Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" – summary

"Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988) by Gayatri Spivak relates to the manner in which western cultures investigate other cultures. Spivak uses the example of the Indian Sati practice of widow suicide, however the main significance of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is in its first part which presents the ethical problems of investigating a different culture base on "universal" concepts and frameworks.

"Can the Subaltern Speak?" critically deals with an array of western writers starting from Marx to Foucault, Deleuze and Derrida. The basic claim and opening statement of "Can the Subaltern Speak?"  is that western academic thinking is produced in order to support western economical interests. Spivak holds that knowledge is never innocent and that it expresses the interests of its producers. For Spivak knowledge is like any other commodity that is exported from the west to the third world for financial and other types of gain.

Spivak is wondering how can the third world subject be studied without cooperation with the colonial project. Spivak points to the fact that research is in a way always colonial, in defining the "other", the "over there" subject as the object of study and as something that knowledge should be extracted from and brought back "here".  Basically we're talking about white men speaking to white men about colored men/women. When Spivak examines the validity of the western representation of the other, she proposes that the discursive institutions which regulate writing about the other are shut off to postcolonial or feminist scrutiny.
This limitation, Spivak holds, is sue to the fact that critical thinking about the "other" tends to articulate its relation to the other with the hegemonic vocabulary. This is similar to feminist writers which abide by the patriarchic rules for academic writing.

In the following parts of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Spivak is criticizing different critical writers and then moves on to the example of the Indian "Sati" practice.   
Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review - summary part 1 - summary part 2

Suggested Spivak reading:


  1. Thanks for this. I'm reading Spivak now and I had so much trouble understanding what she was arguing.

  2. Thank you so much, this has REALLY helped me to understand the paper.

  3. Replies
    1. Sorry, I'm sure the author meant "persons of slightly different aesthetic qualities/nationality(ies)". That's the proper term nowadays, amirite? Please, let the Subaltern summary-writers do their thing without any pedantic, white guilt trips ;)

    2. Sure this may seem pedantic but I think this is exactly what Spivak is critiquing, namely white, male, intellectual, Western discourses that others and colours the subaltern thus making it difficult, if not impossible, for the subaltern to speak, resist and be acknowledged outside of the discursive terms of, to quote hooks, "imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy." And so, questioning the use of words like "coloured" is important because as a "coloured" person I can bear witness to the fact that the context within which labels are applied constitute (or fail to constitute) identity.

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  5. Part 1
    You people are all fools. This whole goddamn world needs another war where white men can reassert their natural dominance, and don't think this isn't coming. Below, I reveal why, in brief, the entire industry of deconstructionism and critical studies is dishonest bullshit. If people understood this and were given a voice to expose the process of critique since ww2 instead of it being policed, stamped out, and violently suppressed by the tyranny of the leftist intelligentsia, the entire edifice would reveal itself bereft of any load-bearing materials:

    This is called continental philosophy. Continental philosophy differentiates itself from analytic philosophy in that it doesn't need any data to support its claims. It started more or less in it's modern form with German idealism and proved fateful in the hands of hostile outsiders who realized they could deploy anti-scientistic and anti-positivistic methods to disarm and undermine whole traditions of thoughts and beliefs and bring a nation to its knees.

    Most of the important architects were Jews. Jews of the Frankfurt School would combine "theories" of Marx and Freud to undermine Christianity, sexual morality, majority ethnic cohesion, and the family to do what Nietzsche called the "inversion of all values". Marcuse could write a book, for example, called Eros and Civilization using fustian language to make absurd and unsubstantiated claims about liberating the 'pleasure principle', Eros, while eliminating capital production that would synthesize a "non-oppressive libidinous will" that could form the basis of a new, presumably happier social and economic order, and not be held responsible for its arbitrariness because of the morally unquestionable position that Jews had attained following ww2, despite the fact that Americans had generally considered continental philosophy useless.

    The reason the Jews were so energetic in dominating discourse in the 20th century was to make those societies safer for Jews. Well, this sounds reasonable except when one looks closer and discovers that this is all a ruse, a cover for Jewish economic and political domination of the countries in which they reside, where they have long since attained elite status. Wilhelm Reich wrote treatises on sexual practices to 'cure' repressed nations which included sexualizing children, policies that have unsurprisingly insinuated themselves into the cultures of some of the more 'progressive' European nations, utterly enslaving the population to their new masters of the EU, who wrap what would otherwise be naked Soviet-style central planning in Orwellian speak like teaching whites to be 'tolerant' and deploying sinister social engineering slogans like 'diversity is our strength'. But enough about the Jews, i wouldn't know where to stop - Marx, Horkheimer, Adorno, Freud, Marcuse, Fromm, Derrida, Sedgwick, Sontag, Wolf, Friedan, and many, many others.

  6. Part 2

    What we have is a classic instance of 'saving the phenomenon' in which explanations present an attractive paradigm to explain the human world around us, but don’t actually seek to explain what is really going on, at least to the extent that this is just part of a campaign to destroy the white race through a dedicated cultural war in which scores of people, including women, homosexuals, and coloreds are recruited in a campaign whose only connecting tie is a deep and abiding hatred of white males heterosexuals, who for some reason have accomplished all things of merit since 1500.

    And what might that reason be? Well, the cultural commissars have given us no shortage of explanations, but the reason I mentioned this was not about actually explaining white domination is that it might reveal the naked ambitions of reverse domination for what it is with the most clarity. What I'm talking about is the absence from any and all discussions on this topic of Darwin. Evolutionary psychology/racial science is the most threatening of all paradigms because it does two main things. It topples the moral particularism inherent in Leftist deconstruction, where Leftists don't even use reversal of perspective to see the invidiousness of condemning white practice of creating "Others" as nothing more than an attempt at MAKING WHITES THE OTHER to push forward with their eclipse in world affairs. But, even more importantly, it gives us a convincing framework that DNA was a powerful determinant for why it was white men who explored the world, gave us philosophy, gave us history, gave us science, and so on, and whose sense of will saw them conquer others without apology - and why it was not the case that Negros or Indians or anyone else didn't perform this role, a role they wouldn't apologize for had they been born in a world in which they were told it was their forebears that courageously sailed the Planet and braved it's capricious and dangerous currents in order to satisfy a lust for life and adventure.

    The simple fact is this: Darwinian science tells us that Whites are more dominant than others. Our worldwide IQ at the end of the 20th century is 100. Northeast Asians are 103, Ashkenazi Jews at 110. But compared to Arabs at 90, sub-saharan Africans at 67, American Blacks at 85, Hispanics at 85-90, it becomes apparent that Liberalism creates chimeras for us to imagine and that human equality is a dream that will NEVER come true no matter how much we will it. Genetic determinism is not the only indicator of success, not is IQ, but the Left utterly ignores these critical factors, which is most obviously why Whites and Asians perform better in societies than, say, Blacks and Hispanics. It should be noted that Ashkenazi Jews, with the highest IQ and the most ethnocentric behavior, always become an elite in society (Google: “Jews hostile elite”).

    Anti-white coloreds like Spivak can weave her fancy white guilt theories out of cloth and earn a comfortable living out of white dispossession while, with disgusting irony, she leverages white intellectual tradition in doing so, but whites will wake and the day of the rope will come, because this is nothing more than ethnic hardball and incentivized white genocide. Mountains of Liberal theorizing won't change the underlying biological dynamics at play here, that essays like this are designed for one reason and one reason alone, to get whites to stop playing the evolutionary game. But coloreds need to be forewarned that whites like me understand what is happening, know we are being destroyed in a massive, deliberate program of hatred, and are tirelessly spreading the word through the Internet that we are being tricked and made to commit suicide through a fantastic war of annihilation through ideas alone, and that, when we wake up, we will not be very happy about this. We are intelligent people who have a history of war and conquest, and this current order, built on distortion and shame, will not last forever.

  7. 1) You condemn continental philosophy for not being grounded in data, and yet your insane rant is grounded in psychosis, if anything, but certainly not grounded in "data." You ignore not only what "deconstruction" teaches us, but what is common knowledge throughout even the empirical sciences: "race" and "gender" and concepts like "sexuality" are social constructs, that is, the way they are conceived are socio-temporally specific, for instance, words/concepts like "homosexual." Or "white/black" for that matter, depending on whether it is economically advantageous to stigmatize a group. Look at Italians and Irish, etc. in the U.S. Or Latinos, a term first used in the 1970s to homogenize a group of people in a way that very different groups had never been previously.
    2) You say "white" men have made all the "advancements since 1500, and yet you name a long list of people--"Jews"--who apparently for the convenience of your argument aren't white. However, you name a lot of pretty pasty-looking Germans who contributed to some pretty major advancements in every field imaginable. Also "since 1500" in terms of "human civilization" is a very, very short time period. ALSO, Galileo as an Italian, would, during that time period, have been rarely considered "white," whatever that means. And also, how about Einstein? Further, most of the knowledge that contributed to whatever "advancement" you could possibly be talking about (you don't name any, and, although you may want to try it, don't say nuclear weapons...Einstein, remember?) any advancement, even if you use a very new and extremely broad and convenient definition of white (perhaps you haven't been following advancements made by the HGP on "race"...doesn't biologically exist in any coherent manner, and that's empirical, if you like), these "advancements" would have been due to perhaps "paper" (Chinese), mathematics, science, astrology, and philosophy (advanced largely by Arabs when "white" people were living in their illiterate shit and piss--see Europe pre 16th century more or less), and on and on. Your claims are way, way more insane than a tradition based more on logical vigor more than "data." You, have neither, first of all, and although Derrida may not be as empirical as one may like, his overarching methodology has been picked up by anthropologists, sociologist, geographers, economists, and on and on who certainly provide empirical evidence. And finally, you're a hateful, ignorant, asshole.

  8. Oh Hugh, I love you

    1. I love you too, Hugh