Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There are very strange people out there

A couple of comments on Spivak. This is how other people are capable of seeing her:

From Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture edited by Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1988, p. 271-313. All page number citations refer to this edition.

“Spivak's contribution with "Can the Subaltern Speak" is to politicize Derridean deconstruction in order to elaborate a method for emancipatory readings and cultural interventions. She defines her project as fourfold: 1) Problematize the Western subject and see how it is still operational in poststructuralist theory (Foucault & Deleuze);
2) Re-read Marx to find a more radical decentering of the subject that also more leaves room for the formation of class identifications that are non-essentialist;
3) Argue that Western intellectual production reinforces the logic of Western economic expansion;
4) Perform a close reading of sati to analyze the discourses of the West and the possibilities for speech that the subaltern woman has (or does not have) within that framework.”

The expressions close reading and epi-reading are words that sound a warning; they mean that the writer intends to interpret a text or a situation arbitrarily and in a way that will support their own prejudices. (As opposed to graphi-reading, which is actually identifying the meaning of a text, and is a term they use with disdain).

And in case you were wondering, the above quotation does not mean anything whatsoever. Nothing. Not even a little bit. Don’t look for sense. It isn’t there.

Try this one:

“Can the Subaltern Speak and Other Transcendental Questions”- Warren Montag in Cultural Logic: An Electronic Journal of Marxist Theory and Practice

"Not that Gayatri Spivak needs to be told any of this. Her essay "can the Subaltern Speak?" (which exists in several forms--I'll be examining the longest version, which appears in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture) displays a dazzling array of tactical devices designed to ward off or pre-emptively neutralize the attacks of critics. We might say of Spivak what Althusser said of Lacan--that the legendary difficulty of the essay is less a consequence of the profundity of its subject matter than its tactical objectives: "to forestall the blows of critics . . . to feign a response to them before they are delivered" and, above all, to resort to philosophies apparently foreign to the endeavor "as so many intimidating witnesses thrown in the faces of the audience to retain the respect."

This is so far from the truth as to produce ridicule and despair. She and her acolytes are constructing a massive, solid edifice of commentary on a foundation which is so full of holes as to be almost non-existent. It would surely be easier just to rewrite the essay than to hide its vacuity with such comparative lucidity. But they cannot see that it is empty and worthless, because it doesn’t matter. The dogma is what counts. Any old string of words will do to justify it. They only have to exist, not to make sense.

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