is written by victors. Legends are woven by the people.Writers
fantasize. Only death is certain". (Danilo Kis, The Encyclopedia of the Dead,
While reading the problematic of the Gulf War in this ontological perspective,
Shapiro compares Hegel and Lacan. He states that Lacan "privileges
the dynamics of representation rather than what is represented"
(57) and that the subject "knows
itself through others while at the same time misrecognizing this
dependence and assuming itself to be wholly self-contained".
In this case, the nation-state's aim is to overcode
this ontological desire through discursive means(12) which hide the
fact that the impulse against alterity is, in part, a stand-in
for an inner coherence. This rejection of alterity playing on
the definition of spatial relations linked to the dominant practices
of intelligibility excluding alternative worlds (Foucault: 1989),
is also central to Said's notion of the
violence of imperialism (1993), and of its control
over stories, be they history (and not "her" story)
or the daily information coming from the media (Imbert: 1998).
This rejection of alterity is also related
to the question of the appropriation mimesis (Girard: 1987) whose basic goal is to control
"reality" through representational
process which, in colonial discourses, is inflected towards mimicry
and which regularly generates victimization processes. It is by
using the example of two babies fighting for one toy, although
another identical toy is at hand, that Girard demonstrates the
manifestation of the desire to assert one's own symbolic and economic
power, and one's individuality and freedom. However, it also leads
to a world where violence is grounded in
a play of desires based upon mimesis. In traditional societies, this
violence is controlled by the fact that the victim is seen as
a locus from which new significations arise. The victim is sacred
and allows the differentiation process to start again. This process
is organized, canalised, made orthodox through rituals by religious
institutions. The victim and its dead body is, therefore,
at the root of culture.
In a laicised world, the mimesis
of appropriation is as operative as in a religious world. It is
based on the victimization process which leads to the numerous
wars and genocides committed
in the name of "ideals" such as nationalism or patriotism.
After the production of dead bodies, however, the world
cannot be the same, particularly if the victims can gain enough
symbolic and economic power to insist upon the fact that one has
to deeply think over what has happened. Movies like Schindler's
List or William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice are
good examples of these developments. This thinking over what has
happened, because of the presence of a third element, in this
case the discourse of those who have been lynched, leads to a
redefinition of paradigms, because the legitimacy of the discourses
Nazism or their contemporary epigones)
which lead to the explosion of the mimesis of appropriation is definitively
The appropriation mimesis aims at controlling the platonic mimesis.
Through the platonic mimesis, one can assert that one has a direct
access to truth, to the world of ideas or to reality.
This alleged access represents a basis which allows the grounding
of an argument into facts. Therefore, the one who can tell what
reality is, controls the symbolic and often the economic
because he is able to induce others to behave in a profitable
way for him. These behaviors are usually controlled through the
process of attribution which defines a supposedly stable identity,
a being. In this case, the centralizing nation states engage in
a constant display of mimetic appropriation in order to control
reality. The nation state controls the capacity
to say what is a fact and therefore how people should behave.
However, the mimesis of appropriation displays new features in
democratic, postmodern/postcolonial consumer oriented societies.
Rivalries are mitigated by the division of power and of responsibilities
which prevents the monopolization of decisions. In the postmodern
era, the logic of networks is so prevalent that often one cannot
speak of decisions but of micro decisions which contribute to
avoiding conflicts and to rendering the operating rules more efficient
while decisions and discussions pertaining to principles are avoided.
Moreover, the multiplication of objects, be they material or symbolic,
prevents the mimesis of appropriation from degenerating into a
full scale rivalry which would lose sight of the object itself
and become a pure conflict rooted in prestige. Conflict is displaced
and is transformed into an economic competitiveness leading to
capitalize material or symbolic wealth, and to displace paradigms.
It is clear when one considers the fate of an "ethnic"
Canadian writer born in Sri Lanka such as Michael Ondtaatje. Because
the market transformed his books in best-sellers, he is considered
as being part of a new trend in the mainstream. Ethnic writing,
in a way, is a calling for recognition. This recognition is what
helps to displace these texts from an original place to a new
contextualization. Conflicts are also displaced in the case of
nations and multinationals which compete for
the best minds on a global scale. These people, among them many
women, who are rich in
symbolic and sometimes economic capital, call for the respect
of difference and ask for an equal treatment in a globalizing world, thus opening
for a multicultural dynamic, an experience particularly well articulated
in a country such as Canada(14).
It is grounded in a series of precise regulations coupled with
important references such as the text of the Charter of Rights.
For example, it allows for the development and exploration of
difference in the daily artistic and literary life through the
help of the Canada Council.
Therefore, the representational discourse linked to the valorization
of mimesis is fragmented. This fragmentation leads us to reconsider
Bhabha's mimicry. Mimicry is defined by Bhabha as "a
subject of difference that it almost the same, but not quite"
(1994: 86). For Bhabha
who analyzes colonial relationships, to be bicultural, to be
bilingual such as most colonized intellectuals, was seen by the
colonizing power as a disadvantage, as the fate of those who
would never be identical to those who were educated in the midst
of the "true" civilization. In one word, others would
never be able to control the object and have access to facts.
However, in a postmodern/postcolonial context, mimicry is displaced.
As it is clearly emphasized by Alfonso de Toro (1999: 47) commenting Bhabha, the new
era is no longer contextualized in the legitimation of mimesis,
monosemy, and stability.
Therefore, mimicry takes another meaning. Identities are not definitively
locked in stable unequal relationships. They are rather defining
each others in unequal power relationships which can be modified.
Moreover, nowadays mimicry is also contextualized in a world where
the present and the future are more important than the past and
rootedness. Therefore, there are now many legitimized ways of
working, behaving, and communicating, in order for people to be
recognized, to achieve goals, and to redefine their relationships.
This leads us, for instance, to what Nancy Huston, (an Anglo-Canadian writers
writing in French and in English, living in Paris and being married
to a French citizen born in Bulgaria) alludes to when she says, in Nord
perdu, that she has a positive prejudice in favor of all those
who have an accent. The audible minority, soundly manifests that
it lives a double life and that it therefore, may have an interesting
story to communicate. An individual story which often is a forgotten
collective history silenced by the canon, Bhabha would say. However,
for Bhabha, in a world where modernity and the nation-states have
overvalued territorialization, unity and monosemy, those who are
the same, "but not quite", have been subjected to deprecating
value judgment. For him, mimicry is a difficult condition which
was not chosen but stemming from unequal power relationships,
a conception which is still present in the use of such terms as
exiled or expatriates.
And it is true that hybridity or metissage have long been part
of those who were colonized by the powers of the Empire and who
were obliged to live a negative and unequal biculturalism. However,
in Nancy Huston's essay, bilingualism and biculturalism, living
more than one life by having lived in more than one country is
a challenging advantage. It is a wealth which can easily be carried
with one's-multiple-selves everywhere on this planet displaying
all the signs of globalization.
"Car dans une langue étrangère aucun lieu
n'est jamais commun"(p.
Because in a foreign language, there is no common
writes Nancy Huston. Here is Bhabha's "not quite" in
the double meaning of common place (territorial and argumentative). If there is no
common place, if there is no completely shared meaning, there
is always place for creativity, surprise, difference, productivity.
Displacement has found a particularly clear thinker in Nancy Huston.
Displacement is even more fascinating in the novels of Assia Djebar
such as L'Amour, la fantasia, or in the Belgian film entitled
La vie en rose.
In Shapiro's perspective, the new situation leads to the remodelling
of the cartographical imaginary by redefining the subject following
a Lacanian perspective instead of a Hegelian one, and by recognizing
with Levinas (1969) that alterity is inherently within.
One is also lead to consider identity as relational, and therefore plural
and open to change. In order to go beyond the cartographic imaginary
particular to modernity, one is lead to a permanent undoing of
the said (Derrida:
which allows to eschew any violent appropriation of alterity(15).
Thus, being aware of the cartographic imaginary leads to the
criticism of a geopolitical perspective masking the search for
an ontological pertinence which, in the postmodern/postcolonial
era, is in the process of transforming conflictive relationships
into competitive ones. This competitiveness tends to be organized
through new values respecting the integrity of the individual
torture or clitoridectomy), and promoting a democratic dialogue
based on the recognition of equality and difference.
Research Chair Holder: "Canada: Social and Cultural Goals
in a Knowledge Based Society." Director of a SSHRC funded
project (2002-2005) (program
of the new economy)
with D. Castillo-Durante (Ottawa), A. Colin (Pittsburgh, USA), A. Rizzo (Rìo Cuarto, Argentine): «Les discours économiques
transnationaux et la mondialisation dans les médias et
les textes de vulgarisation au Canada en comparaison avec l'Amérique
latine: déplacements culturels et économiques»
web site: http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/lettres/imbert.html
individuals are seen as cancerous cells in Golbery's Brazil or
(13) See F. et A. de Toro, Borders and Margins:Post-Colonialism
(14) See for instance: Will Kymlicka, "Building a modern,
pluralist, distinct society in Québec" http://www.mri.gouv.qc.ca/la_bibliotheque/willkym_an.html,
or Morny Joy, "Multiculturalism and Margins of Intolerance",
in C. Pizanas and J. Frideres, Freedom within the Margins, Calgary,
Detselig, 1995; or Morny Joy (1995) "Multiculturalism and
Margins of Intolerance", in C. Pizanas and J. Frideres,
Freedom within the Margins.
(15) An undoing that the Brazilian thinker Oswald de Andrade
was able to hint at through his ludism in Anthropophagies* in
1928. This allowed him to escape from the domination of European
codes on Latin American literary works and criticism, and to
reread the past from a contemporary perspective in which space
was contextualized in the framework of the constant encounter
of people originating from the Americas, from Africa and from
Aguinis, Marcos (1996)
La conspiraciòn de los idiotas. Buenos Aires: Sudaméricana.
Anderson, Benedict (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on
the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
Andrade, Oswald de (1982) Anthropophagies. Paris: Flammarion
(1st ed: 1928).
Bhabha, Homi (1984) "Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence
of Colonial Discourse" in October: 28: Spring: 125-133.
Amy Colin, Im Gegenlicht des Todes: Poetik der jüdischen
Identität in der multikulturellen Bukowina, München,
Fink Verlag, 2000.
Derrida, Jacques (1981) Dissemination. Chicago: University of
De Toro, F. and A. (1995) Borders and Margins: Post-Colonialism
and Post-Modernism. Frankfurt/Madrid: Vervuert/Iberoamericana.
Foucault, Michel (1989) "Friendship as a Way of Life"
in Foucault Live (ed. Sylvère Lotringer). New York: Semiotext[e]:
Gary, Romain (1976) La Vie devant soi, Paris, Folio.
Girard, René (1987) Things Hidden Since The Foundation
Of The World. London: Athlone.
Griffin, David Ray; Cobb Jr., John B.; Ford, Marcus P.; Gunter,
Pete, A.Y.; Ochs, Peter (1993) Founders of Constructive Postmodern
Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne.
New York: State University of New York Press.
Grillo, M. Berti, S. Rizzo, A. (1998) Discursos locales: lo nuevo
y lo viejo, lo público y lo privado, Rìo Cuarto,
Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto, (Argentina).
Hepple, Leslie W. (1992) "Metaphor, Geopolitical Discourse
and the Military in South America", in Barnes, Trevor J.;
Duncan, James S. Writing Worlds: discourse, text and metaphor
in the representation of landscape. London and New York: Routledge.
Huggan, Graham (1990) "Decolonizing the Map: Post-Colonialism,
Post-Structuralism and the Cartographic Connection" in Adam,
Ian; Tiffin, Helen Past the last Post. Calgary: University of
Huston, Nancy (1999) Nord perdu. Montréal: Léméac/Actes
Imbert, Patrick (1995) "Le processus d'attribution"
in Les discours du Nouveau-Monde au XIXè siècle
au Canada français et en Amérique latine/ Los discursos
del Nuevo Mundo en el siglo XIX en el Canadá francófono
y en América latina, Couillard/Imbert, ed.). Ottawa: Legas:
Imbert, Patrick (1987) «Sémiotique, littérature
et politique: pauvre mais propre», Semiotica, 67, 3/4,
Imbert, Patrick (1998) The Permanent Transition. Frankfurt/Madrid:
Joy, Morny (1995) "Multiculturalism and Margins of Intolerance",
in C. Pizanas and J. Frideres, Freedom within the Margins. Calgary:
Keith, Michael and Pile, Steve (1993) Place and the Politics
of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Kis Danilo (1991) The Encyclopedia of the Dead, New York, Farrar,
Strauss and Giroux.
Kymlicka, Will "Building a modern, pluralist, distinct society
in Québec" http://www.mri.gouv.qc.ca/la_bibliotheque/willkym_an.html.
Levinas, Emile (1969) Totality and Infinity: an Essay of Exteriority.
Pittsburgh: Duquesne U.P.
Mignolo, Walter (1999) "Human Understanding and (Latin)
American Interests-The Politics and Sensibilities of Geohistorical
Locations" in A Companion to Postcolonial Studies (Eds
H.Schwartz and S. Ray), Oxford, Blackwell.
Popper, Karl (1963) The Open Society and its Enemies, New York,
Readings, Bill (1996) The University in Ruins. Cambridge (Mass.):
Harvard University Press.
Rockland, M.-A. (1970) Sarmiento's Travels in the United-States
in 1847, Princeton, Princeton U.P.
Said, Edward (1993) Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf.
Sarmiento, Domingo (1986) Facundo. Barcelona: Planeta.
Shapiro, Michael, J. (1997) Violent Cartographies: Mapping Cultures
of War. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Soja, Edward W. (1989) Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion
of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso.
Trigo, Abril (1997) Cultura Uruguaya, Culturas Linyeras? Montevideo:
Wahnich, S. (1997) L'Étranger dans le discours de la Révolution
française. Paris: A. Michel.