Professor Homi K. Bhabha discusses his past and ongoing scholarly work with New York Times literary critic Parul Sehgal and Professor Richard Sennett.
Bhabha is one of the most influential figures in the contemporary studies of colonialism, postcolonialism and globalisation. His ideas on hybridity, ambivalence and mimicry are formative to postcolonial theory and have inspired work across art, literature, art theory, architecture and human rights.
Exploring Bhabha’s diverse fields of enquiry, the conversation will reflect on key texts and lectures, examining their continued and evolving relevance in contemporary discourse. Sehgal and Sennett will draw on their sustained interest in intersecting ideas on sociology and the written word to approach Bhabha’s work, focusing on ‘the language of degradation’ in contemporary politics to consider some of the most pressing issues of our time.
This conversation forms part of an ongoing series of ICA public conversations with leading international thinkers and activists that began in 2018 with Chelsea Manning.
Homi K. Bhabha is the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the English and Comparative Literature Departments at Harvard University. He was founding director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University from 2011 – 2019 and director of the Harvard Humanities Center from 2005 – 2011. From 2008 – 2019, he held the inaugural position of Senior Adviser on the Humanities to the President and Provost at Harvard University and from 2005 – 2008 served as Senior Adviser in the Humanities at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Bhabha is the author of numerous works exploring postcolonial theory, cultural change and power, contemporary art, and cosmopolitanism. His works include Nation and Narration and The Location of Culture, which was reprinted as a Routledge Classic in 2004. His next book will be published by the University of Chicago Press. He is a member of the Academic Committee for the Shanghai Power Station of Art, advisor on the Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (CMAP) project at the Museum of Modern Art New York, and Curator in Residence of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Bhabha holds honorary degrees from Université Paris 8, University College London, and the Free University Berlin. In 2012, he was awarded the Government of India’s Padma Bhushan Presidential Award in the field of literature and education and received the Humboldt Research Prize in 2015. In 2018, Bhabha received an honorary doctorate at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa.
Parul Sehgal is a book critic at the New York Times. She was previously a columnist and senior editor at The New York Times Book Review. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, Bookforum, The New Yorker, Tin House, and The Literary Review, among other publications. In 2010, she was awarded the Nona Balakian Award from the National Book Critics Circle for her criticism. She has been a featured speaker at TED and teaches at New York University and the Center for the Humanities at CUNY.
Professor Richard Sennett is an urban theorist and sociologist. He is an advisor to the United Nations, bringing together its programmes on cities and climate change and visiting lecturer at MIT. Sennett chairs Theatrum Mundi, a network of young artists and urbanists, with offices in London and Paris. He is the author of numerous titles including Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City, which was published by Penguin in 2018.