Can the Subaltern Speak?: Reflections on the History of an Idea

Paperback | March 16, 2010

EditorRosalind Morris

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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.

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From the Publisher

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...

Rosalind C. Morris is professor of anthropology and former associate director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. A scholar of both mainland Southeast Asia and South Africa, she has published widely on topics concerning the politics of representation, the relationship between violence and va...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.68 inPublished:March 16, 2010Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231143850

ISBN - 13:9780231143851

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Table of Contents

Introduction, by Rosalind C. Morris Part 1 Text "Can the Subaltern Speak?" revised edition, from the "History" chapter of Critique of Postcolonial Reason, by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Part 2 Contexts and Trajectories Reflections on "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Subaltern Studies after Spivak, by Partha Chatterjee

Postcolonial Studies: Now That's History, by Ritu Birla The Ethnical Affirmation of Human Rights: Gayatri Spivak's Intervention, by Drucilla Cornell

Part 3 Speaking of (Not) Hearing: Death and the Subaltern Death and the Subaltern, by Rajeswawri Sunder Rajan Between Speaking and Dying: Some Imperatives in the Emergence of the Subaltern in the Context of U.S. Slavery, by Abdul JanMohamed Subalterns at War, by Michele Barrett Part 4 Contemporaneities and Possible Futures: (Not) Speaking and Hearing Biopower and the New International Division of Reproductive Labor, by Pheng Cheah Moving from Subalternity: Indigenous Women in Guatemala and Mexico, by Jean Franco Part 5 In Response In Response: Looking Back, Looking Forward, by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Appendix Can the Subaltern Speak?

Bibliography Contributors Index

Editorial Reviews

Can the Subaltern Speak? is one of those extremely rare essays that can truly be said to be deserving of a book-length consideration. Challenging, rich, dense, and virtuosic in its range of reference, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's essay is one of the most widely read and cited in the canon of postcolonial theory.