Call for papers - Thinking with/against/past the “Subaltern”

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Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial (CPD) Working Group annual workshop

Friday, 11th September 2015, SOAS, London

The figure of the “subaltern” is at the heart of philosophical debates in postcolonial studies regarding the politics and limits of knowledge production. One of the central texts, in this regard, is Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak” wherein, in the context of elite and western academic inquiry, the answer given is no. However, Spivak has changed her orientation to this question since the 1980s, when it was written. And there have always been other traditions of thought, both within and outside of the academy, which have refused the efficacy of working with the subject of the subaltern. Indeed, there are many nuanced and shifting positions on the relationship between liberation and representation amongst intellectuals who study the colonial question. This workshop will dwell on these nuances in order to unpack and bring into dialogue different apprehensions of the “subaltern” and its value to the project of colonial critique.


10.30-11.00 Arrival and coffee

11.00-11.30 Welcome from CPD conveners

11.30-12.45 Session 1 – The History and Philosophy of the Subaltern

Q: “Is the subaltern a historical-sociological category or is it a philosophical concept? Are there tensions between the historical-sociological and philosophical renderings of the subaltern?”

Chair: Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS). Conversation initiated by:

  • Zeynep Gulsah Capan (Bilkent)
  • Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS)
  • Nivi Manchanda (Cambridge)

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-15.15 Session 2 – Indigenous Peoples and Subaltern Studies

Q: “Are indigenous peoples subaltern?”

Chair: Mustapha Pasha (Aberystwyth).

Conversation initiated by:

  • Lisa Tilley (Warwick)
  • Ipshita Basu (Surrey)
  • Robbie Shilliam (QMUL)

15.15-15.30 Coffee

15.30-16.45 Session 3 – Pedagogies of/beyond the subaltern

Q: “How might we teach about the ‘subaltern’? Should we?”

Chair: Robbie Shilliam (QMUL).

Conversation initiated by:

  • Min Kyung Yoo (Free University Berlin)
  • Ademar Mercado (Aberystwyth)
  • Vidya Kumar (Birmingham)

16.45 – 18.00 Final Plenary

  • Chair: Meera Sabaratnam (SOAS)

Conversation initiated by:

  • Mustapha K Pasha (Aberystwyth)
  • Clive Gabay (QMUL)
  • Althea-Maria Rivas (Bath)