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question of what it means to speak for an-other. I explore that question in relation to philosophers like Linda Alcoff, Iris Marion Young, and Gayatri Spivak, and. ; revised and reprinted in Who Can Speak? Authority and Critical Identity edited by Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, University of Illinois Press, ; and . The Problem of Speaking for Others. Author(s): Linda Alcoff. Source: Cultural Critique, No. 20 (Winter, ), pp. Published by: University of.

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While the prerogative of speaking for others remains unquestioned in the citadels of colonial administration, among activists and in the academy it elicits a growing unease and, in some communities ffor discourse, it is being rejected.

I agree with her on this point but I would emphasize also that ignoring the subaltern’s or oppressed person’s speech is, as she herself notes, “to continue the imperialist project.

Given that truth is connected to politics, these political differences between locations will produce epistemic differences as well.

But there is no neutral place to tthe free and clear in which one’s words do not prescriptively affect or mediate the experience of others, nor is there a way to demarcate decisively a boundary between one’s location and all others.

Certain races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and classes confer privilege, but a single individual perhaps most individuals may enjoy privilege in respect to some parts of their identity and a lack of foe in respect to other parts. The major problem with such a retreat is that it significantly undercuts the possibility of political effectivity.

A quick impulse to reject criticism must make one wary. We certainly want to encourage a more receptive listening on the part of the discursively privileged and to discourage presumptuous and oppressive practices of speaking for. Next Post A day at the office: Though the speaker may be trying to materially improve the situation of some lesser-privileged group, one of the effects of her discourse is to reenforce racist, imperialist conceptions and perhaps also to further silence the lesser-privileged othhers own ability to speak and be heard.

But surely it is both morally and politically objectionable to structure one’s actions around the desire to avoid criticism, especially if this outweighs other questions of effectivity. When any of these elements is changed, a new evaluation is called for. Given this, we have to pay careful attention to the discursive arrangement in order to understand the full meaning of any given discursive event. As my practices are made possible by events spatially far away from my body so too my own practices make possible or impossible practices of others.


Linda Martin Alcoff, The problem of speaking for others – PhilPapers

What this entails in practice is a serious commitment to remain open to criticism and to attempt actively, attentively, and sensitively to “hear” the criticism understand it. In anthropology there is similar discussion about whether it is possible to speak for others either adequately or justifiably.

For, in speaking for myself, I am also representing my self in pf certain way, as occupying a specific subject-position, having certain characteristics and not others, and so on. Those who are not in a position of speaking at all cannot retreat from an action they do not prkblem.

The discursive style in which some European post-structuralists have made the claim that all writing is political marks it as important and likely to be true for a certain powerful milieu; whereas the style in which African-American writers made the problme claim marked their speech as dismissable in the eyes of the same milieu.

New York University Press. When Bush claimed lthers Noriega is a corrupt dictator who stands in the way of democracy in Panama, he repeated a claim which has been made almost word for word by the Opposition movement in Panama.

But Spivak is also critical of speaking for which engages in dangerous re-presentations.

These associations have an effect, an effect of producing distrust on the part of some Third World nationalists, an effect of reinscribing semi-conscious imperialist attitudes on the part of some first world feminists. Why might one advocate such a partial speaiing Conclusion This issue is complicated by the variable way in which the importance of the source, or location of the author, can be understood, a topic alluded to earlier.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

Sign in to use this feature. One person a straight woman was regaling us with tales about how difficult alckff was to come out as a queer person—as told to her by her gay male friends—meanwhile queer people like myself were being shut out of the discussion or talked over so our voices could not be heard. Thus privilege carries with it, e. The source of a claim or discursive practice in suspect motives or oroblem or in privileged social locations, I have argued, though it is always relevant, cannot be sufficient to repudiate it.


Adequate research will be a necessary but insufficient criterion of evaluation. Sara Ruddick – – Hypatia 21 2: From such a position one’s own location and positionality would not require constant interrogation and critical reflection; one would not have to constantly engage in this emotionally troublesome endeavor and would be immune from the interrogation of others.

But first I need to explain further my framing of the problem. If ideas arise in such a configuration of forces, does it make sense to ask for an author? However, while there is much theoretical and practical work to be done to develop such alternatives, the practice of speaking for others remains the best option in some existing situations.

Rigoberta Menchued. History of Western Philosophy.

She renounces for herself the practice of speaking for others within a lesbian feminist community, arguing that she “will not try to get other wimmin to accept my beliefs in place of their own” on the grounds that to do so would be to practice a kind of discursive coercion and even a violence.

Now let us look at the second premise. All contexts and locations are differentially related in complex ways to structures of oppression. And an important implication of this claim is that meaning must be understood as plural and pf, since a single text can engender diverse meanings given diverse contexts.

In speaking xpeaking myself, I momentarily create my selfjust as fr as when I speak for others I create them as a public, discursive self, a self which is more unified than any subjective experience can support.

For example, linds many situations when a woman speaks the presumption is against her; when a man speaks he is usually taken seriously unless his speech patterns mark him as socially inferior by dominant standards. But the second premise suggests that some voices may be dis-authorized on grounds which are simultaneously political and epistemic.

Once we pose it as a problem of representation, we see that, not only are speaking for and speaking about analytically close, so too are the practices of speaking for others and speaking for myself. But Trebilcot’s position, as well as a more general retreat position, presumes an ontological configuration of the discursive context that simply acoff not obtain.