Where is the Bhabha Atomic Research Center

Free University of Berlin

The “paradoxical community”: Bhabha began his lecture with the term that the literary theorist Julia Kristeva coined in her book “Strangers are ourselves”, which took up and connected the political, philosophical, literary and artistic-aesthetic aspects of identification .

In her book, Kristeva describes the situation in France around twenty years ago, when migrants saw themselves as part of their own and a foreign culture. Kristeva's words about the paradoxical community were always present to Bhabha - people with different cultural identities who live and work side by side. Bhabha tried to link the concept of the paradoxical community with the idea of ​​a “fragile politics of recognition of the other”, which is the prerequisite for survival for the scientist who grew up in Mumbai and who has long lived in the USA.

From Kristeva to Hegel to Lévinas and Derrida

Here Bhaba referred to Hegel - the namesake of the lecture - whose presence has never been greater in our multicultural and transnational times, in which the question of the alienation of one's own consciousness and the relationship between the individual and the foreign has never been greater.

The ethical principles of recognition of the other - dignity, respect, freedom or fairness - are only quasi-universal, according to Bhabha. For Bhabha, universality can only be established through repetition, in such a way that recognition of the other is always anticipated and must therefore represent an essential part of our democratic repetition rituals.

From Julia Kristeva to Hegel to Emmanuel Lévinas and Jacques Derrida: Bhabha asked what it means in practice to combine language and hospitality as concepts, what separates unconditional from conditional hospitality, and how theoretical concepts such as language and hospitality can emerge from the ivory tower and be taken up by social reformers and politicians in everyday life. Bhabha is concerned with a so-called third space, in which opposites have to be constantly renegotiated and negotiated.

The self and the other in Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness"

Bhabha then discussed his idea of ​​a third room using the example of the novel "Herz der Finsternis" ("Heart of Darkness"), with which Joseph Conrad achieved world fame in 1899. A story that impressively describes both the opposition between the self and the other as well as the binary in its various forms. Marlow, the narrator, travels to the Congo on behalf of a Belgian trading company, where he experiences the futility of the exploitation of blacks and has to reassure himself time and again of his role, his identity in relation to the other.

Marlow loses distance, approaches the strange black, the black stranger and recognizes a piece of white wool on his neck. By worrying about the origin of this piece of wool, Marlow enters a “third room”, according to Bhabha, in which he establishes a dialogical closeness to the other and experiences the “moment of recognition”. Recognition, according to Bhabha, encompasses both the other's unconscious and the inability to penetrate the other. Both are an indispensable basis for a new ethic of recognition.

Finally, Bhabha showed photographic works by the Palestinian-American artist Emily Jacir, which, with the help of two photos that show a similar situation in New York and Ramallah, depicts the juxtaposition of one's own and foreign cultures, making the boundaries between cultures indefinable. because every photo could be taken in both places.

About the cultural theorist Homi K. Bhabha

Homi Bhabha's book "The Location of Culture", published in 1994, received worldwide attention, in which he analyzes the relationship between the colonized and the colonized and discusses the differences within cultural identities. “Cultures are never inherently uniform, and they are never simply dualistic in their self-to-other relationship,” writes Bhabha.

Homi Bhabha was born in Mumbai, India in 1949. He studied at Elphinstone College, University of Mumbai and Oxford University, where he received his PhD in 1990. Homi Bhabha is Anne F. Rothenberg Professor for the Humanities and Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University. As a member of the international advisory board of the Free University of Berlin, he advises the “Graduate School of North American Studies” and the “Interweaving Performance Cultures” research center funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.