Listening to the other : explorations in subaltern representation
Date of Issue2011
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
According to Gayatri Spivak, subalternity is an inherent paradox: it is “a position without identity”. Retrieving the subaltern subject from the periphery of hegemonic discourse risks destroying its inherent alterity, and yet adhering to the status quo disregards the political realities surrounding it as well. If we were to take a cue from Spivak then, who suggests subaltern studies to be a “strategic use of positivist essentialism in a scrupulously visible political interest”, we would acknowledge that studying the subaltern subject will always be marked with ambivalence and absence, but it is also possible that existing institutionalised systems of representation are brought to crisis by persistent critique. Strategic methods of approaching the liminal position of the subaltern subject will thus be explored in this essay through two short stories by Punjab writer Sadaat Hasan Manto, and the film Reassemblage by Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha. They will be used to demonstrate that the question ‘Who should speak?’ should never be as crucial as the question ‘Who will listen?’ in the interpretive scholarship surrounding subalternity, and that the real demand for political agency lies in our ability to listen to the irreducible presence of the subaltern subject.
Final Year Project (FYP)