The Subaltern

I realized that in another entry, I mentioned ‘the subaltern’ and did not define my terms very well. But I think that by looking at the subaltern, at its definition – one might be able to illuminate some notion of otherness in the war on terror. My inquiry into the word comes after reading the Grassroots Political Militants: Banlieusards and Politics article by Emilio Quadrelli (french writer) on InfoShop News.com.

This word gains much of its prominence around the marxist thinker Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who published “Can the Subaltern Speak” in 1988. While his work focuses primarily on Indian women and specifically around the notions of sati, its intention could certainly be appropriated here. Spivak argues that the subaltern is not any oppressed person, but rather a person or group that has been so marginalized that they fall outside of the hegemonic structure.

It could certainly be said that something like this is happening in western performance of Iraq and Afghanistan from the equation of the war – essentially pushing them (ideologically at least) out of the hegemony. We have secluded the truth of their being a part of a globalist culture (even in moments of outright rejection) by distancing ourselves so greatly from all possible connections to their government, economy, and politics in the media.

Now, this doesn’t stop us from shooting them, but it allows for a softening of representation to west. In years to come, this will certainly have a huge cultural backlash, similar to that of Alloula. I am not certain what the cure for this, save for perhaps listing the specific names of all of the casualties in the war; our side and theirs. war. It would seem that, from media at least, the war is being conducted outside of actually casualty. By using labels such as “freedom” and “terrorism” and even (perhaps through an associative and disturbing conflation) “Iraqi” we are removing any relevance to what those terms mean and placing them under a non-regulated yet horrifically oppressive definition.


~ by 1womanarmy on April 25, 2008.

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