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In Other Worlds: Essays In Cultural Politics (Routledge Classics) [Paperback]

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

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Book Description

5 Jan 2006 0415389569 978-0415389563 New Ed

In this classic work, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the leading and most influential cultural theorists working today, analyzes the relationship between language, women and culture in both Western and non-Western contexts. Developing an original integration of powerful contemporary methodologies – deconstruction, Marxism and feminism – Spivak turns this new model on major debates in the study of literature and culture, thus ensuring that In Other Worlds has become a valuable tool for studying our own and other worlds of culture.

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'A celebrity in academia . . . [Spivak] creates a stir wherever she goes.' - The New York Times

About the Author

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, (b. 1942) Regarded to be one of the most important figureheads of postcolonial studies. Born in India, she is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York.

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4.0 out of 5 stars In Other Worlds 8 Feb 2004
By Mary - Published on
In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics, Gayatri Spivak is interested in finding new ways to apply Marxism and Feminism to literary texts. She argues that the traditional ways of reading texts and the traditional canon of knowledge leave out many important voices from Other Worlds. Her essays focus on the growing need for academic departments to become increasingly integrated in order to better understand the world's political, social and economic issues that hegemonically maintain the cultural and economic hierarchy. Spivak argues that the positions and ways of knowing from within Euro-American universities have a direct and overwhelming influence on the ways ideological and economic imperialism is imposed on the "Third World". This is important because, as Spivak suggests, the task of coming to terms with Euro-American imperialism can not be accomplished within departmental boundaries. Instead, the boundaries that serve to separate disciplines and create "specialists" in any given area need to be broadened to inform all aspects of the social and economic situations.
Coming from a Feminist, Marxist and deconstructionist framework, Spivak shows how categories can help to place people, but should not be used as absolute boundaries of discourse. Throughout her essays, Spivak turns to Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and other intellectuals to suggest an increased need for a deconstructionist theory of discourse regarding not just literature, but all texts. She calls attention to the need for a deconstructionist framework within the academia because she believes that that is the only way we will be able to see how ideologies and ways of knowing in developed nations directly affect less developed nations.
From a feminist perspective, Spivak sees the Marxian framework as being insufficient in developing an understanding about the mode of production, use value, exchange value and surplus value in regards to the womb. This, she suggests in an important site for the liberation of the female body in society. She believes that the female body has been left out of the mode of production, and therefore does not gain the same esteem for the labor it endures. In the chapter, Feminism and Critical Theory, Spivak asks what the consequences of giving housework an exchange value would be on social relations and the female position within the family. Spivak suggests that this question can be talked about in terms of "alienation". She argues against the presumption that laborers are always separated from their products and that is the reason they feel alienated from society. This is because she sees this framework as leaving out one of the most fundamental and important relationships of the laborer to their production, which she sees as being the woman's labor in the womb and the production of her child. Although she explains that child does not have an exchange value, she still considers the child to be a product of the woman's labor. She further shows how in many cases the man becomes the ultimate "owner" of the child, because he considers himself to be the legal custodian. From this perspective, Spivak argues for a rereading of Marxism, that includes the female reproductive economies. This, she believes will allow for a position from which women will be able to take claim to some of their labor which in most cases is neither valued, nor considered "real" labor.
From a psychoanalytical perspective, Spivak calls for an amendment to Freud's "penis envy" to include "womb envy". She points out both Freud and Marx's lack of explanations about the women's womb as a site for gender identity construction. She shows how Freud's genital stage fails to discuss the vagina or clitoris, but instead primarily focuses on the phallic. She sees this as being an important failure on Freud's part and argues that "our task in rewriting the text of Freud is not so much to declare the idea of penis-envy rejectable, but to make available the idea of womb-envy as something that interacts with the idea of penis-envy to determine human sexuality and the production of society" (Spivak 1989:81). Spivak uses these two rewritings of both Freud and Marx, to call attention to the need for works to be deconstructed to show the contexts from which they were produced. Spivak is not interested in refuting or objecting to what she calls the "great male texts", but on the other hand believes that it is only through rewriting these texts that progress and change can be made from within academia.
In the essay, A Literary Representation of the Subaltern: A Woman's Text from the Third World, Spivak explicitly lays out the main goals of her essay. She is most interested in the constant "interruptions" between the historian and literature teacher, which she believes bring out some of the positionalities and contexts from which texts occur. She is also interested in taking theoretical propositions and placing them in what she calls "alien arguments" in order to better estimate their true validity in relation to the complexities of theoretical "truths". By understanding some of the limitations of Marxism, feminism, French high theory and liberal feminism, she believes that the "subalternization" of less developed or "third world" literatures can be realized. Throughout this essay, she focuses on the methodologies used to represent "third world" both historically and fictively. Spivak believes that both history and fiction contain elements of each other, and the difference between the truth and the fiction of their texts is only a matter of degree.
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