Stuart Hall's Cultural Identity and Diaspora

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Richard L. W. Clarke LITS3304 Notes 12B 1 STUART HALL “CULTURAL IDENTITY AND DIASPORA” (1993) Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” Colonial Discourse and Post-colonial Theory: a Reader. Ed. Patrick Williams and Chrisman. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994. 392-401. In this essay, Hall considers the nature of the “black subject” (392) who is represented by “film and other forms of visual representation of the Afro-Caribbean (and Asian) ‘blacks’ of the diasporas of the West” (392). “Who is this emergent, new subject of the cinema? From where does he/she speak?” (392). Referring to the seminal work of Émile Benveniste (signalled by the gesture towards “enunication” [392]), he contends that what recent theories of enunciation…show more content…
(394) Drawing upon the work of Michel Foucault and Edward Said, Hall argues that cognizance must be taken of the “ways in which black people, black experiences, were positioned and subjected in the dominant regimes of representation” (394), these latter being the “effects of a critical exercise of cultural power and normalisation. 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’” (394). Hall stresses that it is one thing to “position a subject or set of peoples as the Other of a dominant discourse. It is quite another thing to subject them to that ‘knowledge’, not only as a matter of imposed will and domination, by the power of inner compulsion and subjective con-formation to the norm” (394). Hence, from this perspective, it must be acknowledged that cultural identity is not a fixed essence at all, lying unchanged outside history and culture. It is not some universal and transcendental spirit inside us on which history has made no fundamental mark. It is not once-and-for-all. It is not a fixed origin to which we can make some final and absolute Return. (395) Cultural identities are the “unstable points of identification . . . which are made, within the discourses of history and culture” (394). The foregoing raises an indispensable question: if “identity does not
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