Thursday, March 14, 2013
Shiley Theatre, Camino Hall
University of San Diego
The Inamori Foundation's 26th Annual Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy was presented to Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on November 10, 2012.
A prolific author, Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is perhaps best known for her 1988 essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In this article, she spotlights the “subalterns” — those who are economically dispossessed, forcibly marginalized and rendered without agency by their social status. She listens carefully to the subaltern voice and sounds a warning against its newly-formed identity made in the process of representation by others. Epitomizing her concept is the approach of “unlearning” — undermining one’s own privileged position and learning in the face of the geopolitical situation of knowledge. Her approach has strongly influenced the development of postcolonialism, which criticizes the politics, economy and culture of our global society — the very forces that were once envisioned to surmount the framework of nation states, but that have since instead come to function as a form of renewed colonialism in them.
Retaining her Indian citizenship, she lives and teaches in the U.S.A. and attends discussions and gatherings around the world. She also works to promote literacy in rural villages and to translate local literature from India and Bangladesh. Professor Spivak is committed to fulfilling what she regards as a profound and ethical responsibility toward minorities who have been deprived of language and history through an invisible structure of oppression, and her social work in this regard has earned her respect around the world.