Friday, February 3

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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?
Postcolonial Writing: Key Quotes
Homi K. Bhabha, Hybridity, and the In-between
“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 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, inbetween ‚ 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).
Gayatri Spivak and the Subaltern
“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 1983, Spivak famously asked: “Can the subaltern speak?”
What do you think?
Edward Said and Orientalism
“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, willto-truth, and knowledge” (Orientalism 204).
Paul Gilroy, the Black Atlantic,
and Double Consciousness
“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).
Rohinton Mistry’s “Squatter”
Key Quotes
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, 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 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)
“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 ultimate goal of pure white Wonder Bread” (Mistry, 310).
“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)
Clarke’s “The Motor Car”
“I think I’m justified in saying that Toronto has always been
racist”
(Interview with Clarke in Other Solitudes, p. 64).
“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 else is this text about?
Let’s also discuss Clarke’s narration, which is
unique and engaging, if difficult.
What does the motor car symbolize? What do the
“accidents” mean?
Mistry and Clarke both have very distinct writing
styles. Whose do you find more compelling, and
why?
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