What is Homi Bhabha's theory in "The Commitment to Theory?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bhabha's basic theory is to suggest a need to "rethink cultural identity."   For Bhabha, the Postcolonial setting is one in which there is still an oppositional relationship between previously "dominant cultures" and "the other."  The imperialism might be understated and surreptitious, but it is still there.  Bhabha's theory is to demand a reconfiguration of this relationship.  There needs to be a zone in which the cultural relationship between former colonizers and nations that were formerly colonized transcends the historical antagonism between them.  "The Other" should not be perceived as a force to be submissive.  It should not be one in which "First World capital" translates into "Third world labor." 

The fundamental call that Bhabha makes is that the identity formation should be as wide as possible for Postcolonial nations.  Enunciation of this identity should outstrip what former imperialistic nations still perceive "the other" to be.  Cultural diversity is called here in to exist in its purest and freest form and it is here where the "commitment to theory" must be upheld in the modern setting.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bhabha's theory arose from a debate during the 1986 Edinburgh Film Festival about whether theory is only the province of the socially and culturally elite. Bhabha argues that theory can be part of the reality of non-elites. For example, he states that it is too easy to divide the idea of the "theoretical" and "activist." A leaflet calling for a strike, the author points out, also includes theory, and an article on theory has to also include practical examples. 

The author also calls for a new way to think about cultural differences. While post-colonialism involves a dichotomy between the dominant Western culture and "the other," he advocates a perspective of cultural difference instead of cultural diversity. The idea of cultural diversity involves comparative ethics or aesthetics, while the idea of cultural difference involves a process through which the two cultures go beyond the idea of antagonism to find a new identity. The idea of cultural difference involves a merging of theory and reality. 

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