What If You Cannot Speak? Postcolonial Critique and the Subaltern

What determines your ability to speak? Your ability to participate in community or politics? What determines your status as a subject? What if you cannot “speak” in such spaces but must instead be spoken of by those who are given the status or role of “subject”?

With so much discussion recently about freedom of speech, and how to speak, in the face of verbal and physical and epistemic violence, it seems fitting to turn to Spivak.

In our last discussion, we came to question how the extremely marginalized could be able to speak out and change their circumstances. How can the voiceless be a part of Haraway’s or Irigaray’s feminist/cyborg/poly-vocal epistemology? How can they create new values under Deleuze’s understanding of the “will to power”? How can the disenfranchised participate? Should they?

To continue this discussion, we turn to Spivak on the “subaltern.”

Please Read:

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?” originally published in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg’s Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture.

This extremely influential essay addresses Foucault and Deleuze as thinkers working to conserve the “West as Subject.” What is this Subject? How was it created? And what does this mean for those on the fringes of this? Spivak is well known for her postcolonial and feminists critiques as well as her translation of and introduction to Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology.


RSVP list is currently full. Check back for future events, or follow us on Twitter to be in the loop about future events.

See you at:

Harold Washington Library

5th Fl. North Study Room


August 2nd, 2016

Related Listening

Always Already Podcast on Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony:

“The white philosophers are also the colonizers!” She says with surprise. It’s worth a listen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s