Can the Subaltern Speak? is a classic of postcolonial studies, the discipline that examines the impact of colonial control on countries that gained their independence from European powers from the 1940s onwards. The essay, written in 1988 by Calcutta-born scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, argues that a core problem for the poorest and most marginalized in society (the subalterns) is that they have no platform to express their concerns, and no voice to affect policy debates or demand a fairer share of society's goods. The women among them, says Spivak, are doubly oppressed.
Spivak first earned her academic reputation thanks to her English translation of French philosopher Jacques Derrida's Of Grammatology. This work, as well as feminism and Marxism, strongly influenced Can the Subaltern Speak? The essay has been widely praised for the insights it brings to postcolonial studies, but has also been criticized as dense and difficult to understand.
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