In his book ‘Orientalism’ Edward Said expands upon the Eurocentric, white male perspective on the postcolonial subject of the Oriental as one that has “centuries of experience and no wisdom” (۶۴) and belongs “to the system of rule,” that ensures, as one “ignorant of self-government” not to be left independent. (63) Said touches on the “primitiveness” of this state as a “reductive definition”, one that gives the subject “an aura of apartness, definiteness, and collective self-consistency such as to wipe out any traces of [individual] narratable life histories.” (۶۴)
As for Spivak, she describes what she introduces as the “disenfranchised female in decolonized space” as “an object of knowledge [and] a native-informant style subject of oral histories who is patronizingly considered incapable of strategy towards us”. (۱۱۲۱) Spivak further “references the diasporic, post-colonial as slippery and ever-evolving subject position.” (Pauker)
Orientalism – According to Edward Said Orientalism “is a system of representation famed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later Western empire. Said states that “Orientalism is a school of interpretation whose material happens to be the Orient, its civilizations, peoples, and localities. (60)
Alterity – Alterity is “the state of being different” or the state of otherness with English derivatives such as the words alternate, alteration or the alter ego. (Pauker)
Gendered Subaltern – The gendered subaltern is one that is “doubly displaced” due not only to its cultural position but also its gender. The subaltern in general is a notion introduced by the Italian Marxists Antonio Gramsci. It refers to the “politically uncoordinated popular masses [or] subordinated groups [lacking] the unity and organization, [as well as the literacy, knowledge and economic means] of those in power.” (Pauker) According to Spivak, furthermore, the subaltern does not have a voice of its own, as, for it to be heard and understood, it first needs to be interpellated into and adopt the Western knowledge and mode of discourse. (Pauker)
As to how I view and understand myself in a postcolonial subject position, I can best relate my overall experience to the notion of Logocentrism. In her audio lecture, Magnolia talks about Spivak and her view on power being “harnessed when complexity and readability are made accessible through logocentrism”- the notion of language holding the ultimate authority. (Pauker) While I am sure this complex premise requires much more exploration and deciphering on my part, I can recall countless instances where I have come across as righteous, credible or worthy of being heard, only as a result of adopting the relevant mode of communication. What is interesting is that I have been reluctant to question this reality until now, dismissing the inner voice that questioned the unworthiness of those not versed enough to have a voice.
Edward Said, from Orientalism (۱۹۷۸), in A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, 59-65
Gayatri Chakravorti Spivak, Who Claims Alterity (۱۹۸۹), Art in Theory, 1119-1124
Pauker, Magnolia. Forum 6: Postcolonialism/Otherness/Alterity Lecture. Rpt in SOCS 201: Introduction to Cultural Theory. Vancouver: Emily Carr University of Art + Design, 2016. audio file.