Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spivak: "Bonding in Difference" (1993)

This is an interview with Gayatri Spivak conducted by Alfred Arteaga, recorded in 1993 and reprinted in The Spivak Reader (1995).

There's an interesting comment in there:
I have trouble with the questions of identity or voice. I'm much more interested in questions of space, because identity and voice are such powerful concept-metaphors that after a while you begin to believe that you are what you are fighting for. In the long run, especially if your fight is succeeding and there is a leading power-group, it can become oppresive, especially for women, whose identity is always up for grabs. Whereas, if you are clearing space, from where to create a perspective, it is a self-separating project, which has the same politics, is against territorial occupation, but need not bring in questions of identity, voice, what I am, all of which can become very individualistic also. (p. 21)
As a negative point, this is very close to what Donna Haraway, Judith Butler, and – later and less well-known – Miranda Joseph have said. But I like that it proposes the positive metaphor of "clearing space" as well.

Then a completely different thing, quite independent of the content of the interview: During her discussion of the Rushdie affair, Spivak makes a comment that I find quite interesting from a psycholinguistic perspective:
And the unease [in Britain] was on grounds of possible racism, which didn't give anybody any pause in the United States. They saw it right from the beginning as those bloody Arabs. Of course the Ayatollah isn't an Arab; what's the difference? Bloody Arabs against freedom of Expression. (p. 22)
Notice how the comment falls gradually more into a quotation or impersonation: First by using the phrase "bloody Arabs," obviously supposed to be taken as a covert quote of the American media, and then the whole unmarked quotation "Bloody Arabs against freedom of expression." I wonder what kind of body language accompanied these sentences.

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