Friday, February 3. Brainstorming tool: MindNode. Discussion Question.
Why do Sarosh and Calvin struggle to fit in? The difficulties appear to be a combination of social, economic, and cultural factors, but can we complicate this a little bit? Further, both characters seem to suffer from a degree of paranoia. Is this paranoia (if we can call it that) the result of the characters’ collective experiences, or something ingrained in their individual psyches?
“The move away from the singularities of ‘class’ or ‘gender’ as primary conceptual and organizational categories, has resulted in an awareness of the subject positions —of race, gender, generation, institutional location, geopolitical locale, sexual orientation—that inhabit any claim to identity in the modern world. What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These ‘in-between’ spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood – singular or communal – that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself” — Homi K. Bhabha (The Location of Culture 2)
“The stairwell as liminal space, in-between the designations of identity, becomes the process of symbolic interaction, the connective tissue that constructs the difference between upper and lower, black and white. The hither and thither of the stairwell, the temporal movement and passage that it allows, prevents identities at either end of it from settling into primordial polarities. This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy.”— Bhabha (The Location of Culture 5).
“What is at issue is the designations of identity, becomes the process of symbolic interaction, the connective tissue that constructs the difference between upper and lower, black and white. The hither and thither of the stairwell, the temporal movement and passage that it allows, prevents identities at either end of it from settling into primordial polarities. This interstitial passage between fixed identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that entertains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy.”performative nature of differential identities: the regulation and negotiation of those spaces that are continually, contingently, ‘opening out,’ remaking the boundaries, exposing the limits of any claim to a singular or autonomous sign of difference— be it class, gender or race. Such assignations of social differences — where difference is neither One nor the Other but something else besides, in-between ‚ find their agency in a form of the ‘future’ where the past is not originary, where the present is not simply transitory. It is, if I may stretch a point, an interstitial future, that emerges in-between the claims of the past and the needs of the present.” — Bhabha (The Location of Culture 313).
“How, then, can one learn from and speak to the millions of illiterate rural and urban Indian women who live in the pores of capitalism, inaccessible to the capitalist dynamics that allow us our shared channels of communication, the definition of common enemies? The pioneering books that bring First World feminists news from the Third World are written by privileged informants and can only be deciphered by a trained readership . . . This is not the tired nationalist claim that only a native can know the scene. The point that I am trying to make is that, in order to learn enough about Third World women and to develop a different readership, the immense heterogeneity of the field must be appreciated, and the First World woman must learn to stop feeling privileged as a woman.” — Spivak (In Other Worlds 135)
“In many ways my study of Orientalism has been an attempt to inventory the traces upon me, the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals.”— Edward Said (Orientalism 25)
“Unlike the Americans, the French and British . . . have had a long tradition of what I shall be calling Orientalism, a way of coming to terms with the Orient that is based on the Orient’s special place in European Western Experience. The Orient is not only adjacent to Europe; it is also the place of Europe’s greatest and richest and oldest colonies, the source of its civilizations and languages, its cultural contestant, and one of its deepest and most recurring images of the Other. In addition, the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of this Orient is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of European material civilization and culture. Orientalism expresses and represents that part culturally and even ideologically as a a mode of discourse with supporting institutions, vocabulary, scholarship, imagery, doctrines, even colonial bureaucracies and colonial styles” (original emphasis; Said 1-2).“Anyone who teaches, writes about, or researches the Orient—and this applies whether the person is an anthropologist, sociologist, historian, or philologist—either in its specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist, and what he or she says or does is Orientalism” (Said 2)
“Orientalism is a style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident.’ Thus a very large mass of writers, among who are poets, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, ‘mind,’ destiny, and so on” (Orientalism 3).“My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness” (Orientalism 204).“As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge” (Orientalism 204).
“There is a culture that is not specifically African, American, Caribbean, or British, but all of these at once; a black Atlantic culture whose themes and techniques transcend ethnicity and nationality to produce something new and, until now, unremarked”— Gilroy (from the book jacket of The Black Atlantic).
“The specificity of the modern political and cultural formation I want to call the Black Atlantic can be defined, on one level, through [a] desire to transcend both the structures of the nation state and the constraints of ethnicity and national particularity. These desires are relevant to understanding political organizing and cultural criticism. They have always sat uneasily alongside the strategic choices forced on black movements and individuals embedded in national and political cultures and nation-states in America, the Caribbean, and Europe.” — Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic 19)
“I have settled on the image of ships in motion across the spaces between Europe, America, Africa, and the Caribbean as a central organising symbol for this enterprise and as my starting point. The image of the ship—a living, microcultural, micro-political system in motion—is especially important for historical and theoretical reasons. . . . Ships immediately focus attention on the middle passage, on the various projects for redemptive return to an African homeland, on the circulation of ideas and activists as well as the movement of key cultural and political artefacts: tracts, books, gramophone records, and choirs” (The Black Atlantic 4).
In your [stories] there’s a suggestion of a clash between the old culture of India and the new culture of Canada.“I don’t think I really see it as a clash. I see it more as an opportunity to put things in there proper places. If you have a cupboard with a certain amount of space in it, then you have to arrange your belongings in that cupboard the best way you can, given the space. But if you buy a new cupboard you have more space.Yes, but isn’t this rather schizophrenic?Only if I try to pretend there is just one, where there are two in reality.Do the cupboards have to be separate?But they’re in the same room, aren’t they? Any I have the keys to both.(Interview with Mistry in Other Solitudes, p. 257).
“I came from Bombay to Toronto; I lived in an apartment building. But I don’t think this looking forward and yearning backward is restricted to an immigrant. It’s a universal phenomenon. We’re doing it all the time, all of us, except that here, the two worlds are so far apart geographically that it seems to take on more significance”(Interview with Mistry in Other Solitudes, p. 257-258).“It took some time for me to realize that I’m not that different from a person who has lived in Toronto all his life.”(Interview with Mistry in Other Solitudes, p. 257-258).
Multiculturalism has received a great deal of attention, both positive and negative, in recent years. In your view, is there any difference between the clichés of Canadian multiculturalism and the American melting pot?They’ve both become clichés over time. Whatever means they use, the results are the same. Look around us. Canada and the United States: there’s racism in both places. Neither cliché is achieving what it’s supposed to achieve. The melting pot has not been able to bring everyone together as Americans, by transcending hatred, fear, bigotry, colour prejudice. Multiculturalism is supposed to promote peace and harmony, to foster respect and appreciation for our differences. But it does not. But multiculturalism is also expected to do more than it can is being blamed where it should not be blamed. It is accused of creating ethnic ghettos, but ethnic ghettos have always existed—inside and outside the melting pot.”(Interview with Mistry in Other Solitudes, p. 258).
“Once, both positive and negative, in recent years. In your view, is there any difference between the clichés of Canadian multiculturalism and the American melting pot?Jehangir had overheard them discussing Nariman’s stories, and he could not help expressing his opinion: that unpredictability was the brush he used to paint his tales with, and ambiguity the palette he mixed his colours in. The others looks at him with admiration. Then Viraf asked what exactly he meant by that. Jehangir said that Nariman sometimes told a funny incident in a very serious way, or expressed a significant matter in a light and playful manner. And these were only two rough divisions, between were lots of subtle gradations of tone and texture. Which, then, was the funny story and which the serious? Their opinions were divided, but ultimately, said Jehangir, it was up to the listener to decide”(Mistry 302)
“You see, ten years was the time both positive and negative, in recent years. In your view, is there any difference between the clichés of Canadian multiculturalism and the American melting pot?Sarosh had set himself to achieve complete adaptation to the new country. But how could he claim adaptation with any honesty if the acceptable catharsis continually failed to favour him? Obtaining his new citizenship had not helped either. He remained dependent on the old way, and this unalterable fact, strengthened afresh every morning of his life in the new country, suffocated him.”(my emphasis; Mistry 307)
“ both positive and negative, in recent years. In your view, is there any difference between the clichés of Canadian multiculturalism and the American melting pot?The world of washrooms is private and a the same time very public. The absence of his feet below the stall door, the smell of faeces, the rustle of paper, glimpses caught through the narrow crack between stall door and jamb—all these added up to only one thing: a foreign presence in the stall, not doing things in the conventional way. And if the one outside could receive the fetor of Sarosh’s business wafting through the door, poor unhappy Sarosh too could detect something malodorous in the air: the presence of xenophobia and hostility” (Mistry, 308).
“The Multicultural Department is a Canadian invention. It is supposed to ensure that ethnic cultures are able to flourish, so that Canadian society will consist of a mosaic of cultures—that’s their favourite word, mosaic—instead of one uniform mix, like the America melting pot. If you ask me, mosaic and the melting pot are both nonsense, and ethnic is the polite way of saying bloody foreigner.”(Mistry 311)
“It took me considerable time to decide to be a Canadian citizen—from 1955 until 1981—and at that time I was not going through any anxiousness of duality: I just was not Canadian; I was Barbadian. That is not to say that, now that I am a Canadian citizen, I am not Barbadian, because I am Barbadian by nature—the best of me is Barbadian; the of my memories are Barbadian. But when I look at my presence in this country, the problems of duality arise each time there is a threat to my stability, each time there is a slur on a whole group of persons with whom I could easily identify, each time there is a slur on a larger group of persons with whom I politically have to identify”(Interview with Clarke in Other Solitudes, p. 69).
“I have always insisted that the black cannot be racist in any meaningful sense; he may have attitudes or feelings that may not be entirely endearing to another group, but for him to be racist seems to me to be a contradiction in terms, since he does not have the power in the society in which he is living to take advantage of these feelings of disagreeableness; he could only think or dream that he does not like a person, but he could certainly not to anything to thwart him.” (my emphasis; interview with Clarke in Other Solitudes, p. 69).
What additional themes can we read into this text? What any meaningful sense; he may have attitudes or feelings that may not be entirely endearing to another group, but for him to be racist seems to me to be a contradiction in terms, since else is this text about?Let’s also discuss Clarke’s narration, which is unique and engaging, if difficult.