Mimicry and Hybridity

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In reply to what she considered “Imperial apologists peddling fairytales,” Priyamvada Gopal attacks Niall Ferguson’s assertion that “when a Chinese woman marries a European man, the chances are relatively high…that only the first child they conceive will be viable” in defense of his thesis that preference for the “Other” is unnatural while racism or, as is preferred today “preference,” is innate and instinctive. Such an allegation recalls the fear, resistance and disgust with which the colonizer approached hybridity. In the effort to constrain hybridity, the colonizer categorized the culture of the colonized, through mechanisms such as Anderson’s Census, Map and Museum. Nevertheless, it was to mimicry that the colonizer turned to rule over the colonized, at once weakening its claim to authority as mimicry encourages the hybridity that the colonizer resists and equips the colonized to resist the authority of the colonizer. By refusing to accept hybridity yet utilizing mimicry within the colonized, the colonizer becomes a manifestation of ambivalence as he creates the conditions necessary for the drive for liberation and inevitably further hybridity. In a sense consideration of hybridity assumes the existence of distinct categories that must some how mix and merge; moreover, in its opposition to hybridity, the colonizer appealed to the concrete existence of these categories that it arguably created. Some of the methods through which the colonizer created the identity and hence category of the colonized were the Census, the Map and the Museum. The census demonstrates the colonizer’s preoccupation with category, more specifically, categories that held meaning only for the colonizer. In interpreting Hirschman, Anderson notes “as the colonial period wore on, the census categories became more visibly and exclusively racial…it is extremely unlikely that, in 1911, more than a tiny fraction of those categorized and subcategorized would have recognized themselves under such labels” (Anderson, 164-165). Not only were these categories the singular imaginings of the colonial power, they were also inescapable as “one notes, in addition, the census-makers’ passion for completeness and un-ambiguity. Hence their intolerance of multiple, politically ‘transvestite,’ blurred, or changing identifications. Hence the weird subcategory, under each racial group, of ‘Others’—who, nonetheless, are absolutely not to be confused with other ‘Others’;” consequently, “the fiction of the census is that everyone is in it, and that everyone has one—and only one—extremely clear place. No fractions” (Anderson 166). In their inescapability, in their concrete immobile parameters, they denied, ignored or denigrated hybridity. In a manner similar to the way in which the Census represents the desire of the colonizer to seal itself and principally the colonized into fixed categories, the Map too in the hands of the colonizer becomes a action against hybridity. The map, it may be said, is a method through which a group of appreciates its cosmology—the order of things in its world. For example, prior to the creation of its firm national borders by the colonization of the lands surrounding it, Siam possessed only two maps. One, contrary to the Western tradition, was a vertically oriented cosmograph marking the heavens and the hells. The other, also divergent from the Western sort, ignored scale, “were usually drawn in a queer oblique perspective or mixture of perspectives, as if the drawers’ eyes, accustomed from daily life to see the landscape horizontally, at eye-level, nonetheless were influenced subliminally by the verticality of the cosmograph,” and charted military campaigns and coastal trade (Anderson, 171). In terms of hybridity and the rejection of hybridity, what is most important to note about both types of maps found in Siam prior to the influence, however external, of colonialism is that these maps marked no borders—the concept of such tangible, immutable...
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