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    conditions where the prisoners themselves would be able to speak'. Foucault canny subalterns stands revealed; representing them, the intellectuals represent. result of an interested desire to conserve the subject of the West, or the West as Subject. The theory of pluralized 'subject-effects' gives an illusion of. Subaltern according to Spivak is those who belong to the third world countries. It is impossible for them to speak up as they are divided by gender, class, caste.

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    Can The Subaltern Speak Pdf

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's original essay "Can the SubalternSpeak?" transformed the analysis of colonialism through an eloquentand uncompromisin.. . men are saving the brown women from brown men' as one interpretation of the relationship between colonizer and colonized. How far does this sentence reflect . Please note that this material is for use ONLY by students registered on the course of study as stated in the section below. All other staff and students are only.

    You are on page 1of 23 Search inside document 40 Can the Subaltern Speak? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Some ofthe most adil ericsn coming out of he Wes today she rsa of intereted deseo conserve the subject ofthe Wex, or the West ax Subject. Although the hatry af Earope ts Stes narativaed bythe lw, plies economy and ology of the Wes, this concealed Subject petnds it har no. Yet the wo sytematal gore che question of Healogy and ther own implication it Intdlcual and economic ry. Maovam here sil? The apparent Inaliy signal snow. The statement ignores the tematonsl dvon of Tabor, gesture tha alen mae poreracrai policaltheory. Tes, eather, the subject tha i Inking desire, dese that lake ved salt, there no xed sobjecexcepe by represion. Aa Can the Subaltrn Speak?

    Spivak objects, Who the hell wants to protect subalternity? Only extremely reactionary, dubious anthropologistic museumizers. No activist wants to keep the subaltern in the space of difference You dont give the subaltern voice.

    Gayatri Spivak - Can the Subaltern Speak

    You work for the bloody subaltern, you work against subalternity ibid. She cites the work of the Subaltern Studies group as an example of how this critical work can be practiced, not to give the subaltern voice, but to clear the space to allow it to speak. Spivak is particularly leery of the misappropriation of the term by those who simply want to claim disenfranchisement within the system of hegemonic discourse, i. Many people want to claim subalt ernity. They are the least interesting and the most dangerous.

    I mean, just by being a discriminated-against minority on the university campus, they dont need the word subaltern They should see what the mechanics of the discrimination are.

    Theyre within the hegemonic discourse wanting a piece of the pie and not being allowed, so let them speak, use the hegemonic discourse. They should not call themselves subaltern ibid. Unlearning ones privilege as ones loss Privilege is also a kind of insularity which cuts off the privileged from certain kinds of other knowledge.

    One should strive to recognize these limitations and overcome them, not as a magnanimous gesture of inclusion, but simply for the increase of knowledge.

    The way to do this is by working critically through ones beliefs, prejudices and assumptions and understanding how they arose and became naturalized. Any Zen master, chiropractor, or guitar teacher will tell you that real learning can only begin once years of mental habit, bad posture, and learning riffs the wrong way are undone, or unlearned. Spivak argues that while thinkers like Foucault and Derrida recognized and deconstructed political power structures, they were unaware ofideology, and so erroneously believed that the subaltern could "speak for themselves"; essentially, this is a problem of subject formation or representation--for Foucault the subject is knowable and for Derrida the subject is always a subject of the West.

    For Spivak, this is a problem of assumed transparency in Western intellectualism, which dismisses the problem of representation without acknowledging that ideologies are often delineated through what remains unsaid. Hopefully I can make this clearer with Spivak's primary historical example representing the problem that silences the subaltern. Spivak describes an obscure tradition in parts of India, Sati, where when a husband dies, the wife may choose to burn herself on the husband's funeral pyre; often it was expected of a 'good wife'--it is important to note that at this time, widows could inherit the husbands property, so it makes sense from a patriarchal perspective to encourage this behavior so that sons could directly inherit--this is taking place under Britain's colonial rule.

    The British at once are appalled by this tradition, and yet misunderstand many aspects of it much is lost in translation for lack of a better phrase--they even literally misspell the Sati as Suttee ; they have a rescuing impulse, and consult local Hindu leaders they had promised to not infringe upon local law yet they had an apparent ethical dilemma; eventually this practice is in outlawed.

    Spivak, while understandably recognizing that this was a good act by the British, and not a violent imperial imposition like so many other they performed insists that it still reflects the problem of representation and transparency.

    The British give their account of the phenomenon representation ; the Hindu leaders are likewise able to give account representation , however, the women who were performing Sati were never heard from. This leads Spivak to conclude that, in fact, the subaltern cannot speak. In Hindu religion, there are four stages of life individuals are expected to go through: "Student celibacy and preparation for life [ I found this essay fairly convincing; it is painfully clear to me that the voices of the oppressed are marginalized and silenced in the hegemonic discourse.

    I cannot adequately reflect the voice of the subaltern figure because I am part of the hegemonic discourse we all are, we are absolutely wealthy, recall Singer; moreover, we are Western intellectuals; our voices reside within the hegemonic discourse.

    I cannot adequately assume transparency; we should not attempt to do so. What is the solution? How can the subaltern be empowered to speak? If the subaltern speaks, in Spivak, I assume that it is because the hegemony has sanctioned it, worse, that the hegemony is likely skewing this representation.

    The only qualm I have with the argument is that there have been instances in history where the deeply oppressed have spoken, and when the world has heard. I think of Ghandi, Spivak mentions him, but only briefly and says that this is a different topic; fine, what about Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglass, surely these were deeply oppressed men who had a large impact?

    But is this because they learned the language of the oppressor? Or because they were men? What about Rosa Parks? Her act was surely not sanctioned at the time by the white hegemony. The subaltern is all too often silenced, it is true; swallowed in ethnocentric representation, or muted outright by the interests of power--we cannot give voice to the subaltern without supplanting it; perhaps much of the problem lies in our ability to listen for the quiet voices; perhaps we need to listen for what the silence signifies; otherwise, we are complicit in maintaining it.

    Since I am painfully aware that I cannot do justice to Spivak's article, I urge my classmates to read it, it is worth the struggle and rereading ; also, I am including a couple of links here to videos of Spivak herself speaking on the subject in case anyone is interested in the subject.

    In other words, is the postcolonial critic unknowingly complicit in the task of imperialism? Is "postcolonialism" a specifically first-world, male, privileged, academic, institutionalized discourse that classifies and surveys the East in the same measure as the actual modes of colonial dominance it seeks to dismantle?

    According to Spivak, postcolonial studies must encourage that "postcolonial intellectuals learn that their privilege is their loss" Ashcroft. In "Can the Subaltern Speak? Although Spivak acknowledges the "epistemic violence" done upon Indian subalterns, she suggests that any attempt from the outside to ameliorate their condition by granting them collective speech invariably will encounter the following problems: 1 a logocentric assumption of cultural solidarity among a heterogeneous people, and 2 a dependence upon western intellectuals to "speak for" the subaltern condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

    As Spivak argues, by speaking out and reclaiming a collective cultural identity, subalterns will in fact re-inscribe their subordinate position in society. The academic assumption of a subaltern collectivity becomes akin to an ethnocentric extension of Western logos--a totalizing, essentialist "mythology" as Derrida might describe it--that doesn't account for the heterSpivaks essay Can the Subaltern Speak?

    In other words, is the post-colonial critic unknowingly complicit in the task of imperialism? Is post- colonialism a specifically first-world, male, privileged, academic, institutionalized discourse that classifies and surveys the East in the same measure as the actual modes of colonial dominance it seeks to dismantle?

    According to Spivak, postcolonial studies must encourage that postcolonial intellectuals learn that their privilege is their loss Ashcroft. In Can the Subaltern Speak? Although Spivak acknowledges the epistemic violence done upon Indian subalterns, she suggests that any attempt from the outside to ameliorate their condition by granting them collective speech invariably will encounter the following problems: 1 a logocentric assumption of cultural solidarity among a heterogeneous people, and 2 a dependence upon western intellectuals to speak for the subaltern condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

    The academic assumption of a subaltern collectivity becomes akin to an ethnocentric extension of Western logosa totalizing, essentialist mythology as Derrida might describe itthat doesnt account for the heterogeneity of the colonized body politic. Spivaks essay should be required reading for everyone. But if you dont have the time or if you do have the time and want a critical companion, theres one listed below for you.

    Thesis: My view is that radical practice should attend to this double session of representation rather than reintroduce the individual subject through totalizing concepts of power and desire.

    Problematize the Western subject and see how it is still operational in poststructuralist theory Foucault and Deleuze 2. Re-read Marx to find a more radical de-centering of the subject that also leaves more room for the formation of class identifications that are non-essentialist Derrida, also 3.

    Argue that Western intellectual production reinforces the logic of Western economic expansion 4. Perform a close reading of sati to analyze the discourses of the West and the possibilities for speech that the subaltern woman has or does not have within that framework Arguments are addressed in the first half of the essay, which address Spivaks theoretical framework and argument, while argument 4 is addressed in the second half of the essay, which serves as an example of Spivaks argument and her conclusion.

    Spivaks article moves from a critique of current Western efforts to problematize the subject to a still more radical de-centering of the subject implicit in Marx and Derrida. It makes the point that western intellectual production is complicit with Western international economic interests, and finally raises the question of how the third-world subject is represented within Western discourse, using the example of sati widow sacrifice.

    The juxtapositions brought into play over the course of the article emphasize how benevolent Western intellectuals can paradoxically silence the subaltern by claiming to speak for their experience by asserting that the subaltern knows in the same way that benevolent colonialists silenced the voices of the women who chose to immolate themselves on their husbands funeral pyres i.

    Spivak's essay hones in on the historical and ideological factors that obstruct the possibility of being heard for those who inhabit the periphery. It is a probing interrogation of what it means to have political subjectivity, to be able to access the state, and to suffer the burden of difference in a capitalist system that promises equality yet withholds it at every turn.

    Since its publication, "Can the Subaltern Speak?

    In these phenomenal essays, eight scholars take stock of the effects and response to Spivak's work. They begin by contextualizing the piece within the development of subaltern and postcolonial studies and the quest for human rights. Then, through the lens of Spivak's essay, they rethink historical problems of subalternity, voicing, and death.

    A final section situates "Can the Subaltern Speak?

    In an afterword, Spivak herself considers her essay's past interpretations and future incarnations and the questions and histories that remain secreted in the original and revised versions of "Can the Subaltern Speak? The title was a seductive simplification, marking the spot where, it was hoped, several debates and discourses might converge in the consciousness of their debt to an extraordinary essay, Can the Subaltern Speak?

    Though the fulsome description would perhaps have provided a better index of the scope and ambition of the original essay, it too would have been a mere placeholder for the many difficult questions that unfold out of Spivaks essay. The conference was not occasioned by a retirement; it marked no anticipated diminution in the pace or output of Spivaks continued writing. Neither of these possibilities occurred to me when organizing the event. It was, rather, prompted by the felt need to respond to the more intellectually ambiguous demand of an institutional anniversary which simultaneously remarked years of Columbias Universitys operation and 20 years since women were admitted to Columbia College.

    It seemed appropriate to turn to Spivaks essay in this contextnot out of any misplaced overidentification with third world women on the part of Western academic feminists, but, rather, in an effort to grasp, once again, the full implications of her insistent and uncompromising introduction of the questions of gender and sexual difference into the critique of radical discourse in the universities of the West and in subaltern studies in India and South Asia.

    Our project was, I hope and believe, innocent of nostalgia. Few interventions have retained with such tenacity the radicality or the relevance that Spivaks essay continues to possess today. It has been cited, invoked, imitated, summarized, analyzed, and critiqued. It has been revered, reviled, misread, and misappropriatedin its original and its abridged forms, in English and in translation.

    One often encounters inadvertent testimonies to the revolutionary quality of the thought contained in Can the Subaltern Speak? Occasionally, these run to the comic, though the pathos of the diffe rend the mutual untranslatability of discourse , which appears as a merely lexical matter, also reveals something about the particular difficulty of writing and reading gender into historical analysis.

    Consider, for example, a recent translation of the title into Russian within a translation of a more recent essay on terror. In the initial draft the translator rendered in Russian what, when translated back into English, might have read Can Junior Officers Speak? The woman, as Spivak tells us, inevitably is doubly in shadow. Problems of translation are less analogues than metonyms for the problems of reading that Can the Subaltern Speak? But if we are stretched to the limits of our intellectual capacity in the act of reading Spivaks writing on reading the silences of historythere are some categorically untenable misreadings that need to be dispatched before anything further can be said.

    Among them: those that understand the silence of the subaltern as a simple absence in the recordto be supplemented and transcended by the work of information retrieval Spivak endorses such retrieval, but she understands it to be a matter distinct from the question of theorizing the impossibility of subaltern speech as audible and legible predication ; those that discern in the essay a constitutive opposition between practice and theory, variously attributing to Spivaks own intervention an advocacy for one or the other she emphatically rejects that binarity ; those that claim she has rendered the Indian case representative of the third world she insists on the choice of India as an accident of personal history and as a nonexemplary instance in which, nonetheless, global processes can be seen to generate their effects ; and those, in the most egregious misreadings, that discern in the text a nativist apologia for widow burning on the grounds of its authentic ritual status!

    Perhaps the most quoted and misquoted passage from the text, a sentence conceived as such, as a grammatical form , is that in which Spivak writes, White men are saving brown women from brown men. The sentence appears, in the spirit of Freud, but, significantly, in answer to two questions. This doubleness of the question follows on the doubly shadowed status of the woman previously mentioned. Spivak writesand we note the plural: When confronted with the questions, Can the subaltern speak?

    And can the subaltern as woman speak? What were those dangers? For Spivak, the same ideological formation informs the desire to give a voice to the hysteric as that which would speak for the subaltern. The one produces the narrative of the daughters seduction to explain a certain silence or muteness of the pathological woman, the other offers the monolithic third world woman as the tautological name of a need to be spoken for. In both cases the masculine-imperialist ideology can be said to produce the need for a masculine-imperialist rescue mission.

    This circuitry obstructs the alternative histories that might have been written not as the disclosures of a final truth, but as the assemblages of utterances and interpretations that might have emerged from a different location, namely, the place of the subaltern woman. These utterances would not, as she herself remarks, have escaped ideology; they would not have been the truth of the women who uttered them. But they would have made visible the unstable claims on truth that the ideology of masculine imperialism offered in its place.

    The importance of reading the statement as such and of thereby reflecting upon the act of reading lies in its displacement of the question of what a subaltern woman really said or wanted to say and hence what could be said on her behalf and its consequent emphasis on the question of audibility and legibility.

    It enables an investigation of what conditions obtrude to mute the speech of the subaltern woman, to render her speech and her speech acts illegible to those who occupy the space produced by patriarchal complicity whether of imperialism or globalization. Had Spivak conceived of the ideological question only in terms of an earlier Marxism, as one of capitalist imperialism and bourgeois nationalism or international socialism, the question might not have been double.

    The woman, or more specifically, the subaltern as woman, is a figure in whom the question of ideologyas the production of subjects in whom desire and interest are never entirely symmetrical or mutually reinforcing splits wide open.

    Sati was a practice among the Hindus in which a woman was burnt alive with the pyre of her dead husband. When the British came to India they outlawed this practice. Though it saved a number of lives of women, it also helped British to secure their rule in India. Again the outlawing of this practice had a complete absence of Indian women voice. Human conscious is constructed randomly.

    We do not construct our identities.

    Project MUSE - Can the Subaltern Speak? New York, February

    We have them written for us. She is of the view that Western Academic thinking is produced in order to support their economic interests. Thus the knowledge is like any other commodity that is exported from Europe to third world countries.

    Knowledge is never innocent. It expresses the interest of its producer. This westernized knowledge tends to construct our identities and for the third world people, Europe becomes the ideal. Criticism of Essentialist Ideology Spivak uses Marxist ideology to criticize the leftists. According to her, the leftists essentialize the subalterns i. They consider the third world people to be same as one identity and same issues.

    It has 3 negative impacts on subalterns. It provides an opportunity to make attempt from outside to reform subalterns i. It paves way for colonialism. It provides a logocentric assumption of cultural unity among Heterogenous people. The subalterns become dependent on the Western intellectuals to speak for their condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

    I think of Ghandi, Spivak mentions him, but only briefly and says that this is a different topic; fine, what about Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglass, surely these were deeply oppressed men who had a large impact? But is this because they learned the language of the oppressor? Or because they were men?

    What about Rosa Parks? Her act was surely not sanctioned at the time by the white hegemony. The subaltern is all too often silenced, it is true; swallowed in ethnocentric representation, or muted outright by the interests of power--we cannot give voice to the subaltern without supplanting it; perhaps much of the problem lies in our ability to listen for the quiet voices; perhaps we need to listen for what the silence signifies; otherwise, we are complicit in maintaining it.

    Since I am painfully aware that I cannot do justice to Spivak's article, I urge my classmates to read it, it is worth the struggle and rereading ; also, I am including a couple of links here to videos of Spivak herself speaking on the subject in case anyone is interested in the subject. In other words, is the postcolonial critic unknowingly complicit in the task of imperialism?

    Is "postcolonialism" a specifically first-world, male, privileged, academic, institutionalized discourse that classifies and surveys the East in the same measure as the actual modes of colonial dominance it seeks to dismantle?

    According to Spivak, postcolonial studies must encourage that "postcolonial intellectuals learn that their privilege is their loss" Ashcroft. In "Can the Subaltern Speak? Although Spivak acknowledges the "epistemic violence" done upon Indian subalterns, she suggests that any attempt from the outside to ameliorate their condition by granting them collective speech invariably will encounter the following problems: 1 a logocentric assumption of cultural solidarity among a heterogeneous people, and 2 a dependence upon western intellectuals to "speak for" the subaltern condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

    As Spivak argues, by speaking out and reclaiming a collective cultural identity, subalterns will in fact re-inscribe their subordinate position in society. The academic assumption of a subaltern collectivity becomes akin to an ethnocentric extension of Western logos--a totalizing, essentialist "mythology" as Derrida might describe it--that doesn't account for the heterSpivaks essay Can the Subaltern Speak?

    In other words, is the post-colonial critic unknowingly complicit in the task of imperialism? Is post- colonialism a specifically first-world, male, privileged, academic, institutionalized discourse that classifies and surveys the East in the same measure as the actual modes of colonial dominance it seeks to dismantle?

    According to Spivak, postcolonial studies must encourage that postcolonial intellectuals learn that their privilege is their loss Ashcroft.

    In Can the Subaltern Speak? Although Spivak acknowledges the epistemic violence done upon Indian subalterns, she suggests that any attempt from the outside to ameliorate their condition by granting them collective speech invariably will encounter the following problems: 1 a logocentric assumption of cultural solidarity among a heterogeneous people, and 2 a dependence upon western intellectuals to speak for the subaltern condition rather than allowing them to speak for themselves.

    The academic assumption of a subaltern collectivity becomes akin to an ethnocentric extension of Western logosa totalizing, essentialist mythology as Derrida might describe itthat doesnt account for the heterogeneity of the colonized body politic.

    Spivaks essay should be required reading for everyone.

    But if you dont have the time or if you do have the time and want a critical companion, theres one listed below for you.

    Thesis: My view is that radical practice should attend to this double session of representation rather than reintroduce the individual subject through totalizing concepts of power and desire. Problematize the Western subject and see how it is still operational in poststructuralist theory Foucault and Deleuze 2. Re-read Marx to find a more radical de-centering of the subject that also leaves more room for the formation of class identifications that are non-essentialist Derrida, also 3.

    Argue that Western intellectual production reinforces the logic of Western economic expansion 4. Perform a close reading of sati to analyze the discourses of the West and the possibilities for speech that the subaltern woman has or does not have within that framework Arguments are addressed in the first half of the essay, which address Spivaks theoretical framework and argument, while argument 4 is addressed in the second half of the essay, which serves as an example of Spivaks argument and her conclusion.

    Spivaks article moves from a critique of current Western efforts to problematize the subject to a still more radical de-centering of the subject implicit in Marx and Derrida.

    It makes the point that western intellectual production is complicit with Western international economic interests, and finally raises the question of how the third-world subject is represented within Western discourse, using the example of sati widow sacrifice.

    The juxtapositions brought into play over the course of the article emphasize how benevolent Western intellectuals can paradoxically silence the subaltern by claiming to speak for their experience by asserting that the subaltern knows in the same way that benevolent colonialists silenced the voices of the women who chose to immolate themselves on their husbands funeral pyres i.

    Spivak's essay hones in on the historical and ideological factors that obstruct the possibility of being heard for those who inhabit the periphery. It is a probing interrogation of what it means to have political subjectivity, to be able to access the state, and to suffer the burden of difference in a capitalist system that promises equality yet withholds it at every turn.

    Since its publication, "Can the Subaltern Speak? In these phenomenal essays, eight scholars take stock of the effects and response to Spivak's work. They begin by contextualizing the piece within the development of subaltern and postcolonial studies and the quest for human rights. Then, through the lens of Spivak's essay, they rethink historical problems of subalternity, voicing, and death.

    A final section situates "Can the Subaltern Speak? In an afterword, Spivak herself considers her essay's past interpretations and future incarnations and the questions and histories that remain secreted in the original and revised versions of "Can the Subaltern Speak? The title was a seductive simplification, marking the spot where, it was hoped, several debates and discourses might converge in the consciousness of their debt to an extraordinary essay, Can the Subaltern Speak?

    Though the fulsome description would perhaps have provided a better index of the scope and ambition of the original essay, it too would have been a mere placeholder for the many difficult questions that unfold out of Spivaks essay.

    The conference was not occasioned by a retirement; it marked no anticipated diminution in the pace or output of Spivaks continued writing. Neither of these possibilities occurred to me when organizing the event. It was, rather, prompted by the felt need to respond to the more intellectually ambiguous demand of an institutional anniversary which simultaneously remarked years of Columbias Universitys operation and 20 years since women were admitted to Columbia College.

    It seemed appropriate to turn to Spivaks essay in this contextnot out of any misplaced overidentification with third world women on the part of Western academic feminists, but, rather, in an effort to grasp, once again, the full implications of her insistent and uncompromising introduction of the questions of gender and sexual difference into the critique of radical discourse in the universities of the West and in subaltern studies in India and South Asia.

    Our project was, I hope and believe, innocent of nostalgia. Few interventions have retained with such tenacity the radicality or the relevance that Spivaks essay continues to possess today. It has been cited, invoked, imitated, summarized, analyzed, and critiqued. It has been revered, reviled, misread, and misappropriatedin its original and its abridged forms, in English and in translation.

    One often encounters inadvertent testimonies to the revolutionary quality of the thought contained in Can the Subaltern Speak? Occasionally, these run to the comic, though the pathos of the diffe rend the mutual untranslatability of discourse , which appears as a merely lexical matter, also reveals something about the particular difficulty of writing and reading gender into historical analysis.

    Consider, for example, a recent translation of the title into Russian within a translation of a more recent essay on terror. In the initial draft the translator rendered in Russian what, when translated back into English, might have read Can Junior Officers Speak? The woman, as Spivak tells us, inevitably is doubly in shadow. Problems of translation are less analogues than metonyms for the problems of reading that Can the Subaltern Speak?

    But if we are stretched to the limits of our intellectual capacity in the act of reading Spivaks writing on reading the silences of historythere are some categorically untenable misreadings that need to be dispatched before anything further can be said.

    Among them: those that understand the silence of the subaltern as a simple absence in the recordto be supplemented and transcended by the work of information retrieval Spivak endorses such retrieval, but she understands it to be a matter distinct from the question of theorizing the impossibility of subaltern speech as audible and legible predication ; those that discern in the essay a constitutive opposition between practice and theory, variously attributing to Spivaks own intervention an advocacy for one or the other she emphatically rejects that binarity ; those that claim she has rendered the Indian case representative of the third world she insists on the choice of India as an accident of personal history and as a nonexemplary instance in which, nonetheless, global processes can be seen to generate their effects ; and those, in the most egregious misreadings, that discern in the text a nativist apologia for widow burning on the grounds of its authentic ritual status!

    Perhaps the most quoted and misquoted passage from the text, a sentence conceived as such, as a grammatical form , is that in which Spivak writes, White men are saving brown women from brown men. The sentence appears, in the spirit of Freud, but, significantly, in answer to two questions. This doubleness of the question follows on the doubly shadowed status of the woman previously mentioned. Spivak writesand we note the plural: When confronted with the questions, Can the subaltern speak?

    And can the subaltern as woman speak? What were those dangers? For Spivak, the same ideological formation informs the desire to give a voice to the hysteric as that which would speak for the subaltern. The one produces the narrative of the daughters seduction to explain a certain silence or muteness of the pathological woman, the other offers the monolithic third world woman as the tautological name of a need to be spoken for.

    In both cases the masculine-imperialist ideology can be said to produce the need for a masculine-imperialist rescue mission. This circuitry obstructs the alternative histories that might have been written not as the disclosures of a final truth, but as the assemblages of utterances and interpretations that might have emerged from a different location, namely, the place of the subaltern woman.

    These utterances would not, as she herself remarks, have escaped ideology; they would not have been the truth of the women who uttered them. But they would have made visible the unstable claims on truth that the ideology of masculine imperialism offered in its place.

    The importance of reading the statement as such and of thereby reflecting upon the act of reading lies in its displacement of the question of what a subaltern woman really said or wanted to say and hence what could be said on her behalf and its consequent emphasis on the question of audibility and legibility.

    It enables an investigation of what conditions obtrude to mute the speech of the subaltern woman, to render her speech and her speech acts illegible to those who occupy the space produced by patriarchal complicity whether of imperialism or globalization. Had Spivak conceived of the ideological question only in terms of an earlier Marxism, as one of capitalist imperialism and bourgeois nationalism or international socialism, the question might not have been double.

    The woman, or more specifically, the subaltern as woman, is a figure in whom the question of ideologyas the production of subjects in whom desire and interest are never entirely symmetrical or mutually reinforcing splits wide open. This, then, is the incitement to Spivaks explosive historical excavation of two impossible suicidesthat which resides in the mutilated accounts of something called sati , in the process of Britains abolition of widow sacrifice in India, and that which lurks in the half-remembered tale of a woman, Bhubaneswari Bhaduri, who took her life in , apparently after losing heart in the task of political assassination to which she had promised herself.

    I say apparently because, in the first version of the essay, Spivak does not finally decide the question of motivations. She reads them, but the text of what happened that day, when a young woman, menstruating, took her own life, remains somewhat oblique for the reader who has not systematically unlearned the suspicions that ideology attaches to almost any young womans suicide.

    Perhaps most readers have wondered Are there other readings? But if this intractable doubt refuses to leave us, at the end, it is at least partly because the possibility of another reading has been forcefully opened to us by Spivaks text. And we remain transfixed by the enigma of Bhubaneswari. One concedes that the pyromaniac metaphor may be in bad taste, in this context. Nonetheless, the story of Bhubaneswari flares up at the end of the essay, and nearly overwhelms all that has gone before. It is not that the story stands as an exampleto be emulated or repudiated.

    It is, rather, that the difficulty of comprehending what might have occurred in the act of suicide confronts us, forcing us to go back, to unlearn with Spivak the normative ideals of piety and excess with which the third world woman has come to be associated in the interlaced ideological formations of both West and East.

    By now, the reading is widely familiar. It is at the point where, in Deleuzes and Foucaults otherwise brilliant claims to have decentered the subject of theory and of history, in its Hegelian conception , Spivak discerns its secret reconsolidation, precisely through Deleuzes and Foucaults double incapacity to recognize, on the one hand, the nonuniversality of the Western position and, on the other, the constitutive place of gender in the formation of the subjectas the subject of language not only in the grammatical sense but in the sense of having a voice that can be heard.

    The argument on subalternity takes place here, Spivaks text breaking away from its earlier discourse on Western theory a discourse shaped by the deconstructionist imperative to perform critique from within, reading as unraveling the weave of the dominant text , first through an interrogation of the historical record and then through the insertion of a fragmentary and speculative account of the suicide of Bhubaneswari Bhaduri.

    A schematic diagram of the arguments concluding movements might run as follows: An imperial tradition that rendered widow sacrifice as the sign of a cultural failure subsequently outlawed it and misidentified it as sati while misspelling it assuttee.

    This imperial tradition legitimated itself as a rule of law and resignified a rituala performatively compulsive discourseas a crime and not merely as superstition , while discerning in it the evidence of a retrograde patriarchy.

    Even contemporary commentators realized, however, that the prevalence of sati was historically recent and theologically illegitimate. As Spivaks tentative excavation of the scriptural treatises and philosophical commentaries onsati good wife and widow sacrifice in Bengal point out, widow sacrifice, when practiced, tended to be most prevalent in those areas where women could inherit their husbands property in the absence of male heirs.

    Hence the rite that represented for colonial powers the most transparent evidence of an absolute negation of female agency was awkwardly situated at a place where a woman might, by law, have at least had some economic power though her assets would have been managed for her.

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Can the Subaltern Speak ?

    It would be easy to conclude, as Marx had done, in his reading of Henry Sumner Maine, that the ideological justification for widow sacrifice rested in an economic jealousy of her rights to the deceased husbands property. Marx had chastised Maine for an unforgivable navet when he had attributed to the Brahmin priests a purely professional dislike to her enjoyment of property.

    He was even more derisive when Maine attempted to argue, in a manner that reproduces precisely the logic of white men saving brown women from brown men a logic Spivak writes into a sentence that she produces as a homology of Freuds statement , that only the Church had saved women from the deterioration of their status after the fall of the Roman Empire. The prohibition on divorce, Marx noted, could hardly be construed as a protection of the womans freedom.

    But, in the schematic notations that filled his Ethnological Notebooks , he generally approved of Maines conclusion that the ancient. Spivak confirms the economic analysis, as have many commentators, but she repudiates the simple ideological reading, which would have made the woman a mere victim of false consciousness.

    Her reading of the Dharma? Scripture provides no basis for its normativization, especially for women, whose proper duty is seen in that context as a static grieving commemoration of the husband. Widow sacrifice is therefore, Spivak insists, a mark of excess. Moreover, this excess is the only form in which something like womans agency can be apprehendedas a self-negating possibility.

    The entire ideological formation seems designed to foreclose the possibility of a woman acceding to the position from which she could actually speakas a subject. It would seem that one cannot retrieve anything but the image of excess and the impossibility of full subjectivity from the discourse on sati. There is no place for the woman outside her relation to the marriage contract, no agency that is not excess.

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