The term "subalternity" refers to a condition of subordination
brought about by colonization or other forms of economic, social,
racial, linguistic, and/or cultural dominance. Subaltern studies
is, therefore, a study of power. Who has it and who does not. Who
is gaining it and who is losing it. Power is intimately related to
questions of representation--to which representations have
cognitive authority and can secure hegemony and which do not and
cannot. In this book John Beverley examines the relationship
between subalternity and representation by analyzing the ways in
which that relationship has been played out in the domain of Latin
Dismissed by some as simply another new fashion in the critique
of culture and by others as a postmarxist heresy, subaltern studies
began with the work of Ranajit Guha and the South Asian Subaltern
Studies collective in the 1980s. Beverley's focus on Latin America,
however, is evidence of the growing province of this field. In
assessing subaltern studies' purposes and methods, the potential
dangers it presents, and its interactions with deconstruction,
poststructuralism, cultural studies, Marxism, and political theory,
Beverley builds his discussion around a single, provocative
question: How can academic knowledge seek to represent the
subaltern when that knowledge is itself implicated in the practices
that construct the subaltern as such? In his search for answers, he
grapples with a number of issues, notably the 1998 debate between
David Stoll and Rigoberta Menchu over her award-winning testimonial
narrative, "I, Rigoberta Menchu." Other topics explored include the
concept of civil society, Florencia Mallon's influential "Peasant
and Nation," the relationship between the Latin American "lettered
city" and the Tupac Amaru rebellion of 1780-1783, the ideas of
transculturation and hybridity in postcolonial studies and Latin
American cultural studies, multiculturalism, and the relationship
between populism, popular culture, and the "national-popular" in
conditions of globalization.
This critique and defense of subaltern studies offers a
compendium of insights into a new form of knowledge and knowledge
production. It will interest those studying postcolonialism,
political science, cultural studies, and Latin American culture,
history, and literature.
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