We think of voice as a means of rational self-expression by which we convey our "interests" to others with competing interests. But language is a social contract preceding the social contract proper that it enables, raising questions about how and why someone makes sense of nonsense. Structuralists and poststructuralists argue the voice comes from the Other and is alienating. It constitutes speakers and interests both; speakers only seem to precede the words whose effect they are. As Benveniste shows, the pronouns "I" and "you" produce those represented by them as "echoes," reversible and reciprocal, just as in the universalism of political representation Spivak explores in her famous essay on the subaltern. Yet subjects are not fully alienated when interpellated by an Other or made entirely abstract by the universalism of names. Language affords a bonus sense from what might seem nonsense, as in jokes, which evade the censoring ego. Desire cannot be reduced to rational demands and is the remainder of language and the dialectic of subject and other, aligned with voice as what is left when the signified is subtracted from the signifier. There is a performative dimension to language as individuals take it up that subverts abstract universalism.


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pp. 128-156
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