Homi K. Bhabha

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Homi K. Bhabha
Homi K. Bhabha-cropd.jpg
Born 1949
Mumbai, India
Era 20th-century philosophy
School Post-colonial theory
Main interests History of ideas, Literature
Alma mater University of Mumbai
Christ Church, Oxford
Notable ideas "Third-space", "Enunciatory Present"

Homi K. Bhabha (born 1949) is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of English and American Literature and Language, and the Director of the Humanities Center at Harvard University. 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, mimicry, difference, and ambivalence.[1] Such terms describe ways in which colonised peoples have resisted the power of the coloniser, according to Bhabha's theory. In 2012, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan award in the field of literature and education by the Indian government.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Bhabha was born into a Parsi family from Mumbai, India. He is an alumnus of St. Mary's School (ISC, 1967–68), Mazgaon, Mumbai. He graduated with a B.A. from Elphinstone College at the University of Mumbai and a M.A. and D.Phil. in English Literature from Christ Church, Oxford University.


After lecturing in the Department of English at the University of Sussex for more than ten years, Bhabha received a senior fellowship at Princeton University where he was also made Old Dominion Visiting Professor. He was Steinberg Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where he delivered the Richard Wright Lecture Series. At Dartmouth College, 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. 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, an academic journal published by Duke University Press. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan award by the Government of India in 2012.


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.[3][4]


Bhabha's work in postcolonial theory owes much to post-structuralism. Notable among Bhabha's influences include Jacques Derrida and deconstruction; Jacques Lacan and Lacanian psychoanalysis; and Michel Foucault's notion of discursivity.[5][6] Additionally, in a 1995 interview with W.J.T. Mitchell, Bhabha stated that Edward Said is the writer who has most influenced his thought.[5] In the social sciences, Edward W. Soja has most thoroughly relied on and transformed Bhabha's approaches to understanding notion of space, action, and representation.


Bhabha has been criticized for using indecipherable jargon and dense prose. In 1998 the journal Philosophy and Literature awarded Bhabha second prize in its "Bad Writing Competition,"[7] 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.[7]

Emeritus professor of English at Stanford University, Marjorie Perloff, 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, a professor of media studies at New York University, 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."[8]

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.[9] In a review entitled ‘Goodbye to the Enlightenment’ Terry Eagleton writes in The Guardian (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.[10]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to attorney and lecturer Jacqueline Bhabha with whom he has one daughter, Leah and two sons, Ishan and the actor Satya Bhabha.

Works (incomplete)[edit]

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 by Frantz Fanon, transl. Richard Philcox, 2004.
  • "Framing Fanon", 2005.
  • "Without Boundary", with Fereshteh Daftari and Orhan Pamuk, 2006.
  • "The Black Savant and the Dark Princess", 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Huddart, David. "Homi K. Bhabha", Routledge Critical Thinkers, 2006
  2. ^ "Padma Awards". pib. January 27, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Post-Colonial Theory and Action Research". Jim B. Parsons, Kelly J. Harding The University of Alberta, Canada. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "Mimicry, Ambivalence and Hybridity". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  5. ^ a b CM2004 Article: Grimstad
  6. ^ Interview with Homi Bhabha
  7. ^ a b The Bad Writing Contest, Press Releases, 1996-1998, accessed 4 April 2010
  8. ^ New York Times 17 November 2001
  9. ^ The Hindu : Literary Review : Towards a global cultural citizenship
  10. ^ Poddar, Prem and Srinivasan Jain. ‘Secularism as an Idea Will Change: Interview with Homi Bhabha’,The Book Review, January 1995. Republished in The Hindu 1995.

External links[edit]

Academic homepages and profiles