Can the Author of ’Can the Subaltern Speak’ Act? : Spivaks essä i relation till ’French theory’ i USA

Detta är en Kandidat-uppsats från Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för idé- och lärdomshistoria


The purpose of this bachelor thesis is to analyze some aspects of the historical surroundings in which Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wrote her famous essay ”Can the Subaltern Speak?”. From a historical perspective, inspired by Quentin Skinner, I examine how Spivak in a context of French theory in U.S. academy criticized Michel Foucault and defended Jacques Derrida. In the first part of my analysis I relate Spivak’s essay to the ”Foucault and Derrida debate” of the sixties and seventies. I argue that many aspects of Derrida’s early critique of Foucault, and many of the themes of that debate in general, was rhetorically repeated by Spivak in ”Can the Subaltern Speak?”. In the second part of my analysis, I discuss how Foucault and Derrida in the context of U.S. academy were, rather than empirical persons, turned into common nouns well incorporated into the academic language. In this context, where Spivak appeared, I analyze how the ”notions” Foucault and Derrida was disputed. I argue that Spivak, during several years before she wrote ”Can the Subaltern Speak?”, had been trying to refute anglophone marxist and postcolonial intellectuals who criticized Derrida. These critics, including Terry Eagleton, Perry Anderson and Edward Said, had been blaming Derrida for being unhistorical, politically evasive and merely textualistic. My argument is that Spivak sought to defend Derrida towards these critics in ”Can the Subaltern Speak?”. In this context, her aim was to emphasize the efficiency of Derrida’s deconstruction as a political tool for marxist, feminist and Third world intellectuals. 

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