Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's original essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" transformed the analysis of colonialism through an eloquent and uncompromising argument that affirmed the contemporary relevance of Marxism while using deconstructionist methods to explore the international division of labor and capitalism's "worlding" of the world. 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?" has been cited, invoked, imitated, and critiqued. 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?" within contemporary issues, particularly new international divisions of labor and the politics of silence among indigenous women of Guatemala and Mexico. 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?"-both of which are reprinted in this book.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, Philosophy
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor, and a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. B.A. English (First Class Honors), Presidency College, Calcutta, 1959. Ph.D. Comparative Literature, Cornell University, 1967. D. Litt, University of Toronto, 1999; D. Litt, University of London, 2003; D. Hum, Oberlin College, 2008; D. Honoris Causa, Universitat Roveri I Virgili, 2011; D. Honoris Causa, Rabindra Bharati, 2012; Kyoto Prize in Thought and Ethics, 2012; Padma Bhushan 2013; D.Honoris Causa, Univeridad Nacional de San Martin, 2013; D. Litt, University of St. Andrews, 2014; D. Honoris Causa, Paris VIII, 2014; Presidency University, 2014; D. Hum, Yale University, 2015; D. Litt, University of Ghana-Legon, 2015; D. Honoris Causa, Universidad de Chile, 2016; Lifetime Scholarly Achievement from the Modern Language Association of America, 2018.
Fields: 19th- and 20th-century literature; politics of culture; feminism; Marx, Derrida; globalization. Books: Myself Must I Remake: The Life and Poetry of W. B. Yeats (1974), Of Grammatology (translation with critical introduction of Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie, 1976), In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987; Routledge Classic 2002), Selected Subaltern Studies (ed., 1988), The Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, Dialogues (1990), Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality (1993; 2d ed forthcoming), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993; Routledge classic 2003), Imaginary Maps (translation with critical introduction of three stories by Mahasweta Devi, 1994), The Spivak Reader (1995), Breast Stories (translation with critical introduction of three stories by Mahasweta Devi, 1997), Old Women (translation with critical introduction of two stories by Mahasweta Devi, 1999), Imperatives to Re-Imagine the Planet / Imperative zur Neuerfindung des Planeten (ed. Willi Goetschel, 1999; 2d ed. forthcoming), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Towards a History of the Vanishing Present (1999), Song for Kali: A Cycle (translation with introduction of Ramproshad Sen, 2000), Chotti Munda and His Arrow (translation with critical introduction of a novel by Mahasweta Devi, 2002), Death of a Discipline (2003), Other Asias (2005), An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Globalization (2012), Readings (2014), Du Bois and the General Strike (forthcoming). Significant articles: "Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography" (1985), "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" (1985), "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988), "The Politics of Translation" (1992), "Moving Devi" (1999), "Righting Wrongs" (2003), "Ethics and Politics in Tagore, Coetzee, and Certain Scenes of Teaching" (2004), "Translating into English" (2005), "Rethinking Comparativism" (2010), "A Borderless World" (2011), "General Strike" (2012), "Crimes of Identity" (2014), "Our World" (2014). Activist in rural education and feminist and ecological social movements since 1986.