[Bibliography] [Relevant Link] [Other Theories][Postcolonialism] {20th-Century Critical Theories: Selective Readings}
Kevin Yao  Nov. 7. 2000
Post-Colonial Discourse of Representation, Identity, and Resistance in 
Gayatri C. Spivak's "Can the Subaltern Speak?"
Homi K. Bhabha's "Signs Taken for Wonders"
image sources: 
Bhabha: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/program/draper/FINAL/bhabha.html
Spivak: http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/Bahri/Spivak.html
¡¸ Key points: 
1. Post-colonialism: The-third-world background intellectuals 
Searching for individual, cultural, and national identity
2. The influence of Deconstruction: Subvert the binary opposition between Subject / object, Self / the other, the Occident / the Orient, Center / Marginal, and Majority / Minority.
Spivak's central motif is always very deconstructive.Much more influenced by Derrida's 'the trace', 'under erasure', 'differance', Spivak can explicitly manipulate cultural discourses in terms of deconstruction.

¡¸ Introduction to Homi k. Bhabha and Gayatri C. Spivak

A. Homi k. Bhabha

1. An Indian-British Critic, born in 1949

2. Received B.A. from Bombay University and his M.A., M. Phil., and D. Phil. From Christ Church, Oxford University

3. Chester D. Tripp Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago

4. This section is from his book The Location of Culture (1994).Its subtitle is

"Question of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree Outsibde Delhi, May 1817".

B. Gayatri C. Spivak
1. Born in Calcutta on Feb. 24, 1942 in India.
2. She received her B.A. at the University of Calcutta (1959); her M.A. (1962) and Ph.D (1967) from Cornell University.
3. Gayatri C. Spivak is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University now.

4. Translated Jacque Derrida's Of Grammatology and gave a Preface to the book in 1967

5. Privileged as an elite, and marginalized as a "Third-World woman", "hyphenated-American", and Bengali exile 

¡± "Can the Subaltern Speak?" by Gayatri C. Spivak

"They cannot represent themselves; they must be spoken for."

Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

<Main Points in the Section I of this article>
I. The origin: 
Ranajit Guha and Spivak edited a book called Selected Subaltern Studies in 1988.
In this book, Spivak's break grounding article of postcolonialism "Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography" is one of the sections in this book.This article "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is based on a lecture in 1983.

II. The problem of the representation in historiography

A. What does "Subaltern" mean?

Borrowing from Antonio Gramsci's idea of "subalternity"

B. Introspecting the subject position as an Indian intellectual

C. Why do those Indian historians re-write the history of India? And can it be fair?

1. Elitism / Subaltern insurgency

2. Guha's Subaltern Studies Group, p25, 26.

D. Critique of this historiography

1. Double imitation: The real voice of subaltern cannot speak

2. The discontinuity between the elite and the subaltern 

3. How can we touch the consciousness of the people, even as we investigate their politics? With what voice-consciousness can the subaltern speak? (Spivak 27).

E. The subject position of female subaltern

1. For the 'figure' of woman, the relationship between woman and silence can be plotted by woman themselves; race and class differences are subsumed under that charge. (Spivak 28).

2. Within the effaced itinerary of the subaltern subject, the track of sexual difference is doubly effected. (Spivak 28).

III. Conclusion: Subaltern cannot speak.

<Spivak's responses to the critique on the article>

¡± "Signs Taken for Wonders" depicted form The Location of Culture by Bhabha
I. The idea of hybridity:

A. In The Location of Culture, Bhabha tries to find a proper location for the confrontation of two cultures in the post-colonial period.Bhabha points out that this in-between space for the impact of two cultures is called hybridity.

B. Renee Green, the African-American artist, points out:

1. Cultural differences as the production of minority identities that 'split' in the act of being articulated into a collective body (LC, 3).

2. Question for an interrogator, interstitial space between the act of representation of certain culture and group of people (Who? What? Where? ) 

3. A metaphor of the museum building as the place where displays and displaces the binary logic¡XBlack/White, Self/Other. 

4. The stairwell as liminal space, in-between the designation of identity, becomes the process of symbolic interaction, the connective tissue that constructs the difference between upper and lower, black and white (LC, 4).

5. This passage opens up the possibility between fixed identification of a cultural hybridity (LC, 4)

II. The Idea of the Unhomeliness

A. Definition: That is the condition of extra-territorial and cross-cultural initiation (LC 9)

B. Goethe's suggestion for the world literature: 

1. The whole nation and the individual man works unconsciously (LC 12).

2. The study of world literature might be the study of the way in which cultures recognize themselves through their projections of 'otherness' (LC 12).

C. The example of the 'unhomely fiction': Toni Morrison's Beloved

1. The historical past and the narrative present

2. Searching the postcolonial identity: 'seeing inwardness from the outside'

III. Thesis Statement for "Signs Taken for Wonders" 

Bhabha examines several moments in postcolonial literature that depicts the "sudden, fortuitous discovery of the English book.Discovering the English book can be seen as a signifier of colonial authority, desire, and discipline.And by analyzing the signs of colonial representation, Bhabha, then, turns to the postcolonial discourse of hybridity. 

IV. The Signs (English book) cab be seen as an emblem of colonial rule, desire, discipline, and ambivalence

A. Civilizing Mission:

1. The Bible: Annud Messeh, one of the earliest Indian catechists, addresses to the Indian people.They would rather accept baptism than accept the Sacrament; a way of resistance.

2. Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship: In "Heart of Darkness" Chapter 2, Marlow discovers a book written by Towson (or Towser) before he arrives in the inner station.

3. A young Trinidadian discovers and reads that same passage from Conrad's novel.

B. The Multiple faces of the English book: 

1.But the institution of the Word in the wilds is also an Enstellung, a process of

displacement , distortion, dislocation, repetition (Bhabha, 32 )

2.The book "figures those ideological correlatives of the western sign---empiricism,

idealism, mimeticism, monoculturalism (to use Edward Said's term) that sustain a tradition of English 'cultural rule'" (105).

3. The book empowers the colonized subject with a mode of resistance against imperial oppression.See example on page 32, the first paragraph.

C. The small group is representative of the whole society¡Xthe part is already the whole.

D. Resistance: The strategies of subversion

1. Hybridity is a sign of the productivity of colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities (Bhabha 34)

2. Hybridity is the revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity through the repetition of discriminatory identity effect (Bhabha 34).

3. It is strategies of subversion that turn the gaze of the discriminated back upon the eye of power (Bhabha 35).

4. The example from HD: 

Was it a badge¡Xan ornament¡Xa charm¡Xa propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling inthis black neck of the woods, this bit of white writing from beyond the seas. (Conrad 56)

Hybridity is an in-between interstitial space which resolves the tension between two cultures.

5. Hybridity is a problematic of colonial representation and individuation that reverse the effects of the colonialist disavowal, so that other 'denied' knowledge enter upon the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority¡Xits rules of recognition (LC 114).

6. The partializing process of hybridity is best described as a metonymy of presence. (LC 115).The signifier of colonial mimicry is as the effect of hybridity: the psychic choice or third choice.

7. Signs of spectacular resistance: 

The words of master become the site of hybridity. (LC 121).The native Christian knows the value of the Bible, but the native Indians don't think so. (see hand-out).

V. Conclusion: The English books, as a sign of colonial power, allow the colonized subjects resisting the oppression from the colonizer in terms of hybridization, a way of strategies of subversion. 

VI. Question:
Is Bhabha's argument limited somewhat by the fact that the colonized subject's mode of
resistance is itself indebted to the language of the dominant?

Works Cited

Bhabha, Homi. K."Signs Taken for Wonders"Ed al eds. Bill Ashcroft.The 

Postcolonial Studies Reader.New York: Routledge, 1995.p.29-35.

---. The Location of Culture.New York: Routledge, 1994.

Conrad, Joseph.Youth/Heart of Darkness/Typhoon/ The Secret of Sharer with 

Reader's Guide.Ed. Wilbert J. Levy.New York: Doubleday & Company, 1974.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakkravorty."Can the Subaltern Speak?".Ed al eds. Bill Ashcroft.

The Postcolonial Studies Reader.New York: Routledge, 1995.p.24-8.