Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Homi Bhabha-Boundaries

In the introduction to his book The Location of Culture, Homi Bhabha focuses heavily on the boundaries that are created between cultures and how by existing in the "beyond" in between such boundaries, one can gain a better understanding of the present. He argues that although the purpose of these so-called boundaries is to point out differences, there is nothing natural about them. Boundaries are constructed to point out differences because differences must be recognized if any kind of hierarchy is to be established. He says, "social differences are not simply given to experience through an already authenticated cultural tradition; they are signs of the 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 construction, to the political conditions of the present" (p. 3). By existing in the "beyond" that is between boundaries, he thinks that one gets a more accurate experience of the present and the way of telling what will be history. He believes that "to dwell 'in the beyond' be part of a revisionary time, a return to the present to redescribe our cultural contemporaneity; to rein scribe our human historic commonality; to touch the future on its hither side" (p. 7). 

The image that I chose is what I believe to represent that mystical area of the "beyond". The photo is called "Newsham Road TMO Level Crossing" by Jonathon Hurley and I found it on Flickr. I chose it because the image depicts a railroad passing between two fences (aka boundaries). I would think that a train passing on the tracks through this area would be existing in a kind of 'beyond' like Bhabha talks about.

While I thought Bhabha was a little hard to follow at times, especially when he referred to so many other literature and artistic works to make his points, I liked his idea of this "beyond". I think there's a lot of truth in the idea of getting a more authentic view of the present by existing a place between boundaries because you never really recognize your own culture until you step outside of it. There is just what you have determined as normal and how other cultures are different from your version of normal. By existing between two cultures, it would force you to look at both at the same time, rather than one based off the other, and I think that is what Bhabha is trying to make clear.

What did other people think about this mysterious "beyond"? Have you ever had an experience where you recognized how strange your own culture is by being in a place with a completely different culture?


  1. Kendal, I like the two ideas you brought here of the idealistic normal compared to an outside culture, and the understanding of the present after going beyond it.

    It may just be my utter puzzlement with Bhabha's words/argument/everything, but it seemed that at the end of your post you combine the ideas of cultural identification and the understanding of time within polar linear points. Is there a connection between identity within a point in time and culture as well? Does it change by the future in which you find yourself in a different culture? Or am I maybe reading this wrong - which is likely.

    Loved the writing!

  2. "You never recognize your own culture until you step outside it." VERY nice!