Can the Subaltern Speak?





Summary By



This is a short discussion on 'subaltern' studies (i.e. people interested in postcolonial societies) and a method of inquiry for post-colonial feminist studies. The author looks at whether subaltern can speak or not through the example of women in post colonial world. She discusses the role of colonization in discourse formation (without actually calling it a discourse formation). In short, she approaches the problem from a literary criticism point.
She first gives the example of 'poor,black,female' (as an example of expression). He then underlines (pretty much like S. Hall) color is useless in the context of third world.
Moreover "the post-colonial intellectual systematically unlearns female privilige" (p.549 3rd edition)
So, then what can we do to unmute subaltern women? Culler talks about producing difference by differing or appealing to a sexual identity defined as essential and privilege experiences associated with that identity. Spivak refuses this understanding.
(Here is where I get completely confused). She starts comparing theory with positivism/essentialism. She gives the example of Hindu women and how some practices were abolished by colonists (White men saving brown women from brown men.) This so-called protection of woman is then somehow considered as a sign of good society (equity of legal policy).

Summary quote: I remain generally sympathetic in aligning feminism with the critique of positivism and the defetishization of the concrete....I tactically confronted the immense problem of the consciousness of the woman as subaltern....The analogy here is between the ideological victimization of a Freud and the positionality of the postcolonial intellectual as investigating subject.

Discussion points

- What is the main 'benefit' of discussing women in the post-colonial world as opposed to discussing gender, or discussing the society with no specific interest in gender?