Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Introduction
Her name strikes terror in the hearts of well-meaning academics and right-thinking students everywhere. And with good reason: seriously, you don't want to mess with Spivak.
Deconstructionism is a theoretical school known for its rigorous reading of classical philosophical texts. The aim? Dismantling the main assumptions of these texts. Spivak is peerless when it comes to waging war on classical theoretical assumptions, making her a tried-and-true deconstructionist.
Furthermore, Spivak's game-changing essay "Can the Subaltern Speak?" (1988) marked a paradigm shift in post-colonial studies. This work really put a knife through the heart of the notion that theories created by upper class, European men could be generalized across populations. Spivak has continued to draw and redraw the boundaries of post-colonial studies while engaging ethics, comparative literature, Marxism, global feminism, cultural politics, and translation studies. It's hard to slap a label on this hard-working crit chick because, yes, she just about does it all.
Relying on the history and literature of former colonies throughout the world to fuel her fire, postcolonial criticism à la Spivak also entails a commitment to equality. This means changing things for the better, but not through the kinds of sweeping, quick fix projects that capitalists daydream about. Instead, Spivak's vision of a better future is built on slow, sustainable change. She hopes to change each classroom, packed full of wide-eyed learners like you, by blowing one young mind at a time.
Spivak's work has informed literary studies in many crucial ways. But she has certainly broadened the field to include other genres of intellectual works besides your regular old prose texts. Her essays and books mix literature with philosophy and match it with history for good measure. They make mash-ups of empire and colony, center and margin, and on and on, so that, in a representative work like A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Kant shares space with indigenous ecological initiatives.
Move over, Marx: Spivak is a force to be reckoned with.