Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the "New World Society"

Excerpt From Essay

"As Homi Bhabha (1994) has insightfully shown, mimicry was an ambiguous presence in the cultural politics of colonialism. At one level, colonial rulers explicitly aimed to "civilize" their subjects and mold them in the image of Europeans; natives who imitated the colonizer were in this sense part of the colonial plan. But colonial imitation always threatened to become excessive and uncontrolled and thereby to unsettle the boundaries and relations of authority between settler and native that the colonial order depended on. The uncanny presence of the "civilized native" destabilized colonial identities and presented a specter that haunted the colonial subject. What happened when natives became too "civilized?" or "half-civilized?" And what if their mimicry were really parody? When did respectful imitation give way to "cheeky" backtalk? And how could the "not white/not quite" be accommodated within the binary model of power and identity that colonial institutions and colonial subjectivities alike relied on?"

"Of Mimicry and Membership: Africans and the 'New World Society,'" James G. Ferguson (553).

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