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"Can the Subaltern Be Heard?": Political Theory, Translation, Representation, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

J. Maggio
Alternatives: Global, Local, Political
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Oct.-Dec. 2007), pp. 419-443
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40645229
Page Count: 25
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"Can the Subaltern Be Heard?": Political Theory, Translation, Representation, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
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Abstract

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" questions the notion of the colonial (and Western) "subject" and provides an example of the limits of the ability of Western discourse, even postcolonial discourse, to interact with disparate cultures. This article suggests that these limits can be (partially) overcome. Where much commentary on Spivak focuses on her reading of Marx through the prism of Derrida, and on her contention that the "native informant" is simultaneously created and destroyed, I contends that Spivak's terms of engagement always imply a liberal-independent subject that is actively speaking. Moreover, given the limits of understanding implied by Spivak's essay, I advocate a reading of culture (s) based on the assumption that all actions offer a communicative role, and that one can understand cultures by translating the various conducts of their culture. On this basis I argue that the title of Spivak's essay might be more accurately stated as "Can the Subaltern Be Heard?"

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