English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Questions on Homi Bhabha's
"The Commitment to Theory" (1989)

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1. According to Bhabha on page 2380, why should artists not abandon the complexities of their own respective media in favor of direct political statements? Why might artistic or literary work actually prove more valuable than such statements?

2. On 2383-84, how does Bhabha use John Stuart Mill's classic work On Liberty to promote the significance of "textuality" (post-structural notions about language and texts) and the need for "dissensus, alterity, and otherness" in social and political discussion?

3. On 2385-86, what does the term "negotiation" mean? What is the difference between negotiation and negation, and why is the former more valuable?

4. On 2387-88, how does the 1984-85 miners' strike in Great Britain illustrate what Bhabha calls "the hybrid moment"? How did the participation of women transform this traditional struggle between labor and capital?

5. On 2388-89, how does Bhabha enlist cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall and Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci to advance his post-structural claims? How does Bhabha redefine Gramscian "hegemony" to suggest that political and social transformation cannot be final, as some earlier authors might have claimed?

6. On 2390-94, Bhabha distinguishes "cultural difference" and hybridity from "multiculturalism" and "cultural diversity." What theoretical problems does he see with multiculturalism and cultural diversity as Western concepts designed to allow European and American theorists to examining relations with non-Western and "third-world" cultures?

7. On 2392-93, Bhabha quotes Alexander Duff's early Victorian colonial text, India and India Missions (1839). What lesson does he draw from this book concerning the difficulties that colonialists had in transforming the people they colonized? How does this example illustrate the concept of "hybridity"?

8. On 2395-97, Bhabha underscores his agreement with Derridean or post-structuralist notions about language and "meaning." What is the "Third Space" and why is it important to Bhabha's postcolonialist argument?

9. On 2397, Bhabha claims that "we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves." Do you find this claim convincing? How does Bhabha's defense of theory as politically significant compare with that of post-colonial author Fanon or cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall?

Edition: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN: 0393974294.