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n Journal of Literary Studies - Body, text, materiality : reading the gendered subaltern

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Abstract

Feminist concerns about the political consequences of a focus on the material body as an interpretable text continue to be of importance in postcolonial studies. In this paper I argue that the work of postcolonial theorist Gayatri Spivak offers examples of a mode of reading that uses what Judith Butler calls the "sexed specificity of the female body" to mark the limits of existing discourses of analysis and of resistance, but without finally grounding that reading in a concept of materiality which escapes the discursive. Without implying that there is anything illusory, or "merely" discursive, about women's pain and the materiality of the body, Spivak's readings of the suffering women of Mahasweta Devi's stories enable a powerful understanding of the construction of that materiality. The paper gives an account of two of Spivak's readings of Devi stories, and links them to her deployment, in a third essay, of motherhood as a metaphor both for a politics of responsibility, accessible to the subaltern woman, and for the ethical relationship between the subaltern woman and the metropolitan feminist.

Feministiese gemoeidheid met die politieke gevolge van 'n ingesteldheid op die stoflike liggaam as 'n interpreteerbare teks, is steeds van belang in postkoloniale studies. In hierdie referaat betoog ek dat die werk van die postkoloniale teoretikus, Gayatri Spivak, voorbeelde bied van 'n leeswyse wat gebruik maak van wat Judith Butler noem die "geslagspesifisiteit van die liggaam van die vrou" om die beperkinge van bestaande diskoerse van analise en van weerstand aan te wys, maar sonder om daardie vertolking finaal te vestig in 'n konsep van stoflikheid wat die diskursiewe ontkom. Sonder om te impliseer dat daar enigiets denkbeeldigs, of "slegs" diskursiefs, oor vroue se pyn en die stoflikheid van die liggaam bestaan, verskaf Spivak se lees van die lydende vroue in Mahasweta Devi se verhale 'n sterk begrip van die samestelling van daardie stoflikheid. Die referaat gee 'n verslag van twee van Spivak se vertolkings van verhale deur Devi, en verbind hulle met haar ontplooiing van moederskap as 'n metafoor van beide, 'n politiek van verantwoordelikheid - toeganklik vir die ondergeskikte vrou - en die etiese verhouding tussen die ondergeskikte vrou en die metropolitaanse vrou, soos in 'n derde essay verwoord.

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/content/litstud/17/3_4/EJC62332
2001-12-01
2016-12-06
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