[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic

Passive Encounter -- Active Encounter of Interstitial Spaces/Contact Zones

Part One: Recreating the Contact Zone

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Fragmentation, then, is the topological mode that produces the nomadic text in the hypertextual environment. The spaces in-between the textual units enable the reader to trace multiple routes, creating a zone of fluid transformation occupied by the hypertextual subject. Joyce describes hypertext as "Offering both a mode for the interstitial narrative and a medium of interstitial imagination, hypertext writes in the gap between the lines and the senses alike" (206). Hypertextual links do not only lead to continuation of narrative stream, they also serve to fracture the textual surface giving rise to Deleuzian smooth space with a great potential for deterritorialization. This is an intensive space characterized by forces rather than forms, directions rather than dimensions. In the smooth surface of hypertext, the textual nodes exists between the lines of traversal and it is the latter that acquire precedence over the former giving rise to the open spaces of the text with a potential for multiple trajectories.

Translated into the postcolonial context, the active encounter between cultures creates zones of hybrid languages and experiences which Marie Louise Pratt calls the "contact zone." Through the use of the term "contact zone," Pratt wants "to invoke the spatial and temporal copresence of subjects previously separated by geographic and historical disjunctures, and whose trajectories now intersect." The "contact" perspective "foregrounds the interactive, improvisational dimensions of colonial encounters so easily ignored or suppressed by diffusionist accounts of conquest and domination." (1992: 6-7). The 'borderlands' of postcolonial discourse is such a contact zone where the dominant and the marginal cultures meet.

Homi Bhabha terms the mobile zone of interaction as the "third space" which is marked by "hybridity." The concept of third space represents the act of encounter which is always in a fluid state since it is always in a state of becoming and hence, cannot be fixed into any stable final formulation. (1995: 208). Recognition of the existence of the third space in theoretical discourse and actually descending into this split space "may open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on exoticism or multi-culturalism of the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture's hybridity." Through retrieving the third space from its invisible status, Bhaba notes, we can find "those words with which we can speak of Ourselves and Others. And by exploring this hybridity, this 'Third Space,' we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves" (1995: 209). As Bhabha points out, meaningful cultural engagement of any kind can result only through processual acts (which he calls performative) that are realized in the spatial practices. Minority cultural traditions are not fixed in time and any articulation from within these traditions must involve a complex and ongoing negotiation with spaces marked with disjunctures and contingencies that resist reification into categories. The realization of identity in the interstitial spaces is not fixed, since the self is always emerging and processual, constituted not of synchronous presence, but in asynchronous realization of moments of repetition and difference. Thus, Bhabha notes that border art "demands an encounter with newness that is not part of the continuum of past and present. It creates the sense of the now as an insurgent act of cultural translation. Such art does not merely recall the past as social C cause or aesthetic precedent; it renews the past, refiguring it as a contingent 4) 'in-between' space, that innovates and interrupts performance of the present. t The 'past present' becomes part of the necessity, not the nostalgia of living" (1994: 7).

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes

Last Modified: 14 March, 2002