Subaltern refers to a social group that is marginalized and oppressed. In Spivak’s essay, she discusses the ways in which the subaltern are unable to speak. She argues that the Western world silences the subaltern by denying them a voice. The Subaltern cannot speak because they are not given a platform to do so. Furthermore, even when the Subaltern is given a platform, their speech is often co-opted by those in power.
The Subaltern cannot speak because they are not given a platform to do so. Furthermore, even when the Subalter is given a platform, their speech is often co-opted by those in power. This results in the Subaltern’s voices being silenced. Spivak concludes her essay by stating that the Subaltern cannot speak because they lack the power to do so. In order for the Subaltern to gain power, they need to be given a platform from which to speak. Additionally, those in power need to listen to the Subaltern and give them a chance to be heard. Only then will the Subaltern be able to speak.
Their occupation was restricted to that of the house, and they were forced to submit to the male-dominated patriarchal society as it has always existed in our nation. Indian women, who fought alongside men in the national movement, were no longer given a free public space. They became housekeepers and were primarily expected to create a sturdy home that would help their husbands while they built the newly independent state. Women were demoted from being citizens with equal rights to men.
This is where Gayatri Spivak’s essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” comes in. Subaltern, in this context, refers to the women of India who were subjected to such oppression and silence. Spivak addresses the question of whether these women can speak for themselves, or if they need a voice. She argues that the subaltern cannot speak because she does not have the same power and agency as the dominant group. The subaltern is essentially voiceless and invisible within society.
Sprawling inequalities in access to education, health care, physical and financial resources, as well as opportunities for political, social, and cultural participation were hard to ignore. It was close to inconceivable for women to have a choice or a say in things like marriage, work, or death.
The essay questions the ability of the Subaltern to speak, in Edward Said’s words “to use one’s native language for effective self-expression.” Spivak argues that the Subaltern cannot speak because she is delinked from history, does not have access to education or resources and because her very subjectivity is constituted by power relations.
The essay has been critiqued for its essentialist and deterministic view of the Subaltern woman. However, it remains an important work in postcolonial and feminist theory.
In feminist theory, the voice of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is unsettling. She has called herself a “pragmatic deconstructionist feminist Marxist” and a “gadfly.” She employs deconstruction to examine “how truth is manufactured,” as well as how one intellectual and political standpoint (such as Marxism) may be used to “interrupt” or “bring into disarray” another (such as feminism).
In her writing, she combines a scathing indictment of the damage done to women, non-Europeans, and the poor by the wealthy West with a persistent inquiry into the foundations on which revolutionary critique is based.
Spivak’s essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is a critique of Eurocentrism and its tendency to silence the voices of those who fall outside the dominant power structure. In this essay, Spivak questions the idea that there is a unified “subaltern” class that can speak with one voice. She argues that the subaltern are not just people who lack power, but people who have been actively excluded from the discourses of power. As such, they cannot simply appropriate the tools of power to speak their own truth.
Spivak begins her essay with a discussion of the work of Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist thinker who developed the concept of hegemony to explain how ruling classes maintain their power. Gramsci argued that the ruling class does not simply impose its will on the masses through force, but also by winning their consent. Hegemony is achieved when the ruling class successfully imprints its values and beliefs onto the minds of the people, to the point where they accept these values as their own.
The problem with Eurocentric thinking, according to Spivak, is that it relies on a false dichotomy between oppressor and oppressed. This dichotomy erases the agency of the oppressed and naturalizes their subordination. It also denies them any possibility of resistance. In order for the subaltern to speak, they would first have to be recognized as subjects with agency – something that Eurocentric thinking does not allow for.
Spivak’s constant interrogation of preconceptions might be difficult to understand. However, her restless criticisms are directly linked to her ethical goal for a “politics of the open end,” in which deconstruction serves as a “safeguard” against the repression or rejection of “alterities”-that is, people, events, or ideas that are radically “other” than the current paradigm.
Spivak’s essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” addresses the problem of representing the voices of those who have been historically excluded from the dominant discourse. The subaltern, a term she borrows from Antonio Gramsci, refers to marginalized groups such as women, peasants, and colonized peoples. Spivak argues that these groups have been systematically silenced by the ruling class and their voices are therefore absent from the historical record.
Even when they do manage to speak, their words are often misinterpreted or co-opted by the dominant group. In order to give voice to the subaltern, Spivak proposes a “strategy of critical Philology” which she defines as “the practice of reading against the grain.” This involves reading texts “against the grain” in order to uncover the hidden history of the subaltern.
Spivak’s essay is divided into two parts. In the first part, she critiques the work of several scholars who have attempted to represent the Subaltern. In the second part, she offers her own strategy for reading against the grain.
In the first part of her essay, Spivak takes issue with Edward Said’s notion of Orientalism, which posits that Westerners have a distorted view of the East. Spivak argues that Said fails to take into account the agency of the Subaltern, who actively resist their misrepresentation. She also criticizes Marx’s idea that history is determined by economic factors, arguing that this fails to account for the agency of the Subaltern. Finally, she takes issue with Foucault’s idea that power is exerted through discourse. While she agrees with Foucault that power is exerted through language, she argues that his approach fails to take into account the agency of the Subaltern.
In the second part of her essay, Spivak offers her own strategy for reading against the grain. She advocates for a “critique of philology,” which involves reading texts “against the grain” in order to uncover the hidden history of the subaltern. This strategy allows for a more nuanced understanding of history, one that takes into account the agency of the Subaltern.