• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • You already know Dokkio is an AI-powered assistant to organize & manage your digital files & messages. Very soon, Dokkio will support Outlook as well as One Drive. Check it out today!


Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty

Page history last edited by Robert Goldman 14 years, 11 months ago



Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak was born in born in Calcutta, India and studied there before she came to the United States to study and become a professor.  She is a postcolonial feminist theorist who critiques the way in which Western scholars attempt to speak for the subaltern and use cultural imperialism to import arguments from the first world onto the third world.  She applies Derrida's theory of deconstruction to a whole range of issues, including indigenous rights, feminism, Marxism, and postcolonialism.  Spivak translated Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology into English. 


In her essay Can the Subaltern Speak?  Spivak deconstructs the way in which Western scholarship co-opts the voice of the “other” and narrates for the “other”. She is critical of those who feel as if they have the “permission to narrate” and she is supports a more decentralized epistemology that gives an actual voice to the colonial other or "subaltern" folks.  Spivak is also wary of the way in which the West uses feminism to continue imperialism and racism. She find that many Western visions of patriarchy in the third world devolve into a “white men saving brown women from brown men” logic. This way of thinking silences third world women and devalues their own voices about patriarchy in the societies they live in.   The the essay gets to the core of the issue of representation as it intersects with domination and imperialism - who has the right to represent the voice of the subaltern?  Even with the very best of intentions, Western feminists attempt to represent the needs, rights, and voices of third world women, we cannot do so without continuing an imperial project of talking for them, writing their narrative for them, and continuing the silencing of the subaltern.  She concludes, at the end of the essay, that the subaltern cannot speak.    It cannot speak, she argues, because to truly speak requires someone truly listening at the other end of the line, and very few people have unlearned enough of their patriarchal/ colonial ways to actually hear what is being said.  What she offers in the way of a solution is to, instead of attempt again and again to represent the voice of the subaltern, that we instead learn to unlearn our imperialism, and create space for the subaltern to speak for itself.  

Comments (3)

Maile said

at 1:20 pm on Dec 17, 2008

uhh, whoever changed the title doesn't realize that Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is one person. How do we fix it?

Alex said

at 1:26 pm on Dec 17, 2008

haha. I'm an idiot. I went through and renamed the pages so that they'd alphabetize better. Changing it...

Alex said

at 1:28 pm on Dec 17, 2008


You don't have permission to comment on this page.