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Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging [Hardcover]

Gayatri C Spivak

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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
This spirited and engaging conversation between two of America's most influential cultural critics and international theorists of the last decade explores what both Enlightenment and contemporary philosophers have to say about the idea of the nation-state, who exercises power in today's world, whether there is such a thing as a right to rights, and the past, present, and future of the state in a time of globalization. In a world of migration and shifting allegiances caused by cultural, economic, military, and climatic change, the nation-state, as Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak argue, has become a more provisional place - and its inhabitants, more stateless.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905422571
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905422579
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 11.3 x 18.4 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 308,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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"Judith Butler is quite simply one of the most probing, challenging, and influential thinkers of our time." (J. M. Bernstein, The New School) "[Spivak's] lifelong search for fresh insights and understanding has transcended the traditional boundaries of discipline while retaining the fire for new knowledge that is the hallmark of a great intellect." (Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University)"

About the Author

Judith Butler is the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of many books, including Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex". Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is University Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and the author of many books, including The Post-Colonial Critic and Nationalism and Imagination, the latter also published by Seagull Books.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 2.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
165 of 186 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Simulacra Scholarship 26 Nov 2007
By A Reader - Published on Amazon.com
It is surely a reflection of the demand for the Latest on globalization and the nation-state from highly commodified theorists that this super-slender hardcover volume (with approx. 120 words per page) hit a sales rank consistently below 5,000 on Amazon.com for weeks prior to its release. The scandal is that neither Butler nor Spivak have an in-depth knowledge of globalization or nationalism, but their comments and sound-bytes will soon be the most widely cited on these topics. Their iconic status as all-purpose references is built on a simulacra of scholarship that depends on two factors: 1) an audience that is unwilling to do the in-depth reading to understand globalization but wants sound-bytes to stay current and relevant and 2) the license granted to some celebrity scholars to comment on subjects well beyond their expertise.

Butler comes up with the astonishing claim (p. 13) that hardly anyone writes about statelessness in the social sciences now (what has she been reading?!); and Spivak tops this with her declaration (p. 87) that "the European constitution is an economic document" (what happened to the articles on secularism, militarism, and human rights). In a revealing exchange, when Butler asks Spivak to clarify what she means by critical regionalism, Spivak careens from Evo Morales to East Asia to South Asia to Habermas, to undocumented workers in the United States, to Iran, to NATO, to Russia in 5 pages to make the wafer-thin conclusion: "It [critical regionalism] goes under and over nationalisms but keeps the abstract structures of something like a state." No other scholar would be allowed to hang an argument on this flimsy peg, but she can and does. Spivak dodges every call to define her terms or offer a sustained argument. Along the way, she tosses up terms like "critical regionalism" "sustainable exploitation" (when has exploitation not tried to be sustainable) which will soon be the buzzwords of the moment. Needless to say, there is a large body of work produced about the refigured regionalisms in Latin America, Asia, and Africa (often by scholars working in institutions in these regions) that makes Spivak seem superficial and glib. Indeed, the argument for regional human rights instruments has been made at least since the First World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, but of course this becomes citable only when it comes from a Spivak. The irony is that in humanities departments, it will be the Spivakisms that will circulate, while the other work will be strenuously ignored. To think that it was Spivak who first charged her interlocutors with "sanctioned ignorance."
58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly edited scholarly effort 5 Dec 2007
By N. Pantaloni - Published on Amazon.com
I have to second the previous reviewer's negative comments -- it accurately assesses the substantive shortcomings of this book -- and add my own 2 cents (and 2 stars) worth about some additional problems. The text is a apparently a transcript of a conference or panel discussion between Butler and Spivak, with some questions from audience members at the end of their exchange, but there is absolutely no introduction or even a brief statement to contextualize their statements. Was this in fact a conference or panel discussion? If so, where, and what was the conference title or topic? Without any of that information the reader is projected into the middle of a conversation without any explanation. It makes it hard to get one's bearings, and as the previous reviewer argues, there isn't much of substance to hang on to as you make your way through the book. Very disappointing effort from Spivak and Butler, as well as the editor/publisher of this book.
48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly status is not a general license 24 Dec 2007
By Martin O. Heisler - Published on Amazon.com
Butler and Spivak have repeatedly earned respect for their scholarship. This (essays, dialogue, non-book?)"effort" seems to imply that their reputations will suffice in place of familiarity with the literatures of the central subjects on which they pontificate. They (ab)use well-established, still very much germane, concepts without regard to current usages by both mainstream and critical theory-grounded writers. It is as though they had invented their subjects yesterday: they make little effort to relate their comments to either the empirical or theoretical scholarship. The consequence should be treating this little volume the way its authors treat the bodies of relevant work on the theme they address; unfortunately a few persons may be sufficiently motivated by the names on the title-page to buy the book. Given its thin and airy (vacuous would not be too strong)content, however, is likely to be quickly forgotten. It fails to contribute to intellectual discourse
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars On Language, Politics, Belonging: Look Elsewhere 16 Mar 2008
By K. Nishikawa - Published on Amazon.com
This is not a good book. No contextual background is given for Butler and Spivak's theoretical dialogue on statelessness, and the dialogue itself is at turns pedantic (see Butler's punning on the word "state") and banal (see both critics' comments on the EU). The dialogue's alternating obfuscation and dullness may be accounted for by the fact that it appears to be a staged "conversation" between Butler and Spivak at a conference or symposium. Even on those terms, however, the book is a bit of a waste -- the pomp of the dialogue's tone is simply not matched by the critical points made in it. If you're looking for a much more engaged theoretical work on these issues, see Etienne Balibar's *We, the People of Europe?*
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars not good and not complete 26 Jun 2011
By Gary Matthews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Read the reviews above, I agree. And my book stopped on page 116 in mid-sentence, so I am not even sure how it ends. Go read this online.
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