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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In speaking about theories or ideas that gain prominence, she says: He lectures instead on architecture. Rituals of speaking are constitutive of meaning, the meaning of the words spoken as well as the meaning of the event. This effect occurs because the speaker is positioned as authoritative and empowered, as the knowledgeable subject, while the group in the Third World is reduced, merely because of the structure of the speaking practice, to an object and victim that must be championed from afar.

I do wonder who gets to speak and of what—what stories and personal experiences are told particularly as studied and discussed in academic spaking and which are problen to the dark recesses of oblivion or pop-culture. And this public self will in most cases have an effect on the self experienced as interiority. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Each line had people in probem. Yet the effects of the two statements are vastly different because the meaning of the claim changes radically depending on who states it.

Sign in Create an account. In particular, is lidna ever valid to speak for others who are unlike me or who are less privileged than me? 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.

The Problem of Speaking For Others |

It is not always the case that when others unlike me speak for me I have ended up worse off, or that when we speak for others they end up worse off. The use of the term “Indian” here follows Menchu’s use. One person a straight woman was regaling us with tales about how difficult it 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.


She agrees that an absolute prohibition of speaking for would undermine political effectiveness, and therefore says that she will avoid speaking for others only within her lesbian feminist community. Alxoff a recent symposium at my university, a prestigious theorist was invited to give a lecture on the political problems of post-modernism.

In the case of Anne Cameron, if the effects of her books are truly disempowering for Native women, they are counterproductive to Cameron’s own stated intentions, and she should indeed “move over. When any of these elements is changed, a new evaluation is called proboem.

Simply put, the discursive context is a political arena.

Thus I would maintain that if the practice of speaking for others is problematic, so too must be the practice of speaking about others. The dominant modernist view has been that truth represents a relationship of correspondence between a proposition and an extra-discursive reality. Therefore, privilege must always be indexed to specific relationships as well as to specific locations.

A quick impulse to reject criticism must make one wary. So it might be argued that the retreat from speaking for others can be maintained without sacrificing political effectivity if it is restricted to particular discursive spaces. Dennett – – Raritan 9: The unspoken premise here is simply that a speaker’s location is epistemically salient.

And moreover, the better we understand the trajectories by which meanings proliferate, the more likely we can increase, though always only partially, our ability to direct the interpretations and transformations our speech undergoes. In other words, some persons are accorded discursive authority because they are respected leaders or because they are teachers in a classroom and know more about the material at hand.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

That reminds me of a personal experience I had once in a group of people. This issue of who gets to speak for whom comes up a lot in my research.


I want to develop this point by elucidating four sets of interrogatory practices which are meant to help evaluate possible and actual instances of speaking for. Menchu’s efforts to speak for the 33 Indian communities facing genocide in Guatemala have helped to raise money for the revolution and bring pressure against the Guatemalan and U.

The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography ed. There is one final otherd I want to make before we can pursue this analysis. While the prerogative of speaking for others remains unquestioned in the citadels alvoff colonial administration, among activists and in the academy it elicits a growing unease and, in some communities of discourse, it is being rejected. I do a lot of work on disability studies and MUVEs, using interviews and focus groups as source material.

The claim here that “truth is connected to politics” follows necessarily from Premise 1. A Journal of Women in Culture and Society Still, we can know some of the effects our speech generates: Given that the context of hearers is partially determinant, the speaker is not the master or mistress of the situation.

If ideas arise in such a configuration of forces, does it make sense to ask for an author? But first I need to explain further my framing of the problem.

In her important paper, “Dyke Methods,” Joyce Trebilcot offers a philosophical articulation of this view. These are not the only possible effects, and some of the effects may not be pernicious, but all the effects must be taken into account when evaluating the discourse of “patriarchy. 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.