Columbia Global Centers l Paris, 4 rue de Chevreuse, 75006
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak experienced early in life the contradictions that nourished the political, social and philosophical movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. Born in Calcutta five years before Indian independence, to a Marxist-Brahmanic family from West Bengal, a communist-controlled "democratic parliamentary state," Gayatri Chakravorty witnessed religious violence between Hindus and Muslims at a very young age that marked the political changes and the constructions of identity of her country.
After reading Capital, being introduced to feminist culture by her entourage, and becoming involved in the field of gender studies in Calcutta where she obtained a master's degree in English, she then went to the United States where she was first professor at the University of Iowa and before coming to Columbia University in 1991. She founded a teacher training program in Bengal and schools for rural and ethnic minority children (1986). In 1997, she created the NGO The Pares Chandra and Sivani Chakravorty Memorial Education Project that focuses on the education of children in the poorest regions of the world.
Her translation of Jacques Derrida's Grammatology in 1976, and the publication in 1988 of her text Can the Subaltern speak, her essential and innovative intervention in the field of postcolonial studies, gained her popularity with a wider audience.
This three-day conference, which is first of all a moment of study of Spivak's work, will be part of a multidisciplinary and multilingual project, allowing the articulation and analyzing of her research and militant activities through the perspective of diverse academic fields of inquiry: literary theory, translation, political philosophy, postcolonial studies, gender studies, anthropology, education, history.
Conference participants, drawn from different geopolitical and linguistic spaces, will thus be able to compare analyses and experiments, and consider the scope of Spivak's methodology, whose non-dogmatic nature is based on – in the words of Etienne Balibar – “quasi-concepts,” :
- the notion of “subordinate,” borrowed from Gramsci, which designates a social category and a position of non-identity, and gave rise to subaltern studies; that is, the study of the processes of silence and repression of minorities (women, ethnic minorities, "fourth world" poor);
- the notion of "voice" which operates the deconstruction of the representations of the subject and makes it possible to enter the field of "writing" where constraints and domination are played out, as well as the possible "transactions between heterogeneous idioms";
- the reflection on the modalities of the "subjectivity" of the "cultural policy" and clashes between and unlearning;
- the "strategy" for the deconstruction of a domination; that is, any strategy of emancipation relies less on pragmatism and more on fiction and performativity;
- "planetarity" – the term that Spivak prefers to "cosmopolitanism" – which confers an ecological and energetic dimension to human relationships.
However, she also develops, the notion of "critical regionalism,” which she opposes to the accepted standard of the nation-state, which makes it possible to reflect on moving and unstable legal and socio-cultural situation and to develop a mobile, cross-border thinking.
The conference will also build on Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s vision, and show how this pioneering work - practical, theoretical, speculative, field of creation - can pave the way for future research and action.