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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How one evaluates a particular effect is left open; 4 argues simply that effects must always be taken into account. Thus, the question of whether location bears simply on what is taken to be true or what is really true, and whether such a distinction can be upheld, speakijg the very difficult problem of the meaning of truth.

Who is speaking, who is spoken of, and who listens is a result, as well as an act, of political struggle. 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.

The Problem of Speaking For Others |

The Problem of Speaking For Others. But Spivak is also critical of speaking for which engages in dangerous re-presentations. In the examples used above, there may appear to be a conflation between the issue of speaking for others and the issue of speaking about others.

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, such as probldm, hospitals, workplaces, welfare agencies, universities, institutions for international development and aid, and governments.

So often, of course, the authority of such persons based on their merit combines with the authority they may enjoy by virtue of their having the dominant gender, race, class, or sexuality.

Find it on Scholar. They argue for the relevance of location, not its singular power of determination, and they are non-committal on how to sepaking the metaphysics of location.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

This issue of who gets to speak for whom comes up a lot in my research. The term privilege is not meant to include positions of discursive power achieved through merit, but in any case these are rarely pure. Stories of Women in Philosophy.


This last bit is inspired by some people I know who are in the fields of social work and psychology who do research on sex workers and the sex trade industry. Feminist Epistemology in Epistemology. However, errors are unavoidable in theoretical inquiry as well as political struggle, and they usually make contributions.

Neither Premise 1 nor Premise 2 entail reductionism or essentialism. At the International Feminist Book Fair in Montreal, a group of Native Canadian writers ask Cameron to, in their words, “move over” on the grounds that her writings are disempowering for Native authors.

This is not to suggest that all representations are fictions: Not sure if I’m contributing, but I think you bring up some really important points in you review, Liz.

The task is therefore to explicate the relations between politics and knowledge rather than pronounce the death of truth. The pursuit of an absolute means to avoid making errors comes perhaps not from a desire to advance collective goals but a desire for personal mastery, to establish a privileged discursive position wherein one cannot be undermined or challenged and thus is master of the situation.

The conjunction of Premises 1 and 2 suggest that the speaker loses some portion of control over the meaning and truth of her utterance. 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.

Similarly, when one is speaking about another, or simply trying to describe their situation or some aspect of it, one may also be speaking in place of them, i.

In conclusion, I would stress that the practice of speaking for others is often born of a desire for mastery, to privilege oneself as the one who more correctly understands the truth about another’s situation or as one who can champion a just cause and thus achieve glory and praise.

What this entails in practice is a serious commitment to remain open to criticism and to attempt actively, attentively, and sensitively to “hear” the criticism understand it.

Anne Cameron, a very gifted white Canadian author, writes several first person accounts of the lives of Native Canadian women. Rowman and Littlefield, In other words, the claim that I can speak only for myself assumes the autonomous conception of the self in Classical Liberal theory–that I am unconnected to others in my authentic self or that I can achieve an autonomy from others given certain conditions.


And we have to be careful about the language used and how these experiences are being characterized; however, the chief investigator and myself have close relatives impacted by the illness experienced by the people in the study.

On another view, the original speaker or writer is no more privileged than any other person who articulates these views, and in fact the “author” cannot be identified in a strict sense because the concept of author is an ideological construction many abstractions removed from the way in which ideas emerge and become material forces.

However, being too bogged down by who gets to speak on another’s behalf also introduces the problem wherein important issues and experiences are not discussed because no one feels that they have a right to speak on those issues.

Next Post A day at the office: Moreover, making the decision for oneself whether or not to retreat is an extension or application of privilege, not an abdication of it. Even a complete retreat from speech is of course not neutral since it allows the continued dominance of current discourses and acts by omission to reenforce their dominance. The thw response to the problem of speaking for others that I will othres occurs in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s rich essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?

Paradoxically, the view which holds the speaker or author of a speech act as solely responsible for its meanings ensures the speaker’s least effective determinacy over the meanings that are produced.

The Problem of Speaking For Others

And location is not a fixed essence absolutely authorizing one’s speech in the way that God’s favor absolutely authorized the speech of Moses. Often the possibility of dialogue is left unexplored or inadequately pursued by more privileged persons.

These are not porblem 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.