Homi K. Bhabha

Homi K. Bhabha

Ask a question about 'Homi K. Bhabha'
Start a new discussion about 'Homi K. Bhabha'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
Homi K. Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. He is one of the most important figures in contemporary post-colonial studies, and has coined a number of the field's neologisms and key concepts, such as hybridity
Hybridity refers in its most basic sense to mixture. The term originates from biology and was subsequently employed in linguistics and in racial theory in the nineteenth century. Its contemporary uses are scattered across numerous academic disciplines and is salient in popular culture...

, mimicry, difference, ambivalence. Such terms describe ways in which colonised peoples have resisted the power of the coloniser, according to Bhabha's theory.

He is married to attorney and lecturer Jacqueline Bhabha
Jacqueline Bhabha
Jacqueline Bhabha is an attorney and lecturer in law at the Harvard Law School and a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School...


Early life

Bhabha was born into a Parsi family from Mumbai
Mumbai , formerly known as Bombay in English, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fourth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. He is an alumnus of St. Mary's School (ISC, 1967–68), Mazagoan, Mumbai. He graduated with a B.A.
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 from Elphinstone College
Elphinstone College
Elphinstone College is an institution of higher education affiliated to the University of Mumbai. Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest colleges of the University of Mumbai. It was exalted as a prestigious seat of learning during the British Raj and is generally observed for its vibrant alumni...

 at the University of Mumbai
University of Mumbai
The University of Mumbai , is a state university located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. It was known as the University of Bombay until 1996 when the city of Bombay was renamed as Mumbai. The affiliated colleges of the university are spread throughout the city of Mumbai and four coastal districts in...

 (formerly University of Bombay) and a M.A. and D.Phil.
A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to teach in a specific field, A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder...

 in English Literature from Christ Church
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, Oxford University.


After lecturing in the Department of English at the University of Sussex
University of Sussex
The University of Sussex is an English public research university situated next to the East Sussex village of Falmer, within the city of Brighton and Hove. The University received its Royal Charter in August 1961....

 for more than ten years, Bhabha received a senior fellowship at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 where he was also made Old Dominion Visiting Professor. He was Steinberg Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

 where he delivered the Richard Wright
Richard Wright (author)
Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially those involving the plight of African-Americans during the late 19th to mid 20th centuries...

 Lecture Series. At Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. The institution comprises a liberal arts college, Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business, as well as 19 graduate programs in the arts and sciences...

, Bhabha was a faculty fellow at the School of Criticism and Theory. From 1997 to 2001 he served as Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

. In 2001-02, he served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at University College, London. He has been the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language at Harvard University since 2001. Bhabha also serves on the Editorial Collective of Public Culture
Public Culture
Public Culture is a reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal of cultural studies, founded in 1988 by anthropologists Carol Breckenridge and Arjun Appadurai...

, an academic journal published by Duke University Press
Duke University Press
Duke University Press is an academic publisher of books and journals, and a unit of Duke University. It publishes approximately 120 books annually and more than 40 journals, as well as offering five electronic collections...



One of his central ideas is that of "hybridisation," which, taking up from Edward Said's work, describes the emergence of new cultural forms from multiculturalism. Instead of seeing colonialism as something locked in the past, Bhabha shows how its histories and cultures constantly intrude on the present, demanding that we transform our understanding of cross-cultural relations. His work transformed the study of colonialism by applying post-structuralist methodologies to colonial texts.


Bhabha's work in postcolonial theory owes much to post-structuralism
Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

. Notable among Bhabha's influences include Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

 and deconstruction
Deconstruction is a term introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology. Although he carefully avoided defining the term directly, he sought to apply Martin Heidegger's concept of Destruktion or Abbau, to textual reading...

; Jacques Lacan
Jacques Lacan
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

 and Lacanian psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

; and Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

's notion of discursivity. Additionally, in a 1995 interview with W.J.T. Mitchell, Bhabha stated that Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 is the writer who has most influenced his thought.


Bhabha has been criticized for using indecipherable jargon
Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. The philosophe Condillac observed in 1782 that "Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he...

 and dense prose. In 1998 the journal Philosophy and Literature awarded Bhabha second prize in its "Bad Writing Competition," which "celebrates bad writing from the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles." Bhabha was awarded the prize for a sentence in his The Location of Culture (Routledge, 1994), which reads:
If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.

Emeritus professor of English at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, Marjorie Perloff
Marjorie Perloff
Marjorie Perloff is an Austrian-born U.S. poetry critic.Perloff was born Gabriele Mintz into a secularized Jewish family in Vienna. Faced with Nazi terror, her family emigrated in 1938 when she was six-and-a-half, going first to Zürich and then to the United States, settling in Riverdale, New York...

, said that her reaction to Bhabha's appointment at Harvard was one of "dismay," telling the New York Times "He doesn't have anything to say." While Mark Crispin Miller
Mark Crispin Miller
Mark Crispin Miller is professor of media studies at New York University, and the author of the book: Fooled Again, How the Right Stole the 2004 Elections. He is known for his writing on American media and for his activism on behalf of democratic media reform...

, a professor of media studies at New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

, commented on the meaning of Bhabha's writing: "One could finally argue that there is no meaning there, beyond the neologisms and Latinate buzzwords. Most of the time I don't know what he's talking about."

In a 2005 interview, Bhabha answered criticisms and expressed annoyance at the expectation that philosophers use the "common language of the common person," while scientists are permitted to use language that is not immediately comprehensible. In a review entitled ‘Goodbye to the Enlightenment’ Terry Eagleton writes in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

(Feb. 8, 1994) that “Bhabha’s aim is to put the skids under every cherished doctrine of Western Enlightenment, from the idea of progress to the unity of the self, from the classical work of art to the notions of law and civility”. Bhabha points to India, for instance, in his sense of alternative possibilities when he argues that the very idea and practice of secularism is changing.

Works (incomplete)

Includes book editing duties, journal articles, and book chapters

  • (Ed.) Nation and Narration, Routledge (1990; ISBN 0-415-01483-2)
  • The Location of Culture, Routledge (1994; ISBN 0-415-05406-0)
  • Edward Said Continuing the Conversation, co-ed. with W.J.T. Mitchell (originally an issue of Critical Inquiry), 2005. ISBN 0-226-53203-8
  • "Cosmopolitanisms" in Public Culture 12.3, eds Sheldon I. Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol Breckenridge, Arjun Appadurai, and Dipesh Chakrabarty, 2000.
  • "In a Spirit of Calm Violence", 1993.
  • "Modernity, Culture, and The Jew", eds Laura Marcus & Bryan Cheyette, 1998.
  • "On Cultural Choice", 2000.
  • "V.S. Naipaul", 2001
  • "Democracy De-Realized", 2002.
  • "On Writing Rights", 2003.
  • "Making Difference: The Legacy of the Culture Wars", 2003.
  • "Adagio", 2004.
  • "Still Life", 2004.
  • Foreword to The Wretched of the Earth
    The Wretched of the Earth
    The Wretched of the Earth is Frantz Fanon's most famous work, written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule...

    by Frantz Fanon
    Frantz Fanon
    Frantz Fanon was a Martiniquo-Algerian psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and writer whose work is influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism...

    , transl. Richard Philcox, 2004.
  • "Framing Fanon", 2005.
  • "Without Boundary", with Fereshteh Daftari and Orhan Pamuk
    Orhan Pamuk
    Ferit Orhan Pamuk , generally known simply as Orhan Pamuk, is a Turkish novelist. He is also the Robert Yik-Fong Tam Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, where he teaches comparative literature and writing....

    , 2006.
  • "The Black Savant and the Dark Princess", 2006.

See also

  • List of deconstructionists
  • Post-colonialism
  • Post-structuralism
    Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

  • Postmodernism
    Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

External links

Academic homepages and profiles