‘In the Shadow of Shadows’: Spivak, Misreading, the Native Informant

  • Philip Leonard

Abstract

In the closing pages of the ‘Philosophy’ chapter in A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Spivak voices her admiration for Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of Marx. This reading, she argues, crucially recalibrates the value of ‘value’ in Marxism by situating both nature and capital in the order of desiring-production, turning the source of the human into a machinic structure that is coded (though one which, as Chapter 3 shows, resists interpretation in the moment that it is decoded). Contributing to this reassessment are, Spivak argues, often-neglected remarks in Anti-Oedipus that subtly rewrite Marx’s notion of the Asiatic Mode of Production by seeing in it a mutability that other accounts fail to discern. Deleuze and Guattari’s rewriting most visibly challenges organicist tendencies in ethnography by claiming that all regimes are constituted by a disruptive and disjunctive collision of fragments, rather than by the progressive coding of a coherent and continuous socius. For Spivak, however, their account of the Asiatic Mode of Production also lends itself to a rethinking both of capital’s insatiable wanderlust and of the disempowerment it engenders for its victims: ‘Deleuze and Guattari are not specialists of Asia.

Keywords

Europe Funeral Pyre Arena Ghost Decon 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    This admiration is qualified elsewhere, however: ‘Deleuze and Guattari’s fantastic insight, that capital was — let us say “almost” — the abstract as such and capitalism codes it — is no longer sufficient. Finance capital is let us say “almost” the abstract as such and world trade codes it’. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘From Haverstock Hill Flat to U.S. Classroom, What’s Left of Theory?’, in Judith Butler, John Guillory & Kendall Thomas (eds), Whats Left of Theory? New Work on the Politics of Literary Theory (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 7.Google Scholar
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    Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, p. 308. That this remark was inadvisable is demonstrated by some of the readings of ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’. Fernando P. Delgado, for example, asserts that ‘What Spivak and like-minded scholars, occupying more centrist and flexible positions, suggest is that marginalization and Otherness lead to a silencing and occlusion’. Fernando P. Delgado, ‘When the Silenced Speak: The Textualization and Complications of Latina/o Identity’, Western Journal of Communication, 62: 4 (1998), p. 423.Google Scholar
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  8. 27.
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  19. 45.
    Spivak, ‘At the Planchette of Deconstruction is/in America’, p. 241. Spivak restates this criticism in an interview with Peter Osborne: ‘There are important new directions of resistance where Marxism has been reconstellated in various ways since the experiment of international communism showed itself to have certain kinds of problem. Derrida’s readerly involvement with that practice has not been very close’. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘Setting to Work (Transnational Cultural Studies)’, in Peter Osborne (ed.), A Critical Sense: Interviews with Intellectuals (London: Routledge, 1996), p. 175.Google Scholar
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  23. 49.
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  24. 66.
    Derrida identifies ten such ‘plagues’ that are passed over in celebrations of the new world order: 1) unemployment; 2) ‘the massive exclusion of homeless citizens from any participation in the democratic life of States’; 3) economic war between nations and its consequences for the implementation of international law; 4) ‘the inability to master the contradictions in the concept, norms, and reality of the free market’; 5) ‘the aggravation of the foreign debt’; 6) the centrality of the arms industry in Western democracies; 7) ‘the spread… of nuclear weapons, maintained by the very countries that say they want to protect themselves from it’; 8) inter-ethnic wars; 9) the ‘worldwide power of those super-efficient and properly capitalist phantom-states that are the mafia and the drug cartels on every continent’; 10) ‘the present state of international law and its institutions’. Derrida, Specters ofMarx, pp. 81–4.Google Scholar
  25. 67.
    Spivak, ‘Ghostwriting’, p. 68. An early footnote in A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason similarly makes this claim: ‘Thus industrial (and specifically postindustrial) capitalism is now in an interruptive differance with commercial capital; World Trade with finance capital markets. To notice this différance is to learn from Derrida; yet Derrida’s own resolute ignoring of the difference between the two is caught within it’. Spivak, A Critique ofPostcolonial Reason, p. 3, n. 4. Cf. Peggy Kamuf’s observation that Derrida’s list of the ten plagues of the new world order is ‘an ironic reversal of the ten plagues called down on Egypt before it granted self-determination to the people of Israel. Here, on the contrary, the plagues plague precisely the determination to enforce any national, ethnic, or territorial frontiers against the incursion of forces from without, indeed, against all the new forms of enslavement invented by economic liberalism and its offshoots or parasites’. Peggy Kamuf, ‘Violence, Identity, Self-Determination, and the Question of Justice: on Specters ofMarx’, in Hent de Vries & Samuel Weber, (eds), Violence, Identity and Self-Determination (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 273.Google Scholar
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    Spivak, ‘Ghostwriting’, p. 71. Spivak restates this claim in ‘A Note on the New International’: ‘In Politics ofFriendship, Derrida makes a plea for slow reading, even at a time of political urgency, arguing carefully that it must remain always inadequate. As so often, I echo him on another register, and make a plea for the patient work of learning to learn from below — a species of “reading” perhaps — how to mend the torn fabric of subaltern ethics with the thread of the subject whose trace is in the madness of a universal declaration of human rights — necessarily bending curvature into droiture — straightness, rights, uprightness. If this interests you, I have not altogether misread Derrida’. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, ‘A Note on the New International’, Parallax, 7: 3 (2001), p. 15.Google Scholar
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    Herman Rapaport, The Theory Mess: Deconstruction in Eclipse (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), p. 63.Google Scholar
  31. 89.
    Writing about differance (‘the other… different and deferred in the economy of the same’) ‘Limits and Openings’ even suggests that the ability to see is somehow tied to subject-position: ‘Given my context, I can see the trace of this relationship between postcoloniality (strictly speaking) and migrancy (or the other way around). Derrida, given his, between “Europe” and migrancy (or the other way around)’. Spivak, ‘Limits and Openings’, p. 114.Google Scholar
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© Philip Leonard 2005

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  • Philip Leonard

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