The Postcolonial Self and the Other in Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies

Open access


This work sets off to offer a polemical response to postcolonialist theories advanced by Homi Bhabha in his seminal work The Location of Culture, particularly to Bhabha’s famous notions of ambivalence and mimicry purportedly used as methods of struggle against colonialism. Reading Béla Tarr’s film Werckmeister Harmonies (Werckmeister harmóniák, 2000) as an allegory for the colonization of a former colonial agent in the guise of an ambiguously framed post-imperial Hungary now on the eve of Soviet invasion, I turn Bhabha’s notions on their heads, and thus de-stereotype the simplistic hierarchy that sees the colonial agent dominate the colonized subject in a top-down approach. To achieve this, I bring into play Kuan-Hsing Chen’s notion of deimperialization as well as the psychoanalysis of Octave Mannoni in order to show that rather than being a straightforward misreading of the Other by an uninformed Self, the relationship between colonized and colonizer appears more like a failed attempt at acquiring the most basic knowledge of the psychological functioning of the Self on both sides of the colonized/colonizer divide.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Bhabha Homi K. 2006. The Location of Culture. New York; London: Routledge.

  • Baudrillard Jean. 1994. Simulacra and Simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  • Chassler Philip. 2007. Reading Mannoni’s Prospero and Caliban Before Reading Black Skin White Masks. Human Architecture no. 5 (Summer): 71–81.

  • Chen Kuan-Hsing. 2010. Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization. Durham; London: Duke University Press.

  • Defoe Daniel. 1883. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. United States.

  • Fanon Frantz. 1968. Black Skin White Masks. London: MacGibbon & Kee.

  • Imre Anikó. 2016. TV Socialism. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Irigaray Luce. 2002. The Way of Love. London; New York: Continuum.

  • Mannoni Octave. 1956. Prospero and Caliban: The Psychology of Colonization. London: Methuen.

  • Nancy Jean Luc. 2002. Being Singular Plural. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Nietzsche Friederich. 2009. On the Genealogy of Morals. Arlington: Richer Resources Publications.

  • Said Edward. 1991. Orientalism. London; New York: Penguin.

  • Spivak Gayatri Chakravorty. 1999. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Journal information
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 374 218 6
PDF Downloads 199 138 6