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To Speak About The Unspeakable: Marginalized Position Of Class, Community And Gender

3616 words - 14 pages

The perception and description of experience as ‘marginal’ is a consequence of the binaristic structure of various kinds of dominant discourse such as patriarchy, imperialism and ethnocentrism which imply that certain forms of experience are peripheral. Although the term carries a misleading geometric implication, marginal groups do not necessarily endorse the notion of a fixed center. Structures of power are described in reality, in a complex, diffuse and multifaceted way. However marginality as a noun is related to the verb ‘to marginalize’ and in this sense provides a trap for those involved in resistance by its assumption that power is a function of centrality. This mean that such resistance can become a process of replacing the center rather than deconstructing the binary structure of center and margin which is a primary feature of post-colonial discourse. Marginality unintentionally reifies centrality because it is the centre that creates the condition of marginality. Spivak suggests that the appropriation of the marginalized as part of postcolonial studies and Western academies relegates them to perpetual marginality. The distinction between centre and margin is retained, even more strengthened by the “third worldism” of postcolonial studies.
Subaltern studies in India first arose in the postcolonial era where scholars sought to challenge the historical narratives which glorified the Western Civilizations and left little agency for Indians. Hence, the main theme of the school was resistance to oppressive systems. Taking inspiration from Marxist like Gramsci and Eric Hobshawn, academicians like Foucault (ideas on power relations) the subaltern received constant renewals in its definitions and implications. In Can the Subaltern Speak?, Gayatri Spivak encouraged as well as criticized the direction taken by the subaltern studies in India. It had only reappropriated Gramsci’s term ‘subaltern’ which indicated more of economic marginalization more than anything else. In a very broad term the word ‘class’ refers to divisions in society. Like ‘gender’ and ‘race’, the concept of class intersects in important ways with the cultural implications of colonial domination. The first contention to be answered is the notion that the kind of inequity and injustice, exclusion and oppression found in post-colonial societies is simply explicable in terms of class. Now the question to think is “Is the condition of the colonized themselves simply referable to universal notions of class identification, so that they can be absorbed into some general category such as the international proletariat without a need of further culturally discrete distinctions?” The Eurocentric and Universalist bias of such a cintention is obvious. Nevertheless, it is clear that in many ways the idea of binarism between a proletarian and an owing class was a model for the centre’s perception and treatment of the margin and a model for the way in which imperial authority exercised its...

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