Study Guide

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Biography

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Basic Information


Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak


Serious Genius; Renegade Radical; Speaking Subaltern; Bad Teacher; and The Best Thing to Happen to Marxism, Feminism, and Deconstruction Since, Well, The Dawn of Time


Female. I'm "battered by gendering", but I've been battering back since 1942.

Home town

I now live in New York, New York, but I never, ever forget where I came from. Born in Kolkata, India, I still visit West Bengal on the regular to work with the schools I've established for the rural poor. I've gotta combat imperialism in all its forms, which means I have to show people how to resist the empire, even when it looks like a force of good.

Think you can fool us Third World Women with talk of "development"? Think again: I call that sustainable exploitation. I make it my mission to call attention to the workings of power and privilege wherever I find them; this means I have to be basically everywhere, basically all of the time. There may not be a bat signal (Spivak signal?) to get me to where I need to be, but my super power is spotting oppression from halfway across the globe.

And don't forget, lest you get comfortable there on your cushy chairs before the wan light of your computer screens, readers: I don't just call attention to the workings of power and privilege, I call out the agents of power and privilege. Agents who so often think they're open-minded, but, in fact, are really misguided. So while the privileged can run, they can't hide—least of all in the Ivory Tower. Mess with me, or any of my people around the world, and I will make it my mission to mess you up.

Work & Education


People call me a post-colonial critic. I call myself a "para-disciplinary, ethical philosopher", but you might know me better as a University Professor at Columbia University. Academia is a riot and a half, but I consider my professorship to be a really fruitful day job. It allows me to fund my schools in West Bengal and keep on keeping on out there in the real world.

Perhaps you've also caught me wrecking house at conferences across the globe, getting all up in the grill of The Man and raking in some more Benjamins (as in Franklin, not Walter) while I'm at it. If you want me to lecture at your school, trust me, it'll cost you. But rest assured these will go straight to teaching the rural poor and administering the non-profit that I have set up to keep doing so—i.e., to serve people who need the cash more than you need a pair of Lucky jeans.


I did my Ph.D. at Cornell University under the direction of Paul de Man. Never heard of him? Look him up. He was among the most formidable—I mean, major—minds of his generation, and I followed in his footsteps, earning a reputation for toughness both inside and outside the classroom.


Political views

Lifelong Marxist, Radical Feminist, Card-Carrying Deconstructionist (and if you want to keep up with me, you'd better recognize that deconstruction, rigorously pursued, implies a politics!)

Religious views

Atheism, duh.

Activities & Interests


Jacques Derrida
Righteous and Radical Educational Initiatives
Immanuel Kant
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
by Karl Marx


White Boys Talking Post-coloniality
Sanctioned Ignorance
Okay, let's be honest: Most Old White Rich Dudes


Rural Education
Third World Indigenous and Women's Movements
Impenetrable Prose
Ecological Activism
Rural Education


Radical Feminism
Down With Everything But Education (And Sometimes, Even That Too)
Fashion Statements

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