Theory of Others

Theory of Others

The theory of others is the discipline of rhetorical studies and its “bias towards white men of Western tradition.” It was presented by Dr. Raka Shome. The theory of others proposes that neocolonialism, racism, and all manner of stereotype are perpetuated in rhetorical studies and everyday life when groups or cultures not native to dominant white men and their sphere of influence are engaged.


Dr. Raka Shome is credited with identifying and coining the terminology in the mid 1990’s. Shome draws much of her theories from the discursive works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Condit, McKerrow, Michael Calvin McGee, Foss and Michel Foucault. Much of Shome’s research is grounded in her 1996 article, Postcolonial Interventions in the Rhetorical Canon: An “Other” View. Shome was a doctoral candidate in the Speech Communications Department at the University of Georgia at the time of the research and article printing.


The theory of the “Other” is that Western discursive practices alienate other viewpoints and ideas by referring to one culture as the authority on rhetoric. That culture, the dominant white Western male should not (but does) speak for every culture, race and people. Their celebrated, public voices have perpetuated assumptions, created and nurtured stereotypes, contributed to racism and furthered neocolonialism all the while compromising critical objectivity.The rhetoric of these dominant men in power subjugates “native” lands by assimilating a nation’s cultural texts into Western society as a form of legitimacy only to mold and create what they feel is the real text of that people. Nevertheless, these people are never viewed as belonging to the power structure. They are always on the outside and thus, always the “other” group. This modes operandi contains assumptions that are culturally specific (belonging to descriptions made by the western European imperial powers…) that serve their purpose of civilizing ‘primitive’ or underdeveloped regions (McDowell).

Current Usage

This “other” is easily differentiated from the dominant white male power sphere through textual references that are designed to appear innocent yet appeal to a people’s sense of identity. Such words as “native,” “third world,” “orient,” “orientalism,” “underdeveloped,” “hybrid,” “mixed,” “underprivileged,” “barbaric,” “savage,” “uncivilized,” and “terrorist” are just a few used to fulfill that need amongst the world of powerful white men of Western society to characterize and identify the “others.” Thus, by merely accepting such terminology, a people, a culture inadvertently solidifies their own place in society as belonging to the “others.”This phenomenon stereotypes and dehumanizes people that don’t fit into the power sphere of white men. The theory of “others” continues to generalize the attitudes of white men and the world of what particular cultures are. This divisive rhetoric exacerbates cultural differences between all and furthers monolithic images in the world’s contemporary academia.


*Bhabha, H. (1990). Interview with Homi Bhabha. The third space. In J. Rutherford (Ed.), Identity: community, culture, difference (pp. 207-221). London: Lawrence & Wishart.
*Bhabha, H. (1992). Postcolonial criticism. In S. Greenblatt & G. Gunn (Eds.), Redrawing the boundaries: The transformation of English and American literary studies (pp. 437-465). New York: Modern Language Association.
*Condit, C. (1988). What makes our scholarship feminist? A radical/liberal view. Women Studies in Communication, 11,6-8.
*Condit, C. (1993). Rhetorical criticism and feminism. In S. P. Bowen & N. Wyatt (Eds.), Transforming visions: Feminist critiques in communication studies (pp. 205-230). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
*Condit, C., & Lucaites, J. (1991). The rhetoric of equality and the expatriation of African-Americans, 1776-1826. Communication Studies, 42( l), 1-21.
*Condit, C., & Lucaites, J. (1993). Crafting equality: America’s Anglo-African word. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
*Foss, K. (1989). Feminist scholarship in speech communication: Contributions and obstacles. Women’s Studies in Communication, 12, 1-10.
*Foss, K., & Foss, S. (1988). What distinguishes feminist scholarship in communication studies? Women’s Studies in Communication, 11, 9-1 1.
*Foss, K., & Foss, S. (1989). Incorporating the feminist perspective in communication scholarship: A research commentary. In K. Carter & C. Spitzack (Eds.), Doing research on women’s communication: Perspectives on theory and method (pp. 65-91). NJ: Ablex.
*Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings by Michel Foucault. (C. Gordon, Ed., and C. Gordon, L. Marshall, J. Mepham, & K. Soper, Trans.). New York: Pantheon.
*Foucault, M. (1990). The use of pleasure: The history of sexuality, vol. 2 (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage
*McGee, M. (1975). In search of “the people”: A rhetorical alternative. Quarterly Journa1 of Speech, 61(3), 235-249.
*McGee, M. (1990). Text, context, and the fragmentation of contemporary culture. Western ] ournal of Communication, 54,274-289.
*McKerrow, R. (1 989). Critical rhetoric: Theory and Praxis. Communication Monographs.
*McKerrow, R. (1991). Critical rhetoric in a postmodern world. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 77,75-78.56,91-110.
*Shome, Raka (1996). Communication Theory: Postcolonial Interventions in the Rhetorical Canon: An “Other” View.
*Spivak, G. (1988). In other worlds: Essays in cultural politics. New York: Routledge.
*Spivak, G. (1990). The postcolonial critic: Interviews, strategies, dialogues. (S. Harasym).
*Spivak, G. (1991). Neocolonialism and the secret agent of knowledge. Oxford Literary.
*Spivak, G. (1994). Outside in the teaching machine. New York: Routlege. Ed.). New York: Routledge. Review, 13,220-25 1.

External links

* [ Raka Shome’s webpage]
* [ Homi K. Bhabha webpage]
* [ Celeste M. Condit webpage]

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