Bhabha’s essays, written over more than a decade and in circulation for some time before their publication in a collected edition in 1994,1 are a strong articulation of the linguistic turn in cultural studies. The book which is distinguished by Bhabha’s insistence on the absolute primacy of discourse, appeared at a time when there were already signs of a challenge to critical modes predicated on the autonomy of signifying processes and privileging the means of representation as the sole progenitor of meaning. One symptom of this move away from a practice that had been ascendant for some years, although never uncontested, was the growth of interest in Pierre Bourdieu’s work on cultural production, where the textual idealism of transferring the Saussurean language model to social and literary analyses is repudiated.2 Another was Christopher Norris’s censure of ‘facile textualist thought’ which ‘contrives to block the appeal to any kind of real-world knowledge or experience’, a criticism made on ethical as well as cognitive grounds by one who has been a prominent exponent of deconstruction.3

There was also reason to anticipate a more widespread and closer attention to Marxist/ Marxisant theories of culture and history, since, as any competent clairvoyant could have foretold, Derrida’s lectures and writings on Marx4 were destined to persuade susceptible epigoni that their preparations for the burial of an explanatory system they had declared moribund, too often without observing the protocols of scrupulous examination, should at least be deferred.