ABSTRACT

Bhabha: I take a certain perverse pleasure in welcoming you to a very old country [Britain], where the royal family is falling apart, where there is intrigue, sexual scandal amongst the courtiers, conspiracy in parliament, where the church has voted for the ordination of women and there is a feeling that the church is now collapsing. So, the court has collapsed, parliament is about to collapse, and the church, too, and you have arrived from this new Camelot [The U.S.], what is claimed will be the most culturally diverse, ethnically diverse administration. Do you feel that this will be so, or do you think it will be like Clinton's pot-smoking days: a mouth of smoke that was left uninhaled and never reached the lungs. Trinh: One always has to live with hope. Without it, how can one carry on any kind of struggle? On the other hand, one also has to remain very vigilant, especially when "multiculturalism" is officially proclaimed to be an important element of governmental politics, as in the States. In the display of a narrow pluralist stance, there is always the danger of falling back into what multiculturalism was before: a bland melting pot, where all forms of assimilation and of leveling out of differences were practiced, in order to keep those differences at as minimal and harmless a level as possible. And there is the other danger, as in the apartheid policy of South Africa, for example, where divisions and cleavages were kept as intact as feasible, supposedly for the black nations' own good. So rather than challenging the fixed boundaries of cultures within and between nations, rather than questioning [internal] cultural frontiers as related to [external] national frontiers, multiculturalism in this case would merely amount to reinforcing, in the name of cultural diversity, a number of well-defined ethnic partitions. Since it is within these limits that marginalized social groups are required to operate, the change is no more than a cosmetic improvement. These are the dangers we constantly face in the States with multiculturalism, as we are repeatedly reminded through current events that there's no escape from interracial dependency if, in this era of transnational economics, democracy is to be "restored" (to use a term touted as the great achievement in the U.S.).