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gayatri chakravorty spivak
reading group 2016




“When I’m pushed these days with the old
criticism — ‘Oh! Spivak is just too hard to
understand!’ — I laugh, and I say okay. I will
give you, just for your sake, a monosyllabic
sentence, and you’ll see that you can’t rest
with it. My monosyllabic sentence is:
We
know plain prose cheats.


gayatri chakravorty spivak is a thinker who is
impossible to define simply. if we were to
cheat, we could say she is a theorist, activist,
teacher and translator whose work is situated
between postcolonial studies, feminism,
marxism and continental philosophy.

uncompromisingly rigorous, her work has
been hugely influential, particularly in
rethinking the contemporary nature of
colonisation/globalisation; the relation
between language, politics and identity; and
the possibility of resistance and social change.

yet we can no longer rest with this cheating, so
please join us for a monthly reading group on
her work, where we can try to go beyond this
plain prose together.


in the meantime, others have attempted much
more worthwhile introductions. here is a
recent conversationalinterview between
Spivak and Nazish Brohi. Stephen Morton has
written a brief, compelling chapter titled‘Why
Spivak?’
. lastly, our text for july, the video
lecture ‘Culture: Situating Feminism’, has a
generous opening introduction.

the readings will be uploaded to the website
(see month links) but make sure you join the
mailing list to receive any updates (address,
additional texts, etc.) or alternately, to make
any suggestions/recommend any readings!


hope to see you there!






july



5:30 p.m.
sunday 31st july
1 wall st richmond 3121

this month we will be reading/listening to:

‘culture: situating feminism’ from an aesthetic
education in the era of globalisation
, 2012.

as a pdf and/or lecture





august



5:30 p.m.
sunday 28th august
1 wall st richmond

this month we will be reading/listening to:

who sings the nation state: language, politics,
belonging


which is a conversation between Gayatri
Spivak and Judith Butler.

starting first with Butler, then Spivak in reply,
together they explore the shifting and
contested nature of the nation-state in an era of
globalisation — working through contexts
such as statelessness, 'human rights' and the
singing of the national anthem. for more in
depth synopsis see here.

and don't be taken aback by the amount of pages
— the font is ridiculously large we promise!





september



5:30 p.m.
sunday 25th september
1 wall st richmond

this month we will be reading:

three women’s texts: a critique of imperialism

in this article Spivak analyses three canonical
texts of english literature: Charlotte Bronte’s
Jane Eyre, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

stating that the role of literature within the broader
project of British colonialism cannot be ignored,
Spivak seeks to recover the ways in which
imperialist logics are both continued (and
possibly) challenged within these texts.

Commencing her analysis with a discussion of
Jane Eyre, the feminist work that these texts
perform is also questioned, particularly in
relation to ‘feminist individualism’ and
social/biological reproduction.

offering many insightful and
challenging perspectives, we hope you can join us to
unpack this text together.





october
& november




5:30 p.m.
30th october, 27th november
1 wall st richmond

over two months we will be reading:

Can the Subaltern Speak?

first published in 1985, Can the Subaltern
Speak?
is widely regarded as Spivak's most
influential and controversial essay.

a profound challenge to the assumptions of
much western feminism and post-colonial
theory, the text interrogates the ways in which
critical discourses can themselves become
complicit in the project of imperialism.

in this way Can the Subaltern Speak?
addresses various contexts: from the
continuing marginalisation of non-
women within western discourses, to the
paradox of representing oppression, and the
structural (im)possibility of collective speech
acts.

with an uncompromising theoretical rigour,
Spivak moves between an analysis of ongoing
western-colonial tendencies to a discussion of
new possibilities and critique — for if the
subaltern woman is defined by a structural
inability to access power, how can her voice
be heard within the spaces of western
discourses? in what ways do western feminists
and post-colonial theorists not only fall into
romanticising the ‘other’ but — in the very
attempt to give voice or speak on behalf of the
silenced subaltern woman — repeat and
further re-inscribe patterns of colonial
dominance?

known for being notoriously difficult and
demanding, yet incredibly rewarding and
significant, we have decided to read the essay
over two separate sessions.

for the first session, we will read the first half
— up to section III on page 291 of the essay
(attached below) — and we will particularly
focus on how to read Can the Subaltern
Speak?
, helping each other to find ways into
the text.

in november, we will go through the
remainder of the essay and hope to also look at
its broad-reaching influence and the critical
responses it has generated.

and in the meantime, for a helping hand or as
supplementary to the essay, there is this
lecture 'The Trajectory of the Subaltern in My
Work' which provides insight into Spivak's
thoughts on the figure of the subaltern,
arguably at a more accessible level.