Mimicry, Ambivalence, and Hybridity
Daniel Dafoe’s 1719 novel, Robinson Crusoe, is a rich text for understanding the mechanisms of European colonialism and the relation between the colonizer and the colonized (represented by Crusoe and Friday). Dafoe represents Crusoe as being the ultimate incarnation of an Englishman: industrious, self-determining and ready to colonize natives. Crusoe encounters a native and he names him Friday, teaches him English, the words of God, and slowly “civilizes” the dark-skinned native. Although the novel forecloses any possibility of understanding Friday’s experience, a reader could start to wonder how Friday’s relation to Crusoe affects his own sense of identity. In the novel, we only see Friday as mimicking Crusoe and civilization–but what effects does this mimicry have on a colonized subject and psyche? And how does mimicry and hybridity affect textual representation and signification? The term hybridity has become one of the most recurrent concepts in postcolonial cultural criticism. It is meant to foreclose the diverse forms of purity encompassed within essentialist theories. Homi Bhabha is the leading contemporary critic who has tried to disclose the contradictions inherent in colonial discourse in order to highlight the colonizer’s ambivalence in respect to his position toward the colonized Other. The simple presence of the colonized Other within the textual structure is enough evidence of the ambivalence of the colonial text, an ambivalence that destabilizes its claim for absolute authority or unquestionable authenticity.
Along with Tom Nairn, Homi Bhabha considers the confusion and hollowness that resistance produces in the minds of such imperialist authors as Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, and E. M. Forster. But while Nairn sees their colonialist grandiose rhetoric as disproportionate to the real decadent economic and political situation of late Victorian England, Bhabha goes as far as to see this imperial delirium...
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