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Deconstructing the Moment of Representation with Spivak and Derrida

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dc.contributor.advisor Miller, Jerry Ahmed, Courtney 2019-01-04T16:59:48Z 2019-01-04T16:59:48Z 2018
dc.description.abstract This essay aims to employ a deconstructive understanding of identity and representation in order to identify what an ethical approach to representation should look like, especially with regard to the empowerment of minority and marginalized groups. I turn to Gayatri Spivak and Jacques Derrida who provide the framework for my scope of inquiry. In “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Spivak problematizes the aim of postcolonialism to constitute a postcolonial identity by giving voice to indigenous cultural narratives that counteract dominating Western imperialist ideologies. The problem with this aim lies in its tenuous commitment to a stable, persistent ‘truth’ of identity that can be understood apart from context, which, according to Spivak, results in the failure to recognize how the “epistemic violence” of imperialism has obstructed the subaltern subject’s ability to both speak and be heard. To justify Spivak’s concerns, I will look to her foundation in Derridean deconstructive analysis, which is built upon the premise that all meaning resides in the unstable relations between signifiers, rather than a fixed referent. With her Derridean background, Spivak advocates for strategic essentialism as a way for marginalized groups to achieve discursive power. Due to well-known dangers of essentialism that are highlighted by a deconstructive lens, however, I argue for a representational approach that goes beyond essentialism and seeks to produce an illimitable subjectivity by allowing room for change and possibility. With this goal in mind, I then offer potential strategies for the empowerment of minority and marginalized groups.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of Philosophy
dc.title Deconstructing the Moment of Representation with Spivak and Derrida
dc.rights.access Open Access

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