Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak?

Jade Munslow Ong (University of Salford)
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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” is one of the key theoretical texts in the field of postcolonial studies, by one of its most famous figures. It was first published in the journal


in 1985, as “Can the Subaltern Speak?: Speculations on Widow Sacrifice”; reprinted in 1988 as “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Cary Nelson and Larry Grossberg’s edited collection

, Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture

; and revised by Spivak as part of her “History” chapter in

A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present,

published in 1999. It has also appeared in essay collections of and on Spivak’s work, and in postcolonial studies readers. This summary is based on the slightly abbreviated version that appears in Patrick…

2837 words

Citation: Munslow Ong, Jade. "Can the Subaltern Speak?". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 21 January 2014 [, accessed 29 May 2024.]

19945 Can the Subaltern Speak? 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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