"The subaltern cannot speak." It is a prime notion of the dissertation of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Communication (language, symbol, sign, gesture, signifier, meaning) depends on the level of fear. Fear is the volume controller. It controls the sound. Hong Kong is in the revolutionary movement, they have less fear and loud volume. They are speaking because they are fearless. In contrast, people of North Korea cannot speak. Are they subalterns? No. Either subaltern or non-subaltern, it doesn't make a difference. Low profile employee cannot speak in front of a high profile boss. Subalterns are low profile people.
"The subaltern cannot speak. There is no virtue in the global laundry lists with "woman" as a pious item. Representation has not withered away. The female intellectual as intellectual has a circumscribed taste which she must not disown with a flourish."1
Foucault says, "Our effort is to represent subaltern, may violate their culture and signify." In contrast, Spivak says, "Subalterns cannot represent themselves."2
Spivak is closer to the radical structure of Derrida, "rendering delirious that interior voice that is the voice of the other in us."3
Spivak has written, "The small peasant proprietors cannot represent themselves; they must be represented."4
Fearism is neither agreeable to Spivak and Foucault nor to Derrida. It follows the radical path, which is more practical and logical.
After reading an essay, can the subaltern speak? I recalled the play of Shakespeare "Merchant of Venice", which includes characters like Shylock (a Jewish moneylender), Portia (A wealthy heiress from Belmont who disguises as a young law clerk to safe Antonio) and Bassanio (he loves Portia). Shylock was looking for chance to take revenge on Antonio. For Bassanio, Antonio signed contract with Shylock. The contract is, “if Bassanio fails to pay money on time, Antonio has to give a pound of flesh from his body”. Accidently, within that time, the ships of Bassanio couldn't return. In line with the contract, Antonio has to make a payment of flesh. Shylock has to take revenge. He demanded his payment. As a law clerk, Portia told him, "you can take flesh from Antonio but be careful; you are not allowed to drop a blood because it is not mentioned in the contract."
Spivak's essay is almost close to play because everything is in the periphery of fear but totally fear is effaced. None were in her essay, written about fear. What did constitute the structure of self-immolation of Sati system? I have written in my previous article, 'The Society is constituted by Fear'. Fear conducts them to self-immolation into the pyre of deceased husband. There are many causes to this effect, but the stronger causes are of two levels:-
1. The Fear of death and
2. Fear of culture.
No one wants to die in the name of deceased husband. Widows are afraid to sit in the pyre but there is a strong fear beyond the pyre-fear of the society (societal reaction).If a widow doesn't fear the society or culture, she will never be a victim of self-immolation. It is true; women are mostly used as scapegoat in the name of religion and culture because, they are generally physically and mentally weak in comparison to man. Weakness is the Pandora of fear.
The sound of many is mute by fear. When they feel fearless, then they speak themselves without any interpreter. Suppose a child (Colonized, subaltern, women, widow, black women, untouchable, scheduled caste, marginal, colonial, poor transgender, stigma, butch dyke, femme, slave) confronts rude parents, that child never speaks but parents urge the child to speak without fear. It is also applicable to husband-wife. In most countries the wife (sexual gender) is in the position of subaltern (semi slave) and husband is in elite position.
Spivak writes "As a product of these considerations, I have put together the sentence "white men are saving brown women from brown men” in a spirit not unlike the one to be encountered in Freud's investigation of the sentence "A child is being beaten."5
The fearological analysis of “beaten child” can be judged by readers-once frightened, child is always frightening.
Can The Subaltern speak? essay is about debate with western thinker on British Empire, subaltern, feminism and widow sacrifice.
I feel uncomfortable with colonial word ‘Subaltern’. I suggest the use of 'Fear Sapiens'. It is more conceptually moderate than subaltern. Do you know when does the lion stop roaring? When does the dog stop barking? When they are afraid, they keep quiet and hide themselves. It is not merely for 'Fear Sapiens', it happens in case of non-subalterns too. Why can’t they speak? Why this question is imposed to oriental and the third world? Why it is not imposed on the occident? Can all the occidentals speak? Looking at natural composition, one will understand that “human beings are the same”. Why there is prejudice and what is the factor to this prejudice? Subaltern word is dominating with rhetoric like slave, untouchable, and scheduled caste. These words carry the meaning of fear. They are synonyms or binary of fear. This word is formally or informally a production of occidental nature, same as the first, second and third worlds. It is not in favour of the so-called subaltern. Subaltern is not suitable for such characteristic people. Best word for it is hegemony or 'Fear Sapiens'. This word makes double colonial- firstly colonial by occidental and secondly by the word same as "The woman is doubly in shadow".6
Exact meaning of subaltern; refers to a junior officer in the military. So-called subalterns are not junior people in society. Why did someone make this derogatory word popular? If someone said to someone, "you are a slave, untouchable, schedule caste, marginal, poor, black, disabled-it gives scorn, dishonour and creates inferiority, shame, defame etc. Over a long period of time, it changes into a discipline. Fear Sapiens has been living in a fearful world for 3000 years. Since there is mix up in blood, prestige, ideology, belief and religion, how can they speak?
I read in a newspaper; 'a high profile man sexually harassed BBC news ladies staff for 35 years, but nobody spoke against him because they had fear of being fired’. We see similar cases every day. The very funny thing about the 21 century is the idea that there are no equal rights, especially in USA.
Why didn’t people speak in the Nazis terra? Why don’t they speak up at what is happening in North Korea? People’s reaction towards Hitler and Kim Jong–Un are almost same in fear situation. Even to plant a sapling needs free space. 'Fear Sapiens' is the human being, to grow, speak, sing, dance, and be happy, they need fearless world. Feminism, gender, transgender, colonialization, scheduled caste and racism have to be free from fear. Fear is the shackle holding them captive.
Can a fearful child speak?
To understand this, the Derrida and Spivak's representation in essentialism could be a point of departure.
To make the child speak, igniting the spirit of being fearless, persuasion or flattery becomes essential. This is a method to make them ('Fear Sapiens') speak. It is not in theory of Foucault, Derrida and Spivak. This antidote is only peculiar to Philosophy of Fearism. Fear works as two sides of a coin.
In the eyes of justice, if they are innocent; fearless can make them speak but if they are guilty, fear can make them speak. Subalterns are innocent to make them speak first must make them fearless. If the society makes people free from inheritance, historical, racial, religious, economic, political and cultural fears, from tomorrow onwards itself, they will not only start to speak, but they will also begin to shout. In the society, there are stronger groups who don't want to let them speak because there is a projection of what the scapegoat will be like.
Even in Europe and America, suppose that a feminist or subaltern movement activist is raped obviously 95% will hush up the case. They don't want to publicize it because they have the fear of losing status, family, and reputation. It depends on the level of fear. Those with less fear can speak but in the case of more fear going mute becomes the case. It is easy to lecture from dais but is hard to experience in life. So-called subalterns have a high degree of fear.
Lots of disagreement can be seen with western thinkers like Foucault, Deleuze, and Thompson, in her essay. The original title of essay was "Power, Desire, Interest."7 This title is more appropriate in my opinion because material of power, desire and interest are more important than the subaltern. Issues of woman are more critical than subalterns. I have already written an article on, ‘Existence of Fear Precedes Power’ and fear constitutes the structure of society and nation. We have written a book "India, A Nation of Fear and Prejudice, Race of the Third Kind."
She added subaltern issue in post colonial discourse. Subaltern word was not coined by Spivak but its credit goes to Italian thinker Antonio Francesco Gramsci. He used it in the context of hegemony. Ranajit Guha, in his essay "On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India", presented “Subaltern" in oppositional relation to the term "elite". It was published in 1985 in a journal called “Wedge”.
Essentialism of Spivak posits a question like, how many people start to speak and represent. Or did the strategy of post modernist like Derrida and Foucault do good justice? I say, "of course no". It is not the way to make them speak. The giving theory is not enough. The theory must have reference to real life to make sense. Thus, applicability is essential.
'Fear Free Zone' is the accurate (Ram Ban Medicine-arrow of Ram will never miss the target) place for trial. We can see; they can speak or not in the zone. My answer is 'of course yes'. Concept of 'Fear Free Zone' can be applied at many places in the future. It can be converted into "Fear Free Nation." One thing is very important; in that zone, there will be no entry of excommunication, banishment, confinement, physical violence, domination, boycott and discrimination in the name of tribe, race, culture, caste, religion and continent. Being fear-free is a must for humanitarian as well as equality purpose.
(B. Maria Kumar and Osinakachi Akuma Kalu have helped me to edit article.)
1. (GCS 308)
2. (US 282, 283)
3. (GCS 308)
4. (SCG p. 276-277)
5. (GCS 296)
6. (GCS 288)
7. (GCS 271)
Subba (2014) philosophy of Fearism
Maria, Fisher, Subba(2019)-India, A Nation of Fear and Prejudice
Can the Subaltern speak? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Upreti, Sanjeev (B.S.2068)