My position is generally a reactive one. I am viewed by Marxists as too codic, by feminists as too male-identified, by indigenous theorists as too committed to Western Theory. I am uneasily pleased about this. Post-Colonial Critic. Despite her outsider status — or partly, perhaps, because of it — Spivak is widely cited in a range of disciplines.
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As a postcolonial, I am concerned with the appropriation of "alternative history" or "histories. I cannot claim disciplinary expertise in remaking history in the sense of rewriting it. But I can be used as an example of how historical narratives are negotiated.! The parents of my parents' grandparents' grandparents were made over, not always without their consent, by the political, fiscal, and educational intervention of British imperialism, and now I am independent.
Thus I am, in the strictest sense, a postcolonial. As a caste Hindu, I had access to the culture of imperialism, although not the best or most privileged access. Let me, then, speak to you as a citizen of independent India, and raise the necessary critical and cautionary voice about false claims to alternate histories. False claims and false promises are not euphoric topics. I am also a feminist who is an old-fashioned Marxist and some of that will enter into this discussion of the cultural politics of alternative historiographies.
How are historical narratives put together? In order to get to something like an answer to that question, I will make use of the notions of writing and reading in the most general sense.
We produce historical narratives and historical explanations by transforming the socius, upon which our production is written into more or less continuous and controllable bits that are readable. If the privileged subject operated by these codes masquerades as the subject of an alternative history, we must meditate upon how they we are written, rather than simply read their masque as historical exposition.
Writing and reading in such general senses mark two different positions in relation to the uneven many-strandedness of "being. Reading is a position where I or a group of us with whom I share an identificatory label make this anonymous web my own, even as I find in it a guarantee of my existence as me, one of us.
Between the two positions, there are displacements and consolidations, a disjunction in order to conjugate a representative self. Even solitude is framed in a representation of absent others. In the arena of cultural politics, whose disciplinary condition and effect are History, Anthropology, and Culture Studies, this disjunction! The socius, it is claimed, is not woven in the predication of writing, not text-ile.
By that reasoning, we simply discover or uncover the socius and secure the basis of cultural or ethnic power through the claim to knowledge. By that reasoning, power is collective, institutional, political validation.
I do not advise giving up this practical notion of power. If, however, we "remake history" only through this limited notion of power as collective validation, we might allow ourselves to become instruments of the crisismanagement of the old institutions, the old politics.
But first I will make a brief detour via Marx. Of all the tools for developing alternative historiesgender, race, ethnicity, class-class is surely the most abstract. It is only when we forget this that we can set aside class-analysis as essentialist. In the volumes of Capital, Marx asks the German worker to grasp, as a preliminary to the planned change involved in remaking history, the abstract determinations of what is otherwise merely suffered as concrete misery.
In the language that I have been USing, one might summarize Marx as saying that the logic of capitalism weaves the socius like the textile of a particular set of relationships. I think it is not excessive to see these general senses of reading and writing at work,' for example, when Marx asks the worker to understand read?
Reading the archives of capitalism, Marx produces a critique, not of cultural, but of economic politics-hence a critique of political economy, political economism. As for the strategy for dealing with the sexism of Marxists, it seems to me not very different from that for dealing with the sexism of non- or anti-Marxists. Yet this counterintuitive thought of value should not make us imagine that we can ourselves escape the codes inscribing the real.
We are obliged to deal in narratives of history, even believe them. In fact, it is easier to believe in Marx's historical passions than in his methodological delicacy, and many of us feel that to label one ideology and the other science is only provisionally justified in situations of political calculation. In the celebrated Postface to the second edition of Capital I, Marx offers us a historical narrative: he argues that Germany was unable to develop the discipline of political economy more or less because in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it had not participated in the first stages of the development of industrial capitalis':ll' Hence Germany had no bona fide political economists, who were the ideologues of industrial capitalism.
When German savants talked political economy, they produced a bizarre Mischmasch der Kenntnisse-a jumble of knowledges. In so far as such a critique represents a class, it can on! J represent [vertreten] the class whose historical task is the overthrow if the capitalist mode cJ production and the final abolition if all classes - the proletariat.
B The position implicit in the work of the "Subaltern Studies" group of historians is that, since the colonies were not the theater of the development of industrial-capitalist class differentiation, if postcolonial intellectuals keep themselves strictly to the discourse of class-analysis and class-struggle, they might produce a Mischmasch der Kenntnisse.
The peculiar historical development of colonial society, however, does not exclude the critique of class-analysis as a normative imposition of an instrument of reading. Insofar as such a critique represents a group with a name, it is the subaltern. Separated from the mainstream of feminism, this figure, the figure of the gendered subaltern, is singular and alone.! There is, however, a rather insidious fourth way. It is to obliterate the differences between this figure and the indigenous elite woman abroad, and claim the subjectship of an as-yet-unreadable alternative history that is only written in the general sense I invoke above.
This fourth person is a "diasporic postcolonial. The central character of Mahasweta Devi's "The Hunt," my chief literary example of remaking history in this piece, negotiates a space that can, not only historically but philosophically, be accessible to her. I I We also know that, during the immediately preceding period of monopoly capitalist territorial conquest and settlement, a class of functionary-intelligentsia was often produced who acted as buffers between the foreign rulers and the ruled.
These are the "colonial subjects," formed with varying degrees of success, generally, though not invariably, out of the indigenous elite. A good deal of this repetition of the colonial episteme in the presumed rupture of postcoloniality will come into play in Mahasweta's story.
For the moment let us hold onto the fact that de-colonization does quite seriously represent a rupture for the colonized. It is counterintuitive to point at its repetitive negotiations. But it is precisely these counterintuitive imaginings that must be grasped when history is said to be remade, and a rupture is too easily declared because of the intuition of freedom that a merely political independence brings for a certain class.
Such graspings will allow us to perceive that neocolonialism is a displaced repetition of many of the old lines laid down by colonialism. It will also allow us to realize that the stories or histories of the postcolonial world are not" necessarily the same as the stories coming from "internal colonization," the way the metropolitan countries discriminate against disenfranchised groups in their midst.
Thus this frequently innocent informant, identified and welcomed as the agent of an WHO CL"IMS ALTERITY1 alternative history, may indeed be the site of a chiasmus, the crossing of a double contradiction: the system of production of the national bourgeOiSie at home, and, abroad, the tendency to represent neocolonialism by the semiotic of "internal colonization. But one is often surprised to notice how neatly the ruses change in that arena that engages in coding subject-production: cultural politics.
And the universities, the journals, the institutes, the exhibitions, the publishers' series are rather overtly involved here. Keeping the banal predictability of the cultural apparatus in transnational society firmly in mind, it can be said that the shift into transnationalism brought a softer and more benevolent Third Worldism into the Euramerican academy.
This was indeed ricorso from the basically conservative social scientific approach that matched the initial dismantling of the old empires. It is in this newer context that the postcolonial diasporic can have the role of an ideologue. This "person" although we are only naming a subject-position here , belonging to a basically collaborative elite, can be uneasy for different kinds of reasons with being made the object of unquestioning benevolence as an inhabitant of the new Third World. S he is more at home in producing and simulating the effect of an older world constituted by the legitimizing narratives of cultural and ethnic specificity and continuity, all feeding an almost seamless national identity-a species of "retrospective hallucination.
In fact, most postcolonial areas have a class-specific access to the sOciety of informationcommand telernatics inscribed by microelectronic transnationalism. And indeed, the discourse of cultural specificity and difference, packaged for transnational consumption along the lines sketched above, is often deployed by this specific class.
What is dissimulated by this broad-stroke picture is the tremendous complexity of postcolonial space, especially womanspace. Jv As I must keep repeating, remaking history is a tall order, and we must not take collective enthusiasm or conviction as its sole guarantee. In order to emphasize this point, I will fall into the confessional mode, give you an insider's view of what it "feels like" to taste the freedom offered by political independence in its specific historical moment.
My academic generation in India, approaching fifty now, were children at the time of the Indian Independence, unlike the "midnight's children" who were born with the Independence, and served Salman Rushdie to symbolize the confusion of a new nation seeing itself only as rupture, a monstrous birth.
These children of the middle class have become college and university teachers, cultural workers, government servants, political activists, the women household. I know surprisingly few executives or scientists as old friends.
Our childhood and adolescence were marked by a dying fall that had to be rearranged as an upbeat march. We were not old enough to analyze, indeed sometimes to know, the details of the scenario until later. Those years marked the collapse of the heritage of nineteenth-century liberalism out of which the nationalist alibi for decolonization had been painstakingly fabricated.
We could not know then, although it was being bred into our bones, that the People were not behaving like a Nation, that the dubious euphoria of ,. Yet our academic humanist generation would bear the political melancholy of this change. We wrote essays in our school magazines at Gandhi's murder. Yet we had already, in the curious logic of children, settled that the "Partition Riots" between Hindus and Muslims at Independence , like the "Famine of '43" artificially produced by the British government in order to feed the military during World War II , marked a Past that our Present had pushed firmly back.
In other words, as middle-class children and adolescents, my academic generation was thrust in the space of remaking history, negotiating a new history. This is the subject-position of the children of the national bourgeoisie in decolonization.
The adolescent imagination could be persuaded that the disturbing reminders of the past were no more than the ashes that the phoenix leaves behind as she leaps into the air reborn. We were already marked by this excusing structure productive of unexamined allegories of nationalism when, like everyone else, we perceived that, in terms of religious fundamentalism as a social formation, every declared rupture with the past is always also a repetition.
The potential executives, scientists, and professionals from that generation were the first big brain drain to the United States.
If, as children and adolescents, they suffered the same contradictions that I mention above, they understood them, J think, more in terms of broken promises. These people, mostly men, did well in the United States. Hard-working, ambitious, and smart, they were upwardly class mobile stuff to begin with.
They received some of the benefits of the struggles they did not join. As the only colored community although, like the colonial subject of the previous dispensation, they basically identified with the whites in the u. The constitution of the Indian community is changing rapidly, and beginning to assume some of the more working-class and small bourgeois dimensions of the Indian diaspora in the Afro-Caribbean and Great Britain. It can nonetheless be said, I think, that the first generation of IndianAmericans, just entering university, often innocently searching for their "roots" and their "heritage" following a route laid down by internal colonization are the children of the people I have been describing.
Some of these young women and men will no doubt lend a certain confessional authenticity to Third Worldist alternative histories in the coming years. It might be more interesting for them to intervene in internal colonizing in India, but that suggestion is beside the point of this essay.
The sources of the tremendous Vitality of underclass British subcontinental culture-rigorously to be distinguished from the Indian academic community in Britain-are to be found in the sort of sectarian "household" religion that has been the strength of subaltern consciousness on the subcontinent.
These groups are now written up in funky magazines and Sunday suppleme? The so-called Upanishadic religion of which they promote the fundament is a version of the semitized Hinduism woven in the nineteenth century, whose most stunning achievement was its co-existence with a polytheism read as personal allegory. It is idle to deny the ernancipatory energy of this innovation in its own time. In contemporary America this emancipatory force is channeled into recoding the entry into the great rational abstraction of the constitutional We the People.
The postcolonial diasporic as native informant finds a nurturing and corroborati ve space in this enclave in her attempts to remake history. And this group, privileged in India as the Non Resident Indian NRI , gets investment breaks as well as invitations to opine on the Indian spiritual heritage. This system of cultural representation and self-representation is the U.
SPIVAK (1989), Who Claims Alterity
Alterity is a philosophical and anthropological term meaning "otherness", that is, the " other of two" Latin alter. Within the phenomenological tradition , alterity is usually understood as the entity in contrast to which an identity is constructed, and it implies the ability to distinguish between self and not-self, and consequently to assume the existence of an alternative viewpoint. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak 's theory of alterity was introduced in a symposium titled Remaking History, the intention of which was to challenge the masculine orthodoxy of history writing. According to Spivak, it is imperative for one to uncover the histories and inherent historical behaviors in order to exercise an individual right to authentic experience, identity and reality. Within the concept of socially constructed histories one "must take into account the dangerous fragility and tenacity of these concept-metaphors. Spivak recalls her personal history: "As a postcolonial, I am concerned with the appropriation of 'alternative history' or 'histories'.
Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty
I cannot claim disciplinary expertise in remaking history in the sense of rewriting it. But I can be used as an example of how historical narratives are negotiated. Thus I am, in the strictest sense, a postcolonial. As a caste Hindu, I had access to the culture of imperialism, although not the best or most privileged access. Let me, then, speak to you as a citizen of independent India, and raise the necessary critical and cautionary voice about false claims to alternate histories. False claims and false promises are not euphoric topics.
Who Claims Alterity? – Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak
Who Claims Alterity