Neville 'kamau' Crawford  HIDDEN WOUNDS (1994)   More. . .
Cultural Identity and Diaspora --Hall Politics of Difference --Rutherford

"Cultural Identity and Diaspora"
Hall, Stuart.

In Williams, Patrick & Laura Chrisman eds. Colonial Discourse & Postcolonial Theory: A Reader.   Harvester Whaeatsheaf, 1993.  ---  The following quotes are made according to this version.
and Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990.
Major Argument: There are two kinds of identity, identity as being (which offers a sense of unity and commonality) and identity as becoming (or a process of identification, which shows the discontinuity in our identity formation.)  Hall uses the Caribbean identities, including his own, to explain how the first one is necessary, but the second one is truer to their/our postcolonial conditions.   To explain the process of identity formation, Hall uses Derrida's theory differance as support, and Hall sees the temporary positioning of identity as "strategic" and arbitrary.  He then uses the three presences--African, European, and American--in the Caribbean to illustrate the idea of "traces" in our identity.  Finally, he defines the Caribbean identity as disapora identity.   

artistic examples: 1) Armet Francis photographs the peoples of the Black Triangle

2) THE MIDDLE PASSAGE TOM FEELINGS "When I am asked who I am, I say, I am an African who was born in America. Both answers connect me specifically with my past and present ... therefore I bring to my art a quality which is rooted in the culture of Africa ... and expanded by the experience of being in America." (source)

Starting Questions:

1) How is identity defined by Stuart Hall? What has identity to do with subject position? Why is it both being and becoming? Does he show preference for one or the other? How does he use and revise Derrida idea of differance?

2) How does Hall describe the hybridity of Caribbean identity as a mixture of the African, European and American identity? Can we relate it to Taiwanese' hybrid identity?

3) How does Hall define diaspora identity? Do we share this sense of identity? How is it related to Brah's way of discussing diaspora as a theoretical concept (in terms of home/homeland, border, location and diaspora space)?

1. identity as oneness
p. 393  "This oneness, underlying all the other, more superficial differences, is the truth, the essence, of "Caribbeanness', of black experience.  . .  .
We should not, for a moment, underestimate or neglect the importance of the act of imaginative rediscovery which this conception of a rediscovered, essential identity entails."

[Hall acknowledges the importance of this sense of  identity, but he also emphasizes its fictive nature.]

2.   identity as  discontinuous points of identification
p. 394  "We cannot speak for very long, with any exactness, about 'one experience, one identity,' without acknowledging its other side--the ruptures and discontinuities which constitute, precisely, the Caribbean's 'uniqueness.'"
  • Cultural identities...Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous 'play' of history, culture and power.
  • Identities are the names we give the the different ways 1) we are positioned by, and 2) position ourselves within the narratives of the past.
A. [the first kind of otherness: self-othering]  394-95  [otherness as an inner compulsion]
'the colonial experience'--Not only, in Said's 'Orientalist' sense, were we constructed as different and other within the categories of knowledge of the West by those regimes. They had the power to make us see and experience ourselves as 'Other." . . . It is one thing to position a subject or set of peoples as the Other fo a dominant discourse. It is quite another thing to subject them to that 'knowledge,' not only as a matter of imposed will and domination, byt the power of inner compulsion and subjective con-formation to the norm. ...

This inner expropriation of cultural idenitty cripples and deforms. If its silences are not resisted, they produce, in Fanon's vivid phrase, 'individuals without an anchor, without horizon, colourless, stateless, rootless--a race of angels'

p. 395--

Cultural identities are the points of identification, the unstable points of identification or suture, which are made, within the discourses of history and culture. Not an essence but a positioning.

B. [the second kind of otherness: creolization; racial mixture; differences within the different islands]
...We might think of black Caribbean identities as 'framed' by two axes or vectors, simultaneously operative: the vector of similarity and continuity; and the vector of difference and rupture. ...thought of in terms of the dialogic relationship between these two axes. The one gives us some grounding in, some continuity with, the past. The second reminds us that what we share is precisely the experience of a profound discontinuity: the people dragged into slavery, transportation, colonisation migration, came predominantly from Africa--and when that supply ended, it was temporarily refreshed by indentured labour from the Asian subcontinent.

p. 395
The third kind of otherness -- otherness to different metropolitan centers.

To return to the Caribbean after any long absence is to experience again the shock of the 'doubleness' of similarity and difference.

3.  Derrida's differance is used to explain cultural difference.
p. 397  ". . . if signfication depends upon the endless repositioning of its differential terms, meaning, in any specific instance, depends on the contingent and arbitrary stop -- the necessary and temporary 'break' in the infinite semiosis of language.  This does not detract from the original insight.  It only threatens to do so if we mistake this 'cut' of identity--this positioning, which makes meaning possible-- as a natrual and permanent, rather than an arbitrary and contingent 'ending'--whereas I understand every such position as 'strategic' and arbitrary, in the sense that there is no permanent equivalence between the particular sentence we close, and its true meaning, as such.

4. The three traces in Caribbean Identity
Caribbean identity--diaspora
  • Presence/absence Africaine or the site of the repressed: the unspoken unspeakable presence
[Hall's own experience of re-discovering 'Africa' and his being 'black' in 1970's.]
  • Presence Europeenne [about exclusion, imposition and expropriation of colonial discourse]
p. 400 

What Frantz Fanon reminds us, in Black Skin, White Mask, is how this power has become a constitutive element in our own identities. ... 

This 'look,' from--so to speak-- the place of the Other, fixes us, not only in its violence, hostility and aggression, but in the ambivalence of its desire. This brings us face to face, not simply with the dominating European presence as the site or 'scene' of integration where those other presences which it had actively disaggregated were recomposed--...but as the site of a profound splitting and doubling--what Homi Bhabha has called 'the ambivalent identifications of the racist world...the 'otherness' of the self inscribed in the perverse palimpsest of colonial identity.

  • Presence Americaine

The Third, 'New World" presence is not so much power, as ground, place, territory. It is a  juncture-point where the many cultural tributaries meet, the 'empty' land  (the European colonisers emptied it) where strangers from  everry otherr  part of the globe collided. 

p. 401 The 'new world' presence--America...--is therefore itself the beginning of diaspora, of diversity, of hybridity and difference, what makes Afro-Caribbean people already people of a diaspora. I use this term here metaphorically, not literally: diaspora does not refer us to those scattered tribes whose identity can only be secured in relation to some sacred homeland to which they must al all cost return, even if it means pushing other people into the sea. This is the old, the imperializing, the hegemonising, form of 'ethnicity'. ... 

5. p. 401-402  The diaspora experience as I intend it here is defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeniety and diversity; by a conception of 'identity' which lives with and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity. Diaspora identities are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference.

Neville 'kamau' Crawford RESIST (1985)
diaspora aesthetic p. 236

'Across a whole range of cultural forms there is a 'syncretic' dynamic which critically appropriates elements from the master-codes of the dominant culture and 'creolises' them, disarticulating given signs and re-articulating their symbolic meaning. The subversive force of this hybridizing tendency is most apparent at the level of language itself where creoles, patois and black English decentre, destablise and carnivalise the linguistic domination of 'English'--the nation-language of master-discourse--through strategic inflections, re-accentuations and other performative moves in semantic, syntactic and lexical codes.

Jonathan Rutherford  "A Place Called Home: Identity and the Culture Politics of Difference" 9-27  from Identity: Community, Culture, Difference. Ed. Jonathan Rutherford. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990.

p. 19

Gramsci described this articulation as 'the starting point of critical elaboration': it is the consciousness of what one really is, and in 'knowing thyself' as a product of the historical process to date which has deposited an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory'. Identity marks the conjuncture of our past with the social, cultural and economic relations we live within. 'Each invididual is the synthesis not only of existing relations but of the history of these relations. He is a precis of the past.' ...

This politics of articulation eschews all forms of fixity and essentialism; social, political and class formations do not exist a priori, they are a product of articulation. Stuart Hall has termed this the politics of 'no necessary or essential corespondence of anything with anything' and it marks a significant break with a Marxism that has assumed an underlying totality to social relations.

politics of difference

The cultural politics of difference means living with incommensurability through new ethical and democratic frameworks, within a culture that both recognises difference and is commited to resolving its antagomisms.

politics of articulation--S. Hall

p. 107   It seems to me that it is possible to think aobut the nature of new political identities, which isn't founded on the notion of some absolute integral self and which clearly can't arise from some fully closed narrative of the self. A politics which accepts the 'no necessary or essential correspondence of anything with anything, and there has ....