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CAN THE SUBALTERN SPEAK? If Bhabha continuously interrogates the nature of colonial discourse and relationship in terms of its ambivalence and hybridity, it is Gayatri Spivak's works that persistently problematize the constitution of the colonized subjective agency from various angles. She endeavors to theorize the possibility of counter-knowledge of the subaltern, such as those constructed by colonizers or scholars of the Subaltern Studies group. In her frequently quoted essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (3) Spivak engages with the effect of the "epistemic violence" imposed by colonialist and imperialist discourses on the colonized native subjectivity and the complex issue of the denial of subjectivity to the native subaltern women in nationalist histories. She examines the pitfalls and aporias into which even the radical Subaltern Studies group may fall through a deconstructive problematization of the category of "the subaltern" and a further analysis of the subaltern women who are ignored even by the revisionist histories. Meaning as "a junior ranking officer in the British army" and "of inferior rank" (OED), the term subaltern is used by Gramsci to refer to those social groups subjected to the hegemony of the ruling classes in his "Notes on Italian History" (1934-5). Gramsci uses this term to cover a great variety of people, including peasants, workers and other groups having no access to hegemonic power. Thus the history of the subaltern is necessarily fragmented and episodic because they are always subjected to the hegemony of the ruling classes even in their rebellion. It is obvious that the subaltern has less access to cultural capital and social institutions to produce their own representation. According to Gramsci, only a permanent revolution of class adjustment can break this pattern of subordination of the subaltern class (Prison Notebooks 52-54). This term was adopted in the Subaltern Studies collective "as a name for the general attribute of subordination in South Asian society whether this is expressed in terms of class, caste, age, gender and office or in any other way" (Guha vii). This group argues that, the problem with the historiography of Indian nationalism lies in the fact that it is dominated by both colonialist elitism and bourgeois-nationalist elitism. Therefore, it defines its goal as examining the subaltern "as an objective assessment of the role of the elite and as a critique of elitist interpretations of that role" (Guha vii).

Professional & Technical
February 28
Canadian Academy of Oriental and Occidental Culture
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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