Marlow and Conrad owe to the ideals of English 'liberty' and its liberal-conservative culture.10 Caught as he is - between the madness of 'prehistoric' Africa and the unconscious desire to repeat the traumatic intervention of modern colonialism within the compass of a seaman's yam - Towson's manual provides Marlow with a singleness of intention. It is the book of work that turns delirium into the discourse of civil address. For the ethic of work, as Conrad was to exemplify in 'Tradition' (1918), provides a sense of right conduct and honour achievable only through the acceptance of those 'customary, norms which are the signs of culturally cohesive 'civil' communities.' These aims of the civilizing mission, endorsed in the 'idea' of British imperialism and enacted on the red sections of the map, speak with a peculiarly English authority derived from the customary practice on which both English common law and the English national language rely for their effectivity and appeal. It is the ideal of English civil discourse that permits Conrad to entertain the ideological ambivalences that riddle his narratives. It is under its watchful eye that he allows the fraught text of late nineteenth-century imperialism to implode within the practices of early modernism. The devastating effects of such an encounter are not only contained in an (un)common yam, they are concealed in the propriety of a civil 'he' told to the Intended (the complicity of the customary?): 'The horror! The horror!' must not be repeated in the drawing-rooms of Europe.

Naipaul 'translates' Conrad from Africa to the Caribbean in order to transform the despair of postcolonial history into an appeal for the autonomy of art. The more fiercely he believes that 'the wisdom of the heart ha[s] no concern with the erection or demolition of theories,' the more convinced he becomes of the unmediated nature of the Western book - 'the words it pronounces have the value of acts of integrity.113 The values that such a perspective generates for his own work, and for the once colonized world it chooses to represent and evaluate, are visible in the hideous panorama that some of his titles provide: The Loss of El Dorado, The Mimic Men, An Area of Darkness, A Wounded Civilization, The Overcrowded Barracoon.

The discovery of the English book establishes both a measure of mimesis and a mode of civil authority and order. If these scenes, as I have narrated them, suggest the triumph of the writ of colonialist power, then it must be conceded that the wily letter of the law inscribes a much more ambivalent text of authority. For it is in-between the edict of Englishness and the assault of the dark unruly spaces of the earth, through an act of repetition, that the colonial text emerges uncertainly. Anund Messeh disavows the natives' disturbing questions as he returns to repeat the now questionable 'authority' of Evangelical dicta. Marlow turns away from the African jungle to recognize, in retrospect, the peculiarly 'English' quality of the discovery of the book. Naipaul turns his back on the hybrid half- made colonial world to fix his eye on the universal domain of English literature. What we witness is neither an untroubled, innocent dream of England nor a 'secondary revision' of the nightmare of India, Africa, the Caribbean. What is 'English' in these discourses of colonial power cannot be represented as a plenitudinous presence; it is determined by its belatedness. As a signifier of authority, the English book acquires its meaning after the traumatic scenario of colonial difference, cultural or racial, returns the eye of power to some prior, archaic image or identity. Paradoxically, however, such an image can neither be 'original' - by virtue of the act of repetition that constructs it - nor 'identical' - by virtue of the difference that defines it.

Consequently, the colonial presence is always ambivalent, split between its appearance as original and authoritative and its articulation as repetition and difference. It is a disjunction produced within the act of enunciation as a specifically colonial articulation of those two disproportionate sites of colonial discourse and power: the colonial scene as the invention of historicity, mastery, mimesis or as the 'other scene' of Entstellung, displacement, fantasy, psychic defence, and an 'open' textuality. Such a display of difference produces a mode of authority that is agonistic (rather than antagonistic). Its discriminatory effects are visible in those split subjects of the racist stereotype - the simian Negro, the effeminate Asiatic male - which ambivalently fix identity as the fantasy of difference." To recognize the différance of the colonial presence is to realize that the colonial text occupies that space of double inscription, hallowed - no, hollowed - by Jacques Derrida:

whenever any writing both marks and goes back over its mark with an undecidable stroke ... [this] double mark escapes the pertinence or authority of truth: it does not overturn it but rather inscribes it within its play as one of its functions or parts. This displacement does not take place, has not taken place once as an event. It does not occupy a simple place. It does not take place in writing. This dis-location (is what) writes/is written.

(D, p. 193)

How can the question of authority, the power and presence of the English, be posed in the interstices of a double inscription? I have no wish to replace an idealist myth - the metaphoric English book - with a historicist one - the colonialist project of English civility. Such a reductive reading would deny what is obvious, that the representation of colonial authority depends less on a universal symbol of English identity than on its productivity as a sign of difference. Yet in my use of 'English' there is a transparency of reference that registers a certain obvious presence: the Bible translated into Hindi, propagated by Dutch or native catechists, is still the English book; a Polish émigré, deeply influenced by Gustave Flaubert, writing about Africa, produces an English classic. What is there about such a process of visibility and recognition that never fails to be an authoritative acknowledgement without ceasing to be a 'spacing between desire and fulfilment, between perpetuation and its recollection ... [a] medium [which] has nothing to do with a center' (D, p. 212)?

This question demands a departure from Derrida's objectives in 'The double session'; a turning away from the vicissitudes of interpretation in the mimetic act of reading to the question of the effects of power, the inscription of strategies of individuation and domination in those 'dividing practices' which construct the colonial space - a departure from Derrida which is also a return to those moments in his essay when he acknowledges the problematic of 'presence' as a certain quality of discursive transparency which he describes as 'the production of mere reality-effects' or 'the effect of content' or as the problematic relation between the 'medium of writing and the determination of each textual unit'. In the rich ruses and rebukes with which he shows up the 'false appearance of the present', Derrida fails to decipher the specific and determinate system of address (not referent) that is signified by the 'effect of content' (see D, pp. 173-85). It is precisely such a strategy of address - the immediate presence of the English - that engages the questions of authority that I want to raise. When the ocular metaphors of presence refer to the process by which content is fixed as an 'effect of the present', we encounter not plenitude but the structured gaze of power whose objective is authority, whose 'subjects' are historical.

The reality effect constructs a mode of address in which a complementarity of meaning produces the moment of discursive transparency. it is the moment when, 'under the false appearance of the present', the semantic seems to prevail over the syntactic, the signified over the signifier. Contrary to current avant-garde orthodoxy, however, the transparent is neither simply the triumph of the 'imaginary' capture of the subject in realist narrative nor the ultimate interpellation of the individual by ideology. It is not a proposal that you cannot positively refuse. It is better described, I suggest, as a form of the disposal of those discursive signs of presence/the present within the strategies that articulate the range of meanings from 'dispose to disposition'.

Transparency is the action of the distribution and arrangement of differential spaces, positions, knowledges in relation to each other, relative to a discriminatory, not inherent, sense of order. This effects a regulation of spaces and places that is authoritatively assigned; it puts the addressee into the proper frame or condition for some action or result. Such a mode of governance addresses itself to a form of conduct that equivocates between the sense of disposal, as the bestowal of a frame of reference, and disposition, as mental inclination, a frame of mind. Such equivocation allows neither an equivalence of the two sites of disposal nor their division as self/other, subject/object. Transparency achieves an effect of authority in the present (and an authoritative presence) through a process similar to what Michel Foucault describes as 'an effect of finalisation, relative to an objective', without its necessary attribution to a subject that makes a prohibitory law, thou shalt or thou shalt not.

The place of difference and otherness, or the space of the adversarial, within such a system of 'disposal' as I've proposed, is never entirely on the outside or implacably oppositional. It is a pressure, and a presence, that acts constantly, if unevenly, along the entire boundary of authorization, that is, on the surface between what I've called disposal-as-bestowal and disposition-as-inclination. The contour of difference is agonistic, shifting, splitting, rather like Freud's description of the system of consciousness which occupies a position in space lying on the borderline between outside and inside, a surface of protection, reception and projection. The power play of presence is lost if its transparency is treated naively as the nostalgia for plenitude that should be flung repeatedly into the abyss - mise en abime - from which its desire is bom. Such theoreticist anarchism cannot intervene in the agonistic space of authority where the true and the false are separated and specific effects of power [are] attached to the true, it being understood also that it is not a matter of a battle 'on behalf' of the truth, but of a battle about the status of truth and the economic and political role it plays.

It is precisely to intervene in such a battle for the status of the truth that it becomes crucial to examine the presence of the English book. For it is this surface that stabilizes the agonistic colonial space; it is its appearance that regulates the ambivalence between origin and displacement, discipline and desire, mimesis and repetition.

Despite appearances, the text of transparency inscribes a double vision: the field of the 'true' emerges as a visible sign of authority only after the regulatory and displacing division of the true and the false. From this point of view, discursive 'transparency' is best read in the photographic sense in which a transparency is also always a negative, processed into visibility through the technologies of reversal, enlargement, lighting, editing, projection, not a source but a re-source of fight. Such a bringing to light is a question of the provision of visibility as a capacity, a strategy, an agency.

This is the question that brings us to the ambivalence of the presence of authority, peculiarly visible in its colonial articulation. For if transparency signifies discursive closure - intention, image, author - it does so through a disclosure of its rules of recognition - those social texts of epistemic, ethnocentric, nationalist intelligibility which cohere in the address of authority as the 'present', the voice of modernity. The acknowledgement of authority depends upon the immediate - unmediated - visibility of its rules of recognition as the unmistakable referent of historical necessity. In the doubly inscribed space of colonial representation where the presence of authority - the English book - is also a question of its repetition and displacement, where transparency is techn&emacron;, the immediate visibility of such a regime of recognition is resisted. Resistance is not necessarily an oppositional act of political intention, nor is it the simple negation or exclusion of the 'content' of another culture, as a difference once perceived. It is the effect of an ambivalence produced within the rules of recognition of dominating discourses as they articulate the signs of cultural difference and reimplicate them within the deferential relations of colonial power - hierarchy, normalization, marginalization and so forth. For colonial domination is achieved through a process of disavowal that denies the chaos of its intervention as Entstellung, its dislocatory presence in order to preserve the authority Of its identity in the teleological narratives of historical and political evolutionism.

The exercise of colonialist authority, however, requires the production of differentiations, individuations, identity effects through which discriminatory practices can map out subject populations that are tarred with the visible and transparent mark of power. Such a mode of subjection is distinct from what Foucault describes as 'power through transparency': the reign of opinion, after the late eighteenth century, which could not tolerate areas of darkness and sought to exercise power through the mere fact of things being known and people seen in an immediate, collective gaze.18 What radically differentiates the exercise of colonial power is the unsuitability of the enlightenment assumption of collectivity and the eye that beholds it. For Jeremy Bentham (as Michel Perrot points out), the small group is representative of the whole society - the part is already the whole." Colonial authority requires modes of discrimination (cultural, racial, administrative ... ) that disallow a stable unitary assumption of collectivity. The 'part' (which must be the colonialist foreign body) must be representative of the 'whole' (conquered country), but the right of representation is based on its radical difference. Such doublethink is made viable only through the strategy of disavowal just described, which requires a theory of the 'hybridization' of discourse and power that is ignored by theorists who engage in the battle for 'power' but do so only as the purists of difference.

The discriminatory effects of the discourse of cultural colonialism, for instance, do not simply or singly refer to a 'person', or a dialectical power struggle between self and other, or to a discrimination between mother culture and alien cultures. Produced through the strategy of disavowal, the reference of discrimination is always to a process of splitting as the condition of subjection: a discrimination between the mother culture and its bastards, the self and its doubles, where the trace of what is disavowed is not repressed but repeated as something different - a mutation, a hybrid. It is such a partial and double force that is more than the mimetic but less than the symbolic, that disturbs the visibility of the colonial presence and makes the recognition of its authority problematic. To be authoritative, its rules of recognition must reflect consensual knowledge or opinion; to be powerful, these rules of recognition must be reached in order to represent the exorbitant objects of discrimination that he beyond its purview. Consequently, if the unitary (and essentialist) reference to race, nation or cultural tradition is essential to preserve the presence of authority as an immediate mimetic effect, such essentialism must be exceeded in the articulation of 'differentiatory', discriminatory identities. (For a related argument see the description of the pedagogical and the performative in Chapter 8.)

To demonstrate such an 'excess' is not merely to celebrate the joyous power of the signifier. Hybridity is the sign of the productivity of colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities; it is the name for the strategic reversal of the process of domination through disavowal (that is, the production of discriminatory identities that secure the 'pure' and original identity of authority). Hybridity is the revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity through the repetition of discriminatory identity effects. It displays the necessary deformation and displacement of all sites of discrimination and domination. It unsettles the mimetic or narcissistic demands of colonial power but reimplicates its identifications in strategies of subversion that turn the gaze of the discriminated back upon the eye of power. For the colonial hybrid is the articulation of the ambivalent space where the rite of power is enacted on the site of desire, making its objects at once disciplinary and disseminatory - or, in my mixed metaphor, a negative transparency.

If discriminatory effects enable the authorities to keep an eye on them, their proliferating difference evades that eye, escapes that surveillance. Those discriminated against may be instantly recognized, but they also force a re- cognition of the immediacy and articulacy of authority - a disturbing effect that is familiar in the repeated hesitancy afflicting the colonialist discourse when it contemplates its discriminated subjects: the inscrutability of the Chinese, the unspeakable rites of the Indians, the indescribable habits of the Hottentots. It is not that the voice of authority is at a loss for words. It is, rather, that the colonial discourse has reached that point when, faced with the hybridity of its objects, the presence of power is revealed as something other than what its rules of recognition assert.

If the effect of colonial power is seen to be the production of hybridization rather than the noisy command of colonialist authority or the silent repression of native traditions, then an important change of perspective occurs. The ambivalence at the source of traditional discourses on authority enables a form of subversion, founded on the undecidability that turns the discursive conditions of dominance into the grounds of intervention. It is traditional academic wisdom that the presence of authority is properly established through the non-exercise of private judgement and the exclusion of reasons in conflict with the authoritative reason. The recognition of authority, however, requires a validation of its source that must be immediately, even intuitively, apparent - 'You have that in your countenance which I would fain can master' - and held in common (rules of recognition). What is left unacknowledged is the paradox of such a demand for proof and the resulting ambivalence for positions of authority. If, as Steven Lukes rightly says, the acceptance of authority excludes an evaluation of the content of an utterance, and if its source, which must be acknowledged, disavows both conflicting reasons and personal judgement, then can the 'signs' or 'marks' of authority be anything more than 'empty' presences of strategic devices? Need they be any the less effective because of that? Not less effective but effective in a different form, would be our answer.

Tom Nairn reveals a basic ambivalence between the symbols of English imperialism which would not help 'looking universal' and a 'hollowness [that] sounds through the English imperialist mind in a thousand forms: in Rider Haggard's necrophilia, in Kipling's moments of gloomy doubt, . . . in the gloomy cosmic truth of Forster's Marabar caves'." Nairn explains this 'imperial delirium' as the disproportion between the grandiose rhetoric of English imperialism and the real economic and political situation of late Victorian England. I would like to suggest that these crucial moments in English literature are not simply crises of England's own making. They are also the signs of a discontinuous history, an estrangement of the English book. They mark the disturbance of its authoritative representations by the uncanny forces of race, sexuality, violence, cultural and even climatic differences which emerge in the colonial discourse as the mixed and split texts of hybridity. If the appearance of the English book is read as a production of colonial hybridity, then it no longer simply commands authority. It gives rise to a series of questions of authority that, in my bastardized repetition, must sound strangely familiar:

Was it a badge - an ornament - a charm - a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling in this black neck of the woods, this bit of white writing from beyond the seas.

In repeating the scenario of the English book, I hope I have succeeded in representing a colonial difference: it is the effect of uncertainty that afflicts the discourse of power, an uncertainty that estranges the familiar symbol of English 'national' authority and emerges from its colonial appropriation as the sign of its difference. Hybridity is the name of this displacement of value from symbol to sign that causes the dominant discourse to split along the axis of its power to be representative, authoritative. Hybridity represents that ambivalent 'turn' of the discriminated subject into the terrifying, exorbitant object of paranoid classification - a disturbing questioning of the images and presences of authority.

To grasp the ambivalence of hybridity, it must be distinguished from an inversion that would suggest that the originary is, really, only an I effect'. Hybridity has no such perspective of depth or truth to provide: it is not a third term that resolves the tension between two cultures, or the two scenes of the book, in a dialectical play of 'recognition'. The displacement from symbol to sign creates a crisis for any concept of authority based on a system of recognition: colonial specularity, doubly inscribed, does not produce a mirror where the self apprehends itself; it is always the split screen of the self and its doubling, the hybrid.

These metaphors are very much to the point, because they suggest that colonial hybridity is not a problem of genealogy or identity between two different cultures which can then be resolved as an issue of cultural relativism. Hybridity is a problematic of colonial representation and individuation that reverses the effects of the colonialist disavowal, so that other 'denied' knowledges enter upon the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority - its rules of recognition. Again, it must be stressed, it is not simply the content of disavowed knowledges, - be they forms of cultural otherness or traditions of colonialist treachery - that return to be acknowledged as counter- authorities. For the resolution of conflicts between authorities, civil discourse always maintains an adjudicative procedure. What is irremediably estranging in the presence of the hybrid - in the revaluation of the symbol of national authority as the sign of colonial difference - is that the difference of cultures can no longer be identified or evaluated as objects of epistemological or moral contemplation: cultural differences are not simply there to be seen or appropriated.

Hybridity reverses the formal process of disavowal so that the violent dislocation of the act of colonization becomes the conditionality of colonial discourse. The presence of colonialist authority is no longer immediately visible; its discriminatory identifications no longer have their authoritative reference to this culture's cannibalism or that people's perfidy. As an articulation of displacement and dislocation, it is now possible to identify 'the cultural' as a disposal of power, a negative transparency that comes to be agonistically constructed on the boundary between frame of reference/frame of mind. It is crucial to remember that the colonial construction of the cultural (the site of the civilizing mission) through the process of disavowal is authoritative to the extent to which it is structured around the ambivalence of splitting, denial, repetition - strategies of defence that mobilize culture as an opentextured, warlike strategy whose aim 'is rather a continued agony than a total disappearance of the pre-existing culture'.

To see the cultural not as the source of conflict - different cultures - but as the effect of discriminatory practices - the production of cultural differentiation as signs of authority - changes its value and its rules of recognition. Hybridity intervenes in the exercise of authority not merely to indicate the impossibility of its identity but to represent the unpredictability of its presence. The book retains its presence, but it is no longer a representation of an essence; it is now a partial presence, a colonial engagement, an appurtenance of (strategic) device in a specific authority.

From The Location of Culture, © 1994, Routledge.

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