For speaking against silence: Spivak’s subaltern ethics in the field

Mark Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses the gap between accounts of subalternity in the field and theoretical positions on ethics we find in the work of Gayatri Spivak. I provide a reading of Spivak's writing on subalternity and the ethics of representation to explicate three ethical injunctions connected to: (i) an antifoundationalist approach to subalternity; (ii) ‘hyper‐self‐reflexivity’ of an investigating subject; and (iii) the imperative to name subalternity. Setting these ethical injunctions in the field, I draw on data from fieldwork with development workers on a gender education project in rural Madhya Pradesh, India, to discuss gender‐based discrimination, violence and intervention. The discussion draws out the ways that proximity to what Spivak terms the ‘radical alterity’ of Otherness can contribute to a more ethical framework for engagement with subalternity. The paper argues that Spivak's work is not intended to implore us to further silencing, rather we must apply her work on the ground towards an ethical engagement with subalternity that rests on a mode of speaking for and about in an antifoundationalist and hyper‐self‐reflexive manner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-311
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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