Are the “culture wars” over? When did they begin? What is their relationship to gender struggle and the dynamics of class? In her first full treatment of postcolonial studies, a field that she helped define, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the world’s foremost literary theorists, poses these questions from within the postcolonial enclave.
“We cannot merely continue to act out the part of Caliban,” Spivak writes; and her book is an attempt to understand and describe a more responsible role for the postcolonial critic. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason tracks the figure of the “native informant” through various cultural practices—philosophy, history, literature—to suggest that it emerges as the metropolitan hybrid. The book addresses feminists, philosophers, critics, and interventionist intellectuals, as they unite and divide. It ranges from Kant’s analytic of the sublime to child labor in Bangladesh. Throughout, the notion of a Third World interloper as the pure victim of a colonialist oppressor emerges as sharply suspect: the mud we sling at certain seemingly overbearing ancestors such as Marx and Kant may be the very ground we stand on.
A major critical work, Spivak’s book redefines and repositions the postcolonial critic, leading her through transnational cultural studies into considerations of globality.
Gayatri Spivak’s most recent text, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, brings together in a single volume a wide range of her work in postcolonial studies… She weaves together these multiple levels of critique brilliantly, presenting a rigorous reading of the discourses of imperialism… A Critique of Postcolonial Reason presents a scrupulous discussion of imperialism in European philosophy, literature, history, and culture.
Gayatri Spivak’s long-awaited book…sets out to challenge the very fields Spivak has herself been most associated with—postcolonial studies and third world feminism… [A Critique of Postcolonial Reason] is remarkable for the warnings it provides—powerful critiques of diverse positions structure the author’s stance—as guardian in the margin. Spivak forcefully interrogates the practices, politics and subterfuges of intellectual formations ranging from nativism, elite poststructuralist theory, metropolitan feminism, cultural Marxism, global hybridism, and ‘white boys talking postcoloniality.’
A Critique of Postcolonial Reason is almost above all else self-conscious, self-aware, self-deprecating. In 139 brilliant footnotes to ‘Culture,’ Spivak carries on a running engagement with the flotsam and jetsam (what Walter Benjamin called the ‘detritus’ of culture or ‘Trash of History’) of what passes for public life and the attendant information and culture industry in this global thing we live in: ad campaigns by clothing designers, articles and stories from the New York Times or ‘Good Morning America’… Spivak’s tone makes the book a constant pleasure. A mocking smile seems always present, along with sincere engagement with important issues… From the first page of the preface to her footnote almost 400 pages later about the exchange with the World Bank official at the European Parliament, Spivak focuses on the ignorant, arrogant Eurocentric destruction of people and the environment and the enabling practices of culture that make it possible… This is a most important and significant book.
Spivak focuses on the relationship of debates in philosophy, history, and literature to the emergence of a postcolonial problematic. Overall, she seeks to distance herself from mainstream postcolonial literature and to reassert the value of earlier theorists such as Kant and Marx… Those already interested in the postmodern and postcolonial debates may find her style invigorating.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, one of the foremost thinkers in postcolonial theory, looks at the place of her discipline in the academic ‘culture wars.’ A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason includes a reworking of her most influential essay, ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ which has previously appeared in only one anthology.
Gayatri Spivak works with remarkable complexity and skill to evoke the local details of emergent agency in an international frame. Her extraordinary attention to the texts she reads and her ability to track the reach of global power make her one of the unparalleled intellectuals of our time.
A founder of postcolonial studies surveys the current state of the field and finds much to criticize. This is vintage Spivak—dazzling, often exasperating, but unfailingly powerful.
In these pages Gayatri Spivak performs what often seems either impossible or purely gestural—a critique of transnational globalization which manages to be equally attuned to its cultural and economic effects. This book deserves to be read for its modulated defense of Marxism and feminism alone. It will be welcomed as the clearest statement to date of Spivak’s own relationship to the postcolonial theory with which she herself—wrongly, as she forcefully argues here—is so often identified. With a brilliance that is uniquely hers, Spivak issues a challenge which will be very hard to avoid to the limits of theory and of academic institutions alike.
Gayatri Spivak tells us that here she charts her progress from colonial discourse studies to transnational cutlural studies. She does so brilliantly. And she does so much more. She constructs this extraordinary progress through an intricate labyrinth, but one with blazing lights in every corner.
- 464 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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