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The first item on the Better World Books 2016 Reading Challenge is […]
Rosalind C. Morris
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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's 1988 essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" introduced questions of gender and sexual difference into analyses of representation and offering a profound critique of both subaltern history and radical Western philosophy. Spivak's eloquent and uncompromising arguments engaged with more than just power, politics, and the postcolonial. They confronted the methods of deconstruction, the contemporary relevance of Marxism, the international division of labor, and capitalism's "worlding" of the world, calling attention to the historical and ideological factors that efface the possibility of being heard.
Since the publication of Spivak's essay, the work has been revered, reviled, misread, and misappropriated. It has been cited, invoked, imitated, and critiqued. In these phenomenal essays, eight scholars take stock of this response. They begin by contextualizing the piece within the development of subaltern and postcolonial studies and the quest for human rights, and then they think with Spivak's essay about historical problems of subalternity, voicing, and death. A final section situates Spivak's work in the contemporary world, particularly through readings of new international divisions of labor and the politics of silence among indigenous women of Guatemala and Mexico. In an afterword, Spivak herself looks at the interpretations of her essay and its future incarnations, while specifying some of the questions and histories that remain secreted in the original and revised versions of "Can the Subaltern Speak?"& mdash;both of which are reprinted in this book.
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