Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 2012

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (born February 24, 1942 in Kolkata ) is Professor of Literary Studies and Director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University , New York. Spivak is considered a co-founder of the post-colonial theory . Her work focuses on the literature of the 19th and 20th centuries, feminism and Marxism , deconstruction and globalization .

life and work

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak graduated with honors from the Presidency College of Calcutta University in English and Bengali literary subjects . In 1959 she went to Cornell University ( USA ) and in 1962 took the MA exam .

While Spivak taught at the University of Iowa , she received her doctorate in 1967 with Paul de Man at Cornell. In 1976 she published her highly acclaimed translation of Jacques Derrida's De la grammatologie . In the 1980s she joined the Subaltern Studies Collective around the historian Ranajit Guha . In 2012 she was awarded the Kyoto Prize for Art and Philosophy.

In collaboration with the subaltern studies , Spivak seeks a mediating position between traditional neo-Marxist critical theory and postmodern approaches to deconstruction , which she also criticizes as ethnocentric . Among other things, she analyzes the situation of the “marginalized” ( actually subaltern : “subordinate”, “marginalized”). Spivak works out that they are speechless in the face of the overpowering system of rule - or their language, their attempts to articulate their needs, remain unheard and misunderstood. The knowledge production of the western intellectuals prevents the subaltern from speaking. In this respect, Spivak also criticizes the representations of Western feminism and opposes this with a model of “subversive listening” that empowers people to speak.

In addition, it questions the functioning of the system of rule itself and possible ways of overcoming it. A well-known aphorism of hers is: "Unlearning one's privileges as one's loss", with which she shows how people are cut off from other knowledge through privileges themselves. In their opinion, the system of privileges can be overcome by critically questioning one's own positions, beliefs and prejudices.

In Outside in the teaching machine she describes the utilization mechanisms of the academic teaching machine , in which critical thinking also has its place, but only at the price of being checked for applicability or contributing to increasing efficiency.

Like Homi K. Bhabha and Edward Said, Spivak does not understand the “post” as an “end” of colonialism, but emphasizes its continuing influence on the identities and realities of the present. Although he advocates the deconstructivist approach, which marks identities as constructed, Spivak sees the need for “strategic essentialism ”. She emphasizes that it is politically necessary to think into identities - even if only temporarily and from a strategic point of view - in order to expose these identities as necessary false.

In 2007 she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society .


  • Must Myself I Remake? The Life and Poetry of WB Yeats . 1974
  • In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics. 1987
  • Can the Subaltern Speak? in: Cary Nelson & Lawrence Grossberg (eds.): Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture , University of Illinois Press , Chicago 1988, ISBN 978-3851325065 .
  • The Post-Colonial Critic. 1990
  • Outside in the Teaching Machine , Routledge, London 1993
  • The Spivak Reader. Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak , ed. Donna Landry & Gerald MacLean. Routledge, London 1996
  • A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present . Harvard University Press , 1999
  • Imperatives to reinvent the planet. (Imperatives to Re-Imagine the Planet) , Passagen, Vienna 1999
  • Death of a Discipline . Columbia University Press , New York 2003
  • Can the Subaltern Speak? Postcoloniality and subaltern articulation Transl. Alexander Joskowicz, Stefan Nowotny, Einl. Hito Steyerl . Turia + Kant, Vienna 2007 ISBN 978-3-85132-506-5
  • Who Sings the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. (with Judith Butler ) Seagull, Calcutta 2007
    • Language, politics, belonging . Translated by Michael Heitz, Sabine Schulz. Diaphanes, Zurich 2007 ISBN 9783037340134
  • Other Asias . Blackwell, Malden & Oxford 2008
  • Righting Wrongs. About the allocation of human rights . Translated by Sonja Finck , Janet Keim. Diaphanes, Zurich 2008 ISBN 3037340304 Foreword (12 pages)
  • Jacques Derrida: Of Grammatology (translation and introduction). Johns Hopkins, Baltimore 1976
  • Mahasweta Devi : Imaginary Maps (translation and introduction). Routledge, New York 1994
  • Mahasweta Devi: Breast Stories (translation and introduction). Seagull Books , Calcutta 1997
  • Mahasweta Devi: Old Women (translation and introduction). Seagull, Calcutta 1999
  • Mahasweta Devi: Chotti Munda and His Arrow (translation and introduction). Blackwell, Oxford 2003


  • María do Mar Castro Varela, Nikita Dhawan : Postcolonial Theory. A critical introduction. transcript 2005, ISBN 3-89942-337-2
  • Nikita Dhawan: Can the Subaltern Speak German? And Other Risky Questions. Migrant Hybridism versus Subalternity .
  • Stephen Morton: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Routledge Critical Thinkers), Routledge 2004 ISBN 0-415-22935-9 (Introduction to their thinking)
  • Miriam Nandi: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. In Stephan Moebius & Dirk Quadflieg (eds.): Culture. Present theories. VS Verlag , Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-14519-3
  • Hito Steyerl, Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (eds.): Does the subaltern speak German? Migration and Post-Colonial Criticism . Unrast Verlag , Münster 2003 ISBN 3-89771-425-6

See also

Web links

Commons : Gayatri Spivak  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence and note

  1. Member History: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. American Philosophical Society, accessed January 28, 2019 (annotated).
  2. ↑ The book title and many articles in the anthology refer to Spivak's well-known text Can the Subaltern Speak?