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A critique of postcolonial reason : toward a history of the vanishing present /

Main Author: Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999
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Review by Choice Review

Spivak's international celebrity status among scholars guarantees a favorable reception for her book among academic readers despite (or perhaps because of) its convoluted style. She titles her four chapters "Philosophy," "Literature," "History," and "Culture," but these labels are interchangeable because issues raised in each chapter appear in all. Redundancy is a problem. Much of the text comprises revisions of material presented earlier. Spivak adopts the assumptions that activate other Europhobic scholars whom Arthur Herman analyzed in The Idea of Decline in Western History (CH, Sep'97). Spivak's purpose is to discredit "normative" accounts of history invented to justify imperialism by unearthing the buried narratives of colonized working people, especially women, thus creating "true" history. She characterizes her self as a "hybrid" belonging to "the indigenous postcolonial elite turned diasporic." She qualifies her "old-fashioned Marxist" agenda with feminine or feminist "intuition" that transcends rational thought. Though she disclaims scholarly competence ("I am no historian"), she documents her contestations with established deconstructionist philosophers and cultural historians in extended scholarly apparatus (e.g., 587 footnotes). Spivak's opaque style makes this volume appropriate at the graduate level and above. Anthologies such as Contemporary Postcolonial Theory, ed. by Padmini Mongia (1996), will be more useful for undergraduates. D. H. Stewart; Texas A&M University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

In recent years, a growing body of literary and historical scholarship has explored the complex relationship of Western elite culture to the postcolonial societies of the Southern hemisphere. Spivak, a prominent literary theorist based at Columbia University, is widely known for her sophisticated deconstructive approach to questions of feminism, North-South relations, and the politics of subaltern studies. This book is based on a number of her published essays, including the influential 1988 article "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Spivak focuses on the relationship of debates in philosophy, history, and literature to the emergence of a postcolonial problematic. Overall, she seeks to distance herself from mainstream postcolonial literature and to reassert the value of earlier theorists such as Kant and Marx. Readers unfamiliar with recent trends in literary studies may find Spivak's deliberately elusive prose impenetrable. On the other hand, those already invested in the postmodern and postcolonial debates may find her style invigorating. Recommended for university libraries.ÄKent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.