This is interesting, from his preface to The Location of Culture, about the writer V.S. Naipaul:
It was the ability of Naipaul's characters to forbear their despair, to work through their anxieties and alienations towards a life that may be radically incomplete but continues to be intricately communitarian, busy with activity, noisy with stories, garrulous with grotesquerie, gossip, humour, aspirations, fantasies - these were signs of a culture of survival that emerges from the other side of the colonial enterprise, the darker side. (pp. xii-xiii)
He quotes Naipaul on
the Trinidadian.... a cosmopolitan.... a natural anarchist, who has never been able to take the eminent at their own valuation. (p. xiii)
I may be reading too much into him, but his ideas strike a chord. They help me make sense, first of my own cultural journey, and second, of Whitley, to which I was attracted because of its edgy seaside town location.
My own journey has taken me into Evangelical Christianity and back out again. Although I found acceptance and comfort in its monoculture, I wasn't prepared to give up my identity to it. I left, struggling with enormous issues of guilt, in despair, and believing I'd committed an unforgivable sin. It took me many years to accept that a loving God (if one exists) has no problem with guilt or cultural rejection. Bhabha would say, I suspect, that my experience of Christianity was one of cultural colonisation on an individual level. Gradually I let myself be colonised, until, at the last, I protested. But by that stage I was complicit in the process of colonisation, and had let go of any sense of an alternative culture I might measure myself by. I experienced fragmentation, followed by a gradual redefinition of identity, in a manner I instantly recognise in Bhabha's analysis of Naipaul's characters above.
I also recognise, in his analysis, commonalities between the postcolonials he describes and the mature, softly anarchic, arctic tribespeople described by Hugh Brody. And I wonder, therefore, whether the process encouraged by the early Christians, of commitment to an impossible story, till one is forced to allow the shattering of one's reliance either on one's newly adopted or one's prior culture, is calculated precisely to bring one to a recognition of one's hunter-gatherer mind, in the sense that this is, in Brody's words, "humanity's most sophisticated combination of detailed knowledge and intuition" (The Other Side Of Eden, p.306).
Which brings me to Whitley Bay. Though predominantly white and working class, it too, like the India Bhabha comes from, has experienced waves of cultural colonisation, many of which it has enjoyed and conspired in. Adopting the long-term role offered to it of a thriving seaside town, in the early half of the twentieth century, it also allowed physical colonisation by holidaymakers on a week by week basis. Now, however, this adopted identity has been withdrawn, to be replaced by one defined by the harsher, and as yet, poorly understood cultural pressures of globalisation. Does it hold tight to the vestiges of seaside glory; or recognise its power-base is gone, and seek a new identity as a dormitory town serving Newcastle? Or is a third, 'hunter-gatherer' option open to it?
Bhabha and Naipaul might indicate there is. One that admits to despair, but proceeds 'towards a life that may be radically incomplete but continues to be intricately communitarian, busy with activity, noisy with stories, garrulous with grotesquerie, gossip, humour, aspirations, fantasies'. That sounds like the Whitley I sense around me. A survivor's tale, profoundly spiritual, anarchic, natural and new. It would not be so easily managed from outside, but it would be truer and more valuable to the wider region because of it.