Roger’s Rules

First tragedy, then farce dept., bureau of advanced academic fatuousness

Many of my readers, being sensible souls, will be innocent of the name Homi K. Bhabha. The former Chester D. Tripp Professor of the Humanities at the University of Chicago is now the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard as well as Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at University College, London. Pretty impressive, eh? Professor Bhabha made his name as an exponent of “post-colonial studies,” i.e., a reader-proof species of anti-Western multicultural claptrap that even now makes many graduate students salivate. In case you believe that “reader-proof” is unkind, allow me to introduce you to this snippet from his much-admired essay “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”:

Within that conflictual economy of colonial discourse which Edward Said describes as the tension between the synchronic panoptical vision of domination–the demand for identity, stasis–and the counter-pressure of the diachrony of history–change, difference–mimicry represents an ironic compromise. If I may adapt Samuel Weber’s formulation of the marginalizing vision of castration, . . .

Well, let’s draw a veil over Mr. Weber’s “marginalizing vision.” You get the drift. And the amazing thing is that Professor Bhahba can keep it up over the long haul. The whole essay is just like that. Here, for example, are his concluding observations

In the ambivalent world of the “not quite/not white,” on the margins of metropolitan desire, the founding objects of the Western world become the erratic, eccentric, accidental objets trouvés of the colonial discourse–the part-objects of presence. It is then that the body and the book loose [sic] their representational authority. Black skin splits under the racist gaze, displaced into signs of bestiality, genitalia, grotesquerie, which reveal the phobic myth of the undifferentiated whole white body.

I first read those words back in the 1980s and knew instantly that its author was destined for academic stardom. And so it has come to pass. Homi K. Bhabaha has it all: exotic name, correct ethnic background, impeccable left-wing political opinions, and a prose style that you’d need dynamite to penetrate. Professor Bhabha spends most of his time emitting anti-Western and especially anti-American sentiments for his admiring colleagues and students. What better place to dispense wisdom about the depredations of the West than Harvard University, that great friend of the wretched of the earth? But even Marxoid professors of post-colonial studies must occasionally relax. What do you suppose Homi K. Bhabha does in his spare time? The Harvard Alumni magazine has part of the story. Last year’s May-June issue, which I am only now seeing for the first time, has a two-page color spread advertising a number of Harvard Alumni cruises. One that we just missed–it was scheduled for February 22 – March 9, 2008–invited Harvard alums to “Experience Rajasthan as the royal families did. Your journey traces the battles of medieval Rajput kingdoms with the Mughals, and highlights the resulting diversity of art, architecture, and culture,” etc., etc. And the best part? Your guides for the 17-day trip were Homi and Jackie Bhabha. What a missed opportunity! Check out this site for updated information: who knows where they might be going next!!