Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: In Other Words by Sangeeta Ray

By Sangeeta Ray

This booklet introduces and discusses the works of best feminist postcolonialist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, by way of exploring the major innovations and topics to emerge from them.

  • Focuses at the key topics to emerge from Spivak’s paintings, equivalent to ethics, literature, feminism, pedagogy, postcoloniality, violence, and war
  • Assesses Spivak’s usually contentious dating with feminist and postcolonial studies
  • Considers the importance of her paintings for different fields, reminiscent of ethnography, heritage, cultural experiences and philosophy

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An easy political reading would produce a politics founded “on a continuous overdetermined multiplicity of agencies” (CPR, 183). In Spivak’s reading, however, Foe marks an aporia in the center, an aporia that is oxymoronically represented in terms of the making of narrative itself. As such, in the textual space of Foe, neither Robinson Crusoe, where the frame narrative is capitalism and colony, nor The Female Castaway, where the frame narrative is the mother-daughter story, can occupy a continuous space.

But, as Spivak shows in her reading, Antoinette lives up to the Kantian categorical imperative while drawing attention to the impossibility of its survival for the tainted other in an imperial economy. Spivak’s reading of Wide Sargasso Sea does not conclude with a reading of Antoinette and Rochester. She extends her analysis to the character of Christophine, Antoinette’s black nurse from Martinique, who is offered as a wedding gift to Antoinette’s mother, Annette. Within the plantation economy, Christophine can be read as the furthest sign of alterity – a voodoo practitioner from Martinique whose mother was never approved of by the Jamaican ladies.

8 The violence of subject constitution is in many ways a key ingredient to the understanding of much of Spivak’s work. More often than not, it gets cast as epistemic violence, which echoes Foucault’s notion of epistemic rupture and discursive violence, and draws attention to the manner in which epistemology is inevitably used to justify forms of political domination. Spivak’s reading of Wide Sargasso Sea illustrates this most clearly. In fact, by now, we all know that Jean Rhys wrote this short novel as a reflection on the modalities of epistemic violence.

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