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Critical Theorist Spivak Talks of ‘Borderless World’

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On Thursday Jan. 19, scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak spoke at the University of Arizona on the concept of a “borderless world.” The Confluence Center for Creative Inquiry hosted the event at the UA School of Music’s Crowder Hall.

, 69, gave a dense talk about how cultures react after colonialism. She provided much of her own insight, along with arguments from other scholars in a forty minute lecture with time for questions afterward.

In the lecture, she discussed the possibility of a slow and steady process of social change that starts with an “educated electorate with a will for social justice for all.”

Spivak said that ideas of minority discrimination are deeply ingrained mindsets.

“We have to acknowledge that what we are doing has to do with the general culture,” said Spivak. “We are fighting the trivializing of creative inquiry and cultural endeavor.”

She said that people need to have the ability to dream of a world with unconditional hospitality. A world of “borderlessness.”

Spivak discussed the underlying tension between the United States and Mexico, which is a topic that resonated with the members of the Tucson community. She also addressed the Arizona state government’s attack on Native American studies, which is still fresh in the mind of Tucsonans.

She talked about the United States having what she called “Israel Syndrome,” which she described as a desire to replay history. With that desire also comes a fear that there will be a future takeover by the opposing country.

Spivak said that people may have that mindset because of their country’s past. But that is not necessarily how events will play out in the future.

“More Spanish is spoken around where I live than English,” said Spivak. “But that is no sign of a takeover.”

Spivak wanted to inform others with her lecture, but she did not want that goal to stop after the talk was over. She taped her own lecture with a voice recorder, which is something that she does not normally do.

“I want these disorganized words to be transcribed so I can organize them into something that will be more responsible,” said Spivak.

Spivak is a leading theorist in postcolonialism, which is a subject that dissects the cultural impact of colonialism and imperialism. Spivak is also a renowned literary critic and holds the highest rank as a professor of humanities at Columbia University.

Her most famous work is her essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” which is considered a staple of postcolonialist literature. In this essay, Spivak has a specific definition for the word “subaltern,” stating that it encompasses all that has “limited or no access to the cultural imperialism.”


Video of Lecture:

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