Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" – summary - part 2

Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - reviewsummary part 1 - summary part 2

In "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Gayatri Spivak is criticizing the intellectual west's "desire for subjectivity". Spibak claims that "research" or "knowledge" have served as a prime justification for the conquest of other cultures and their enslavement, as part of the European colonial project. The western scholar authoritatively presented himself and his produced knowledge about the other culture as objective. He presented himself is without interests, and scientific, ethical and accurate. This is, for Spivak, very much not the real case for the opening statement of "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is that knowledge about the third world was always tainted with the political and economical interests of the west.

Spivak points to the fact that the west is talking to itself, and in its own language, about the other. Like other commodities, data or raw material (ethnographical ,for example) is harvested in the third world country and taken back to the west, to be produced and sold for the benefit of the western readers and especially the western writer. Spivak wonders if under these conditions it can be possible for the west to speak about the non-west without sustaining the colonial discourse.

Spivak is hardly impressed with western efforts to speak for the other or try to "present his own voice". She believes that the west is obsessed with preserving itself as subject, and that any discourse is eventually about the discoursing agents themselves. Spivak is opposed to the western attempt to situate itself as investigating subject that is opposed to the investigated non-western object. Spivak's answer to "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is no, they cannot, not when the western academic field is unable to relate to the other with anything other than its own paradigm.

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Gayatri Spivak / "Can the Subaltern Speak?" - review - summary part 1 - summary part 2


  1. here is another summary

    It focuses not only on the difficult role that critical western scienece is in. It emphasises also that it is generally difficult to let the subalter speak because their speech is mostly mediated by other classes.

  2. both the parts of your summary have been very very helpful for me in understanding her main argument. thank you so much!
    please keep writing these blogs with short succinct and crisp summaries in the future.

  3. it was very helpful.. thank you :)

  4. This is very helpful. Thank you for your hard work! Cheers, Surtikanti/ Jakarta

  5. Thank you.helped me for my thesis