Spivak: Loosely Defined Ideas Left for Interrogation

Spivak’s discourse in itself, regardless of meaning, seems to be a rebellion against phallocentric language.  Her ideas lack rigid definitions and are transcribed in a nonlinear way.  Unfortunately, though I try to be as aware as possible to the systems shaping my ideas and discourse, reading Spivak’s interview brought to my attention the phallocentric foundation of my own mental processes.  However, this is far from a bad thing. I believe Spivak would rejoice in my confusion, which, to my knowledge, is her agenda: to put my mental processes into “crisis” and to highlight the “tensions” between the phallocentric foundation in the reader and the circuitous train of thought she presents.  By acknowledging the “crisis” and “tension” rather than creating a “balance”, we leave a window open for continuous discussion and analysis which is the only way to counter “privileging” one over the other.  I found it difficult to find clarity in Spivak’s words, but had I been able to, Spivak would have been using the language which she has dedicated her studies to critique.

Having read much of Said’s Orientalism, I found his article Orientalism Reconsidered to be more of a response to his critics Lewis and Pipes than a “look at the problems that first interested [Said] in [Orientalism] but which are still far from resolved” (89).  Said begins by disclaiming “I would not want it to be thought that the license afforded me by the present occasion is an attempt to answer my critics”and then goes on to explain, “I have been helped to achieve this broader understanding by nearly everyone who wrote about my book”.  Thus, I believe Said should acknowledge the article as a response to his critics in an attempt to better understand Orientalism, thoroughly highlighting the need for multiple perspectives regarding one ideology.  However, what I found new regarding Orientalism Reconsidered was Said’s declaration that “no one trying to grasp it (the ‘Orient’) can by an act of pure will or of sovereign understanding stand at some Archimedean point outside of the flux”(92).  Thus, Said believes that is is impossible to occupy a disconnected vantage point from which to understand a culture.  Do we agree with Said and can anyone truly understand culture?

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