Abstract: In the early 1990’s, the postcolonial criticism emerged as a powerful force in literary studies as it drew upon the cultural analysis of colonialism and established itself in academic and popular discourse. As a theoretical framework, the political, social, cultural, and psychological operations of the ideologies of both the colonizer and the colonized are observed. The subjects under surveillance in this theory include universality, differences, nationalism, postmodernism, representation and resistance, ethnicity, feminism, language, education, history, place, and production (Ashcroft, Bill, et al. Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts. Taylor and Francis, 2013.) The theory was born out of the frustrations of the colonized when they were faced with cultural clashes brought by the colonizer, which arose terror as well as hopes and dreams about the future and their identities.
While some of the literature that falls under this category is written by the colonizers, more of it has been and is being written by the colonized (or those formerly colonized) in order to voice the “powerless” (the others) of the global community. The focus falls on how the experiances and realities of the colonized is shaped by the colonizer’s culture and how their inferiority articulates their identity and reclaims their past through their inevitable “otherness”. The political and cultural boundaries between the people and nations were destabilized, and so the concept of identity, with its implications in the dialectics of self and other, became a philosophical challenge in a globalized cosmopolitan world after colonization.
Identity, when viewed as shapeless, shifting and moving beyond fixity of previous thought, sets about a process of questioning to question identity in its past, present and future implications. This paper attempts to look at the ways in which four postcolonial novels set out to deconstructthe concept of identity by producing ambivalent texts, blurring the borders between the self andthe other, and lastly by laying the foundations for hybridity where otherness reigns as a process of signification which rests on interpretation. Key words: Postcolonialism, self, other, identity, hybridity, deconstruction, consciousness, colonized and colonizer, the oppressed and the oppressor Introduction: In the theory of postcolonialism, there are two main participants: the self and the other. Postcolonialism calls on cultural difference, or the ways in which race, religion, class, gender, cultural beliefs, and customs combine to form cultural identity when defining others and ourselves. In Hanif Kureishis, The Buddha of Suburbia, the main character Karim is a man who is unsure of his true identity.
Growing up in South London, Karim was an English boy of Indian decent. Karim’s mother was British, a descendant of the colonizer, and his father was born in India, a descendant of the colonized . From the moment of his birth, Karim begins to struggle with his identity because he is the product of the blend of two very different cultures and is thus suffering from diaspora. He is neither the self nor the other. According to McLeod, “performance is the means by which new, hybrid identities are negotiated” (McLeod 218). The novel demonstrates this by giving the reader a look into the personal life of an adolescent who doesn’t belong to either culture, but perhaps belongs to both. Through the pressures of society to become a “man”, he is forced to discover himself through performance both through his acting career and his experiences in reality.
Karim grows up trying to assimilate into one or the other culture, but he realizes that he is just going to have to create his own identity. He does this by moving to the United States where he can become his own person and start over because no one knows him and he can become anyone he chooses to be. It is ironic that he chooses America, because for many years after the second world war, it has been the country many from different cultural backgrounds have been migrating to, and these people combine their cultures resulting in thousands of mixed hybrid identities. This hybridity is what Karim was born into and what he comes to terms with as he explores life both mentally and physically, and even experiments sexually in order to define who he is. By performing various roles in life, he is able to establish a new identity for himself that is all his own. He has the opportunity to start new and become anybody he wanted to be with an identity established by himself for himself. Yet in this novel, we see that Karim becomes a relatively successful actor and begins to lean toward the western culture, the culture of the other. By assimilating more into the ways of Americans, Karim begins to slowly lose his Indian identity, the culture of the self as one’s nationality is defined by their father’s.
However, he cannot ever fully escape from this identity, because it is in his blood and his heritage will always be apparent in his life. In conclusion, Karim is a special character. He is an indecisive male who is searching for his true identity by blending the two cultures that are in his blood. By performing the various roles of each of these cultures, and blending them with the ones he has established for himself in America, he is able to create an identity that he can be satisfied with at least for the time being. Conclusion: These four novels demonstrated a way of constructing a third identity which raises many questions about the boundaries between what is traditionally seen as the binary oppositions of male and female, human and animal, self and other with the former of each set being privileged. These four novels illustrated the way postcolonial fiction offers to deconstruct the concept of identity whose uncertainty remains open to an infinite number of re-imaginable interpretations. Postcolonial fiction is an ambivalent text which provides a ground for the never-ending investigation into the third space of identity.
Founded on the concept of difference, identity opens onto otherness which reveals itself as a process of signification that feeds on doubt and interpretation, calling for perpetual destabilization of meaning. With the destabilization of cultural frontiers between nations, identity emerges as a philosophical challenge. Without offering possibilities of reaching definite answers, identity, as a process of interrogation, will continue to raise questions about the self in its incessant efforts to apprehend the unattainable other. Postcolonial fiction invites us to believe that in our attempts to answer questions about our relations with others, and no matter what new directions may the concept of identity take in the future, what matters most is perhaps the balance that should be sought for in order to avoid all forms of fixity of meaning that characterise essentialist thinking.