Alcoff’s widely-cited article titled, exactly: “The problem of speaking for others.” Alcoff’s essay is a review of the arguments that have been presented by. ; 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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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 problm.

One important implication of this first premise is that we can no longer determine the validity of a given instance of speaking for others simply by asking whether or not the speaker has done sufficient research to justify her claims. For example, in 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.

This is not to suggest that all representations are fictions: Given that interpretations and meanings are discursive constructions made by embodied speakers, Trebilcot worries that attempting to persuade or speak for another will cut off that person’s ability or willingness to engage in the constructive act of developing meaning.

For instance, after I vehemently defended Barbara Christian’s article, “The Race for Theory,” a male friend who had a different evaluation of the piece couldn’t help raising the possibility of whether a sort of apologetics structured my response, motivated by a desire to valorize African American writing against all odds. Some have come forward as former workers, but I wonder what impact that has on their careers and on their conceptualizations of their spaces as safe.

How one evaluates a particular effect is left open; 4 argues simply that effects must always be taken into account.

The Problem of Speaking For Others

These are by no means original: Trebilcot is explaining here her own reasoning for rejecting these practices, but she is not advocating that other women join her in this.

But as Maria Lugones and others have other argued, such an act serves no good end when it alcooff used as a disclaimer against one’s ignorance or errors and is made without critical interrogation of the bearing of such an autobiography on what is about to wpeaking said.

It leaves for the listeners all the real work that needs to be done. If example, can a white woman speak for all women simply by virtue of being a woman? Constructing hypotheses about the possible connections between our location and our words is one way to begin.

Sleaking that the context of hearers is partially proble, the speaker is not the master or mistress of the situation. Only published works are available at libraries. Others have been aalcoff the opposite and will speak haltingly, spsaking apologies, if they speak at all. This is simply what less-privileged persons have always had to do for ourselves when reading the history of philosophy, literature, etc.


Indiana University Press,65 and This point might be conceded by those who admit to the political mutability of interpretationbut they might continue to maintain that truth is a different matter altogether.

Some of us have been taught that by right of having the dominant gender, class, race, letters after our name, or some other criterion, we are more likely to have the truth. And this public self will in most cases have an effect on the self experienced as interiority. The dominant modernist view has been that truth represents a relationship of correspondence between a proposition and an extra-discursive reality.

When the president of the United States stands before the world passing judgement on a Third World government, and criticizing it on the basis of corruption and a lack of democracy, the immediate effect of this statement, as opposed to the Opposition’s, is to reenforce the prominent Anglo view that Latin American corruption is the primary cause of the region’s poverty and lack of democracy, that the U.

This created an impetus to reconfigure the ontology of truth, from a locus outside human interpretation to one within it.

In anthropology there is similar discussion about whether it is possible to speak for others either adequately or justifiably. In the history of Western philosophy, there have existed multiple, competing definitions and ontologies of truth: Spaces in which it may seem as if it is impossible to engage in dialogic encounters need to be transformed in order to do so, alcofc as classrooms, hospitals, workplaces, welfare agencies, universities, institutions for international development and aid, and governments.

After the elections in Panama are overturned by Manuel Noriega, U. I do wonder who gets to speak and of what—what stories and personal experiences are told particularly as studied and discussed in academic environments and which are relegated to the dark recesses of oblivion or pop-culture.

Arguably since Kant, more obviously since Hegel, it has been widely accepted that an understanding of truth which requires it to be free of human interpretation leads inexorably to skepticism, since it makes truth inaccessible by definition. Certain races, nationalities, genders, problej, 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 privilege in respect to other parts.

In the examples used above, there may appear to be a conflation speakung the issue of speaking for others and the issue of speaking about others. The complexity and multiplicity of group identifications could result in “communities” composed of single individuals. If one’s immediate impulse is to teach rather than listen to a less-privileged speaker, one should resist that impulse long enough to interrogate it carefully.

Spivak’s arguments show that spexking simple solution can not be found in for the oppressed or less privileged being able to speak for themselves, since their speech will not necessarily be either liberatory or reflective of their “true interests”, if such exist.


It is an illusion that I can separate from others to such an extent that I can avoid affecting them. Our meta-theory of authorship does not preclude the material reality that in discursive spaces there is a speaker or writer credited as the author of her utterances, or that for example the feminist appropriation of the concept “patriarchy” gets tied to Kate Millett, a white Anglo feminist, or that the term feminism itself has been and is associated with a Western origin.

However, this objection presupposes a particular conception of truth, one in which the truth of a statement can be distinguished from its interpretation and its acceptance. Sara Ruddick – – Hypatia 21 2: Jason Wyckoff – – Philosophical Quarterly 65 While the “Charge of Reductionism” response has been popular lf academic theorists, what I call the “Retreat” response has been popular among some sections of the U.

Feminist Epistemology in Epistemology. The second claim holds that not only is location epistemically salient, but certain privileged locations are discursively dangerous.

At a recent symposium at my university, a prestigious theorist was invited to thhe a lecture on the political problems of post-modernism. But there is no neutral place to stand 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.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others – Hook & Eye

The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography ed. In other words, a speaker’s location which I take here to refer to her social epeaking or social identity has an epistemically significant impact on that speaker’s claims, and can serve either to authorize or dis-authorize one’s speech.

Is my greatest contribution to move over and get out of the way? What this entails in practice is a serious commitment to remain open to criticism and othets attempt actively, attentively, and sensitively to “hear” the criticism understand it.

Thus, the effect of a U. But this development should not be taken as an absolute dis-authorization of all practices of speaking for. For this reason, the work of privileged authors who speak on behalf of the oppressed is becoming increasingly criticized by members of those oppressed groups themselves.

This question has come up prolem me repeatedly in my own research on feminist magazines like BUST and Bitch. Sometimes, I worry sometimes that my criticism overrides what I see as the value of these texts.

Anthropology’s Interlocutors” Critical Inquiry Now let me turn to the example of George Bush.

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