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About the Author

Born in Calcutta, Spivak attended the University of Calcutta and Cornell University, where she studied with Paul de Man and completed a Ph.D. in comparative literature (1967). She has since taught at a number of academic institutions worldwide, most recently at Columbia University. Her critical show more interests are wide-ranging: she has written on literature, film, Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, historiography, psychoanalysis, colonial discourse and postcolonialism, translation, and pedagogy East and West. She argues forcefully that these disciplinary and theoretical categories must each be articulated in ways that do not "interrupt" each other, bringing them to "crisis." Spivak's own work is resistant to any easy categorization. Her first book, Myself I Must Remake: Life and Poetry of W. B. Yeats (1974), did not have the impact of her second publication, the 1976 translation and long foreword to deconstructive philosopher Jacques Derrida's (see Vol. 4) De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology), which established her as a theorist of note. Since then Spivak has concentrated on examining deconstruction and postcolonialism, and its implications for feminist and Marxist theory. She engages not so much the specifics of colonial rule as the forms that neocolonialism currently assumes, both in the intellectual exchanges of the First World academy and in the socioeconomic traffic between the industrialized and developing nations. In the last decade, Spivak has been associated with revisionist, post-Marxist historians who have sought to challenge the elitist presuppositions of South Asian history, whether colonial or nationalist. Her contributions include theoretical essays and translations of the Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi. Most recently, Spivak has published essays on translation and more translations of Mahasweta Devi's stories. She has also given a number of important interviews on political and theoretical issues, many of which have been collected in The Post-Colonial Critic (1990). (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Shin-Lun Chang, Wikimedia Commons

Works by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Other Asias (2007) 25 copies
Maailmasta kolmanteen (1996) 5 copies
Righting Wrongs (2008) 5 copies

Associated Works

Of Grammatology (1967) — Translator, some editions — 2,017 copies
Feminists Theorize the Political (1992) — Contributor — 188 copies
Writing and Sexual Difference (Phoenix Series) (1982) — Contributor — 61 copies
Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship and the State (1995) — Contributor — 29 copies
Edward Said: Continuing the Conversation (2005) — Contributor — 19 copies
Deconstructing Derrida: Tasks for the New Humanities (2005) — Contributor — 5 copies

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This small-size booklet (nonetheless 121 pages) consists of an unstructured, free-ranging discussion about the nation-state. The discussion is between Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Judith Butler, the latter seems to be far out of her field.

Basically, the discussion touches upon too many issues, effectively lacking focus. It might still be read as an introduction of some of the main issues and introduction to some of the main thinkers in this area.

I think academia has moved on to viewing nationalism and the issue of the nation-state in a broader context of citizen theory, which as a framework is much more apt to address real-world problems while the nation-state issue seems to be somewhat outdated, despite the fact that nationalism is still widespread.

Perhaps this lack of focus is also caused by the fact that on the first page, in her opening remark Judith Butler asks why "are we bringing together comparative literature and global states" while in the subsequent discussion there is no attention for writers, except for philosophers and social scientists.

Generally, I am very interested in dialogue / interview publications, but perhaps for this topic this format is less suitable, or could have benefitted from a more structured approach.
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edwinbcn | Dec 16, 2021 |
Read in English - English version not on Goodreads. (Languages are not my strong suit, although I give it a good try.)
 
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Christina_E_Mitchell | Sep 9, 2017 |
This review was also published, in a slightly enhanced & more comfortable format, at my blog between drafts.

This essay collection plus one interview is easier to read than many of Spivak’s other publications, but that doesn’t mean it’s less complex—or, like, “easy,” for that matter. While I keep enthusiastically disagreeing with her on a whole range of issues, reading her books considerably broadens the horizon. Also, Spivak has a way of putting questions in your mind you wouldn’t have thought of asking. Since one couldn’t possibly write a review of any of Spivak’s works without writing a full-fledged and rather longish essay, I’ll limit myself to merely touching upon one general aspect that consistently arises in her texts, and is again highly visible in Other Asias.

This would be her approach to contrast “global do-gooders” from the Northern sphere on the one hand with basic field work (which she does, teaching rural children in West Bengal on a regular basis) and the proximity to the “native informant” (or subaltern) on the other. Which, in turn, corresponds to her concepts with regard to the importance of literature where “a training in literary reading teaches us to learn from the singular and the unverifiable” (228), a strong argument she has not only brought forward but substantiated throughout her work.

But I would argue that the havoc wrought by her “do-gooders” cannot be broken down exclusively to being misinformed and/or informed/constrained by Northern “global economics”; rather, the principle of exponential effects in complex cause-effect relationships plays a major part. Exponential effects would be negligible indeed in the context of basic field work, where any action would be much less likely to misfire. But things are also much less likely to change on a larger scale in the wake of basic field work by virtue of being “weak causes”; and, over and above, if these causes happened to actually be strong enough to engender more substantial change, the complexity would increase and with it the likelihood of exponential effects that will render whatever change is affected increasingly uncontrollable. If effects from basic field work ever exceeded those affecting, say, a single rural village, the field work would soon be unable to keep its systemic “purity.”

Along with its motivational purity, one might add—which always informs Spivak’s perspective (and where she keeps being very much informed and influenced by Kant): a purity that goes against the grain of the more pragmatically inclined, and that includes yours truly.
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gyokusai | Apr 15, 2008 |

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