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 Situating Spivak S T E P H E N D. M O O R E Postcolonialism remained caught in mere nationalism over against colonialism. Today it is planetarity that we are called to imagine. gayatri chakravorty spivak, Death of a Discipline When Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak arrived at Drew Theological School on the afternoon of November 2, 2007, she entered a conversation already under way. The immediate conversation had been in progress since the previous evening, the larger conversation for considerably longer. It centered on the challenge of employing Spivak’s thought to think theologically. Why Spivak? The facile answer might have been that postcolonial studies, with postcolonial theory tucked under its wing (sometimes uncomfortably), had recently arrived in theological studies,1 and Spivak was, after all—was she not?—the preeminent living embodiment, the veritable avatar, of postcolonial studies and, above all, postcolonial theory. Thankfully, things were not nearly so simple. The relationship of Spivak’s thought to theology is oblique, to say the least. That relationship is the principal subject of the present volume, and the wager of the volume (as of the colloquium from which it sprang) is that the very complexity of the relationship has the potential to stretch theological thinking to its limits and, perhaps, beyond, to deform and reform it in productive ways. But Spivak’s relationship to postcolonial studies is no less convoluted, as it happens, and it is this (more unexpected) complexity that is the principal subject of the present essay. The essay will attempt to situate Spivak not only in relation to the academic field of postcolonial studies but also the PAGE 15 ................. 17764$ $CH1 10-28-10 12:06:41 PS 16 兩 s t ep h e n d . m oo r e field of literary studies in which it first coalesced.2 As such, our tale begins not with postcolonial studies but with deconstruction. A STA IN ON DECONSTRUCTION Between 1974 and 1982, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s ‘‘Translator’s Preface’’ to Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology was the most detailed and, arguably, most adequate introduction to deconstruction available in any language.3 Weighing in at eighty pages and dealing meticulously with Derrida’s relations to Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, and Husserl—and mercilessly with the deconstructive neophyte, to whom it made no concessions whatsoever —it filled the gap formidably until the field-reifying textbooks on deconstruction by Jonathan Culler, Christopher Norris, and Vincent Leitch made their appearance.4 The English edition of De la grammatologie, then, was more than the mere translation of its impenetrable French into equally impenetrable English. The ambitious ‘‘Translator’s Preface’’ meant that the English edition was also simultaneously the first systematic installment of the translation of Derridean philosophy into American deconstruction, an effect no less real for the fact that it may have formed no part whatsoever of the translator’s own intentions (deconstruction itself, however, leading us to anticipate such effects as inevitable). Spivak’s subsequent relationship to deconstruction, now spanning more than thirty years, has been at once simple and complex. On the one hand, she has remained remarkably ‘‘loyal’’ to deconstruction, has never renounced it, no matter how unfashionable it has become. Consider, for example, the fact that her 1999 magnum opus A Critique of Postcolonial Reason needs to devote only one line to ‘‘postcolonial discourse’’ in its index, two lines to ‘‘postcoloniality ,’’ and none at all to ‘‘postcolonial studies’’ or ‘‘postcolonial theory’’ (an arresting fact to which we shall later return), but more than twenty lines to ‘‘deconstruction’’ and another dozen to ‘‘Derrida, Jacques.’’ More than that, the book ends with an appendix titled ‘‘The Setting to Work of Deconstruction,’’ which makes deconstruction the object of elementary exposition (more or less; this is Spivak, after all) of a kind otherwise absent from the book. ‘‘The term ‘deconstruction’ was coined by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–),’’ the appendix dutifully begins.5 But the book itself also begins with deconstruction. It is dedicated to two people, one of whom is Spivak’s doctoral mentor Paul de Man, deceased since 1983, and controversial icon of early American deconstruction. Over the years, Spivak PAGE 16 ................. 17764$ $CH1 10-28-10 12:06:42 PS s i tu a t ing s pi v a k 兩 1 7 has repeatedly acknowledged de Man’s influence on her thought, undeterred , it would seem, by ‘‘the de Man affair.’’6 On the other hand, as Spivak explains in the public dialogue transcribed in this book, she has not...


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