Mimesis, Hybridity and Erasure in Post-Colonial Goa

We have the famous minutes of Macaulay where he expresses his desire to create a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, opinions, morals and in intellect. This desire comes close to the colonial reformation of people that Franz Fanon calls Black Skins/ White Masks or what V.S Naipaul calls Mimic Men. One may even remember, Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel, Robison Crusoe wherein Robinson is shown to be civilizing the dark-skinned Friday. The colonizer did exhibit as well as carried on a civilizing mission. Now the desire expressed by the Chief Minister Pramod Savant to erase all signs of Portuguese in Goa seems to mimic the colonizers. The honourable CM of Goa is continuing/ mimicking the civilizing mission of the Portuguese and hence, ironically appears to manifest a colonial mindset. The colonizers wanted to produce his mimic men. Now the desire to wipe out traces of Portuguese reveals a desire to produce mimetic representations that have been an effective and elusive strategy of colonial power and knowledge. This imperial strategy of the colonizer is being used to produce mimic man, ‘ saffron in taste, morals and the intellect’. This is why we have very little to choose between colonizers and those that have taken upon them to civilize Indians/ Goans. This desire to civilize is based on the assumption that Indians or Goans are inappropriate subjects ( as the colonizers thought) who need repeated acts of mimicry ( become saffron in taste, opinion, morals and intellect) and hence, will remain under the dominance of the civilizing agents.

But postcolonial theorists like Homi Babha point out that mimicry is Janus-faced and can easily cross the opposite side and become a form of menace and rapture rather than that of resemblance and consolidation. This is when mimicry becomes hybridity that subverts the narrative of colonial power. In postcolonial societies, hybridity also dislocates dominant cultures as a result such hybridized forms and persons are viewed as contaminations by those who mimic the colonial imperial strategy to dominate and rule. Thus, as Babha indicates, hybridity becomes a counter-narrative and critique of the dominant canon and a point of exclusion of other narratives. Thus, the colonial past and its several forms remain hybridized in post-colonial societies and are used as sites of counter-discourse by the dominant elite who desire to eliminate them. This desire for elimination is certainly imperial and is rooted in colonial practices. We can hear the echoes of this colonial practice in the expression of a demand to wipe off the signs of the Portuguese in Goa. This only exhibits that colonization has come full circle with the colonization of the mind.

A decolonial approach does not simply construct what clear watertight compartment between the colonial and the post-colonial and pre-colonial. What we have is ambiguous hybridity. Hybridity will deconstruct or interrogate the reigning dominant order and therefore will be made into a site of political counter-discourse that can enable the elite to bring back excluded narratives. The issue is to ask: are we to eliminate the hybridized colonial and postcolonial forms and replace them with those that were supposedly excluded? Is that possible at all? Why can’t the excluded narratives find a place side by side with the hybridized forms? Why are we to become like the colonizers and carry on an iconoclasm of the hybridized forms that remind us of our colonial past? Colonization was not simply a one-sided affair. The colonized also were responsible for the colonizer/ colonized relations. This is why Goa has the distinction of being colonized for four fifty long years.

There are several hybridized forms in Goa today. How many of them will the Government erase? The colonizers got Cashew from Brazil and it hybridized to make feni. The colonizers got potatoes for South America and we made wada and other savouries. The colonizers got Chilly for Chile and we hybridized it in our curry. We got football, and cricket from the colonizer and today we have hybridized them as our very own. There is no clear boundary between the colonial, postcolonial and pre-colonial. What we find is change and continuity. Fielding ideas, bowling arguments and making critical stokes to bring the lost narratives back into our consciousness and memory is all good. But we are not weak or incapable of living with the hybridized realities of our society. We do not need the humiliation of the second mission of civilization. We do not need the mimic men of the colonizers. We as Goans wish to live free beyond the boundaries that have colonial origins that are being reactivated by their mimic men in our post-colonial times. We do not need the performative codes of the colonizers. Unfortunately, the desire to erase the signs of Portuguese in Goa plays by the rules of the colonizers. We do not need this performative code of the colonizers. We Goans have hybridized our past and will hybridize our present and future and live beyond boundaries imposed by any imperialists either from outside or inside.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao