The Figure(s) of Our Times
Spivak notes “…it is the urban sub-proletarian female who is the paradigmatic subject of the current configuration of the International Division of Labour.” (1988a: 218) [[Earlier versions of this paper appeared in Puwar (2000; 2003)
Patricia Williams notes a quiet instance of “racial voyeurism” which she says propels “bus loads of tourists [to flock to black churches on a Sunday morning” in Harlem. She sardonically remarks “It’s great theatre, according to the guidebook hit list of hits, all those black people dressed in their quaint finery, singing and swooning and singing some more.” (1997: 19)
The black subject, the subaltern female, the migrant and the exile are all in the spotlight today. It is to these figures that the eyes of the media, the agencies of global and local governance, of multicultural capitalist style wallah’s and of academics and activists are turned. Each of these have their own specific reason for looking and searching. Some seek to police borders, others to regulate the bodies whose labour is needed but citizenship (humanity) is disapproved of. And then there is the relentless quest to seek who lies behind the turban, the veil, the goatee and that off-white skin; suspicion breeds danger and resentment. While some of these bodies are blamed for bringing destruction to the promised land, others, and often the same ones, albeit with a slightly different hue, are celebrated for bringing tropical paradise. Colour and spice douse metropolitan cities in an ethnic fanfare. ‘Black Cool’, ‘Asian Cool’, whatever takes your fancy are there to be consumed. Lest we think cosmopolitan living comes easily, there is always the strum of violence (racial, sexual and laboured) with intermittent calls for justice, that surprise. Both activists and academics are drawn to the cities, global cities, because it is here that the incommensurable resides together. The fascination lies here because it is not known what newness will combust out of the blood, sweat, tongues, smells and sounds that mingle together.
The bodies of women of colour, who labour as the sweatshop worker in the East End of London, the domestic cleaners in homes, offices and airports of global cities and the ‘dextrous’ fingers on electronic circuits in free trade zones, or the hybrid metropolitan youth who dons saris and trainers, and especially those who tell us stories in the eloquence of their words are able to hold the attention of academics today in quite an unprecedented way. The mystery of our globalised condition is seen to reside right there in the body of the ‘black woman’, the ‘third world woman’, and the ‘subaltern’ tribal woman. There has been a remarkable move where these ‘other’ women have gone from being recognised nowhere in the public realm to being everywhere. People can’t get enough of them, or should I say of ‘us’.
We are living through times in which it has become urgent for those who loosely define themselves as on the ‘left’ to form political alliances across countries as well as within them. It is widely recognised that we need global links which help us to place pressure and disrupt strategic nodal points of power. The power lines across the world are so intermeshed and multi-dimensional it is important for there to be equally, if not more, elaborate vectors of political connection. There is no disputing that a dialogue that speaks within and also across points of difference is necessary. A commitment to dialogue, co-operation and alliance building is one thing, how we honour this commitment is however another matter. When we reach out and seek connections, it is important to reflect on the spirit through which it is framed. As those located in the richer nations endeavor to have a dialogue with less privileged locales we need to ask – How does the North reach out to the South? The character of the energies and emotions through which points of contact are made within political circuits need to be interrogated. At a time when it has become an absolute political imperative to forge a rainbow of coalitions that work with women of colour, of subaltern women, of women located in the South, it has become equally urgent to ask – On what basis have you invited them to speak? There is a structure of representations of this figure(s) which have a deep impact upon how these women are invited into political groupings, creative ventures or academic forums. The representations work across sites and radical political movements are not immune from them. And although there are important variations between spaces, there is a great deal of commonality in the terms through which they are granted co-existence.
There are some very problematic tendencies to be found in the way in which ‘we’ are invited to join the table, the platform, or the march. If we accept that a moment of emergency is also a moment of emergence then it is time to think again on what basis the subaltern female (taking this to be a wide and heterogeneous figure) is called to participate? And secondly in an intense moment of reflection you need to ask yourself, as an organisation, grouping or an individual – What are you looking for in the body of this figure? What do you choose to see in her? What do you want to hear? Are you really listening or are you hearing the echoes of your own fantasies? What is she allowed to be in your engagements with her? It is on this basis that this article begs all organisations, political or otherwise to consider firstly, on what basis a speaking position is made available for black feminists, the subaltern or third world woman and, secondly what is specifically being sought from the bodies of these women, in other words I ask ‘what are you looking for?’ The answers to these questions lie within the looker. It is the viewer who needs to interrogate him/her self.
In a series of works titled ‘Album Pacifica’ Mohini Chandra, an artist whose family journeys have moved between India, Fiji, Australia and the U.K, displays a collection of family photographs to the audience. Unusually, and powerfully, the photographs are presented to us with the backs displayed. Looking for clues of what the photo might contain on the other side, the side we are usually accustomed to seeing, the looker is led to look at the marks on the back. Staines, scrapes, tears, visa stamps and thumbprints become visible in this search. In some ways the viewer is itching to almost pick these photographs up to see what they might reveal. As viewers we are not content with the backs. To add another dimension, Chandra displayed these photographs in glass cabinets reminiscence of anthropological ‘cabinets of curiosity’ which organised cultures into hierarchically measured types. These cabinets again ‘tease’ us by positioning the photos as precious items that need protecting. The exact nature of the mysteries that lie behind the protective glass are denied to us. Chandra manages to disrupt our need to see, know and to confirm our view of the people on the other side of photo frame. She challenges us to think again about why we want to see and locate. She disrupts our gaze, right in the middle of the act of looking it is returned back to us. The questions she pushes back to us are – What are you looking for? What do you want to see on the other side? And why is the image of what you expect to see so important to your own sense of place in the world? If we take her suggested journey we are led back into ourselves.
Enter the Marginal
bell hooks notes that ‘the courses I teach on black women writers and Third World Literature are overcrowded, with large waiting lists’ (1991: 25). Shedding further light on how ‘minority discourse’ has become ‘a hot topic’ in the West (Chow 1993: 109), Ann Du Cille notes the shift from how ‘black’ women had to struggle to get black feminist texts on the curriculum or the bookshops to a situation where now:
Within and around the modern academy, racial and gender alterity has become a hot commodity that has claimed black women as its principal signifier. I am alternately pleased, puzzled, and perturbed-bewitched, bothered and bewildered-by this, by the alterity that is perpetually thrust upon African-American women, by the production of black women as infinitely deconstructable ‘othered’ matter…Why are they so interested in me and people like me (metaphorically speaking)? Why have we-black women-become the subjected subjects of so much scholarly investigation, the peasants under the glass of intellectual inquiry in the 1990’s.” (2001: 234).
In the world of literary and cultural studies, the swarm of interest for certain female figures, such as Toni Morrison, Zadie Smith or Meena Alexander, is particularly notable. Picking up on the extent of the attention paid to Zora Neale Hurston, Michelle Wallace presents a vivid picture of what we are in the middle of. She notes that there is a ‘traffic jam’ of intellectuals engaged in the analysis of the work of Hurston, who, ‘like groupies descending on Elvis Presley’s estate’ are engulfed in ‘a mostly ill-mannered stampede to have some memento of the black woman’ (Wallace cited in DuCille 2001: 234).
The fascination with whoever becomes defined as the archetypal figure of alterity is not just happening in academia, it is also found in political forums, in the arts and literature. This is an international phenomenon. People are mesmerised by this ‘object’ of otherness. She contains a something special that everyone is looking for. Speaking of how this notion is embedded in Hoxton in London (U.K), a relatively impoverished area which in the nineties became fashionable with those who ally themselves with new creative media arts and industries, the renowned novelist Zadie Smith mentions:
One of the strange things about Hoxton, which is particularly intense there but mirrored throughout the young middle-class university educated people of this country, is a real desire for a story or some kind of victimhood that they don’t have. The story you hear most often in the Hoxton Bar & Grill or the Electricity Showroom is how difficult it is to be white, for your parents to both be academics and have no story of your own. They are constantly looking for ideas for this film or that film, but no one really has a plot. There is a kind of envy of people different from themselves, as if, for example, cultural minority status gives other people immediate access to creativity that the Hoxton kids think they themselves don’t have. Personally, I’m not interested in writing about my own experience for the rest of my life, but it is seen as a gift that I’ve been given, both class and race, which separates you from this huge, liberal intelligentsia.” (2000: 36)
Zadie Smith and Ann Du Cille both pick up on how a very specific speaking subject position is made available for racialised minority women. They are expected to impart words of wisdom about alterity, or as Smith says class and race. This is a very particular speaking position; the utterances of these people are linked to their bodily existence in a way in which their voices are anchored to what they are seen to embody. Their creations are marked entities, heavily. This is a burden and connection that is not the first consideration that comes to mind when a white male body speaks, writes or creates. He just speaks as a human, because race and gender are ex-nominated from his bodily representation. While we can no doubt show how this universal figure of human, which is commonly assumed to be speaking from nowhere, as in no particular location, is speaking from somewhere as an embodied being (in terms of nationality, gender and class, for instance), he nevertheless occupies a position of privilege which the woman of colour does not. As Richard Dyer observes:
There is no more powerful position than that of being ‘just’ human. The claim to power is the claim to speak for the commonality of humanity. Raced people can not do that – they can only speak for their race. But non-raced people can, for they do not represent the interests of race. (Dyer 1997: 2)
The visibility of black women is thus of a very specific sort. Their contributions are sought and illuminated, but in limited ways which circumscribe what they have the authority to speak of. They are offered the floor to speak of marginality. The invitations are thus coming in today, but so often they are to fill specific ‘ethnic slots’. One enters as a racially marked speaker. As space is opened up, in the same gesture it is closed down under the rubric of a straightjacket. Of this the artist Sonia Boyce says:
Whatever black people do, it is said to be about identity, first and foremost. It becomes a blanket term for everything we do, regardless of what we’re doing…I don’t say it should be abandoned, (but) am I only able to talk about who I am? Of course, who I am changes as I get older: it can be a life-long inquiry. But why should I only be allowed to talk about race, gender, sexuality and class? Are we only able to say who we are, and not able to say anything else? If I speak, I speak ‘as a’ black woman artist or ‘as a’ black woman or ‘as a’ black person. I always have to name who I am: I’m constantly being put in that position, required to talk in that place…never allowed to speak because I speak. (quoted in Mercer 1995: 30)
Boyce’s voice is instead pigeonholed into ethnically demarcated ‘black slots’ (Chambers 1999: 27).
Taking a critical look at the terms in which one is able to speak within the academy, Spivak has noted the existence of a kind of ‘benevolent imperialism’ that enables her to speak as an Indian woman today. She notes that ‘A hundred years ago it was impossible for me to speak, for the precise reason that makes it only too possible for me to speak in certain circles now’ (cited in Landry and MacLean 1995: 194). She is invited to speak almost as a gesture of charity and guilt; the organisations want to make room for women of the third world.
The restricted grounds from which women of colour within the academy are enabled to speak can become especially apparent when they go outside the remit of ‘benevolent multiculturalism’ and write about mainstream subjects that occupy a central place in the academic hierarchy of knowledge. This more generalized form of speaking becomes particularly problematic if the idioms one uses are a touch unconventional. Spivak situates the highly publicized critique of her book A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason (1999) by Terry Eagleton as being directed from a position that is uncomfortable with the fact that the texts she engages with ‘are not confined to Third World women and yet I don’t write like Habermas in drag’ (Spivak 2001: 21). She argues that her presence in the academy is troubling because:
‘… I am a woman and as it happens a woman of colour who does not remain confined to the modes of discourse that she is allowed to engage in – speaking about women and speaking about Third World women and speaking about our victimage. That’s fine. If a person such as me de-anthropologises herself and reads the great texts of European tradition in a way that does not resemble the general rational expectations way of reading then she is punished’ (2001: 22).
Who and what people can speak for are a revealing measure of hierarchies of inclusion. Spivak is steeped in European philosophy and literature, she translated Derrida’s tome Grammartology in her mid-twenties, and still she feels that attempts are made to bludgeon her into speaking about her sort and specific corners of the world. Within social and political theory the white man rules, he is still central. Within feminist theory the white Diva’s have monopoly over its oration. Women of colour struggle to get into this central ground. They are certainly invited to speak but the queen bees of feminist theory remain white. Structures of whiteness pervade academic and political relations. They have a huge bearing upon who has the authority to speak and in what capacity. There are normative figures who manage to escape racial marking and can thus speak generally. Their particularity remains invisible precisely because it is the norm. For the woman of colour, as Spivak found, the slot that is made easily available for her is one where she offers herself as an anthropological spectacle. There is a vast open space from where social documentation of oneself or the so-called communities one comes from can be provided. The room for self-commentary is especially forthcoming when the testimonies are able to induce pity and tears.[[I am not in any way belittling the political power of autobiographical work or self-testimonies, these are absolutely essential for contesting histories, as well as for bringing to life what has been remained buried or in fact denigrated. However testimonials have also been classically used to assign victim hood, paralleled with a politics of salvation.
There is a particular propensity towards hearing these.
The Rescue Paradigm
The hunger for stories of victimage has a long history. At the high noon of anthropology distinctions between the West and the Rest gave rise to a method of epistemic jurisdiction encased in observations, measurements, categorizations, spectacles and cabinets of curiosity (Said 1978; Hall 1997). The bodies of women from these ‘Other’ places occupied a central place in the production of difference, between the barbaric and the civilized, the spiritual and the rational, the passive and the strong. All that is seen to be enticing as well as repulsive and in need of correction from these ‘Other’ places has been projected on to these female figures. Representing the white man’s as well as the white woman’s burden, women from ‘Other’ places have offered a sense of mission to those who have looked to the East for a career, constituting for them a sense of identity as politicians, social reformers, travellers or indeed academics.
The language of feminism and the liberation of women were used by colonialists, such as Cromer, to mark the boundary between the liberated West and the barbaric East, and thereby to produce a subject position for white colonial masculinity. The irony is that while the men in the Victorian establishment resisted the feminist cause in their own countries, they captured the language of feminism and colonialism and ‘… redirected it, in the service of colonialism, toward Other men and the cultures of Other men’ (Ahmed 1992: 6). Looking at this from the ghostly figure of the blazing sati, so often repeated in Western discourses, Spivak has famously noted that the abolition of sati and the series of laws that were enacted on behalf of Indian women by the British were a classic case of ‘White men saving brown women from brown men’ (Spivak 1988b: 296), making way for what Rajan describes as a ‘trope of chivalry’, a rite of passage for young white men into amorous masculinity (Rajan 1993: 6). The depiction of women who underwent the practice of sati in official accounts as victims or heroines, precluded the possibility of a ‘female subjectivity that is shifting, contradictory, inconsistent’ (Rajan 1993: 11), but enabled the proliferation of a ‘rescue paradigm’ (Rajan 1993: 6), which was often tinged by ‘voyeuristic pleasure’, especially if the sati was tragically considered to be young and beautiful (Mani 1992: 400, 1998).
It was not, however, only the knight in shining armour who set about saving women in India and other parts of the colonies under the masquerade of the ‘rescue paradigm’; Western women, ‘Imperial Ladies’, also donned this cloak, albeit with a different affectation, to style, perhaps unconsciously, a subject position for themselves (Burton 1994; Chaudhuri and Strobel 1992). The fashioning of Western women as enlightened agents who took on the mission of relieving the patriarchal plight of women in the colonies was pivotal to the yielding of political rights and agency by Western women. They could use charitable postures to assert themselves as agents against the exclusionary political agendas of white masculinity in the face of conceptions of the liberal political ‘individual’ that did not include women. The exclusions in the body politic posed by the ‘sexual contract’ (Pateman 1988) are undercut by a gendered ‘racial contract’ (Mills 1997). Thus ‘in the process of campaigning for women whom they considered to be more badly treated than themselves … Western women could achieve a subject position for themselves, often at the expense of indigenous women’s subject position and sense of agency’ (Mills 1998: 105).
Trolloping[[This alludes to gallivant around the world with due care or sensitivity for others. It is a form of travel that assumes one has the right to march in anywhere. ‘Good Girls’
There is no shortage of feminists linked with the West who ‘trollop’ around the world seeking to do good, to rectify the plight of poor women and children. Huge bureaucratic structures endorse these missions, as they are written into development documents, aid packages, and academic proposals. The white feminist occupies a special place in all of this. The moral high ground over welfare has been a central way-in for her into a public realm of fraternities that have historically sought to limit her participation. So today, who is better placed to jet around the world collecting stories on the plight of children, sex workers or women in free trade zones, than she? Within what Chow terms as “a circuit of productivity that draws its capital from others’ deprivation while refusing to accept its own presence as endowed” there are people who endorse themselves as authentic representatives of the Third world (1993: 14). She strongly criticises those who engage in “self-subalternization” as choosing “to see in others’ powerlessness an idealized image of themselves and refuse to hear in the dissonance between the content and manner of their speech their own complicity with violence.” (1993: 14) Thus we see what Spivak refers to as the ‘mood of self-congratulation as saviours of marginality’ (Spivak1988b: 61) runs through the whole chain of operations and networks involved in the representation of the subaltern. However there are important distinctions in how different actors involved in the matrices of power are placed. While local researchers in continents out of Europe may be invaluable for providing specific social documentation, the panoramic view is best left in the trusted hands of the western feminists. Unlike the local feminists in Asia, Africa and South America, she is bestowed with qualities that enable her to bring us a transcendental view. No doubt she reaches out, she attempts to listen, to hear it how it is, but does she really hear? Do they hear more stories of victimhood? Are they adding to an already bursting imperial archive of ‘barbaric’ cultures from where the women need to be saved by the West? Or do they hear different variants of Marxism, depending on the authors’ intellectual allegiances? Perhaps they see a series of what for some are seen to be Deluezian processes beautifully in motion? Looking is never a simple process; it has its own layers of sophistication.
The Politics of Salvation
We witnessed one of the crudest understandings of the lives of women located outside of the West by women in the West during the bombing and apparent liberation of Afghanistan post September 11th. A group of Labour government female ministers took up a gender issue alongside Cherie Blair and made it very public. This was the question of the burkha and the veil in Afghanistan (Khan 2001); they spoke of solidarity with their sisters in Afghanistan by mimicking what it is like to wear this item of clothing. In this campaign they did not consult black or Muslim women groups who might have advised them on how to read this item of clothing without simply reverting to orientalist readings which produce essentialist notions of civilised western countries and barbaric eastern places, where women need to be saved by the enlightened west. Furthermore they would have benefited from knowing that a uniform interpretation can not be attached to the donning of the burkha or the veil (Ahmed 1992; El Guindi 1999). Post-colonial feminists have been discussing the veil for a long time, but I don’t think you will find these books in the House of Commons library! One of the major concerns of post-colonial feminists has been how do you criticise patriarchies in racialised societies without reverting to oriental and racist thinking (Brah 1997; Feminist Review 1984; Grewal et al 1988; Parmar 1982). And the veil is one of those racialised/gendered signifiers (like sati), which is, because of the history around it is as noted by Leila Ahmed ‘pregnant’ with meaning (1992:166). All of which makes it absolutely crucial that modes of resistance are not purely considered through western or eurocentric idioms. This high profile event, which was co-ordinated with an identical cross-Atlantic initiative, fell into all the analytical traps that Mohanty had quite some time ago made great efforts to warn us of. Just in case some one’s listening I re-state them.
Principally she said there was a latent ethnocentrism in western feminist texts which had a tendency to: (1) produce/represent a monolithic category of the ‘average third world woman’ and (2) to measure and judge the lives of these Other women through a ‘yardstick’ that took the lives of middle-class women in the West as the norm, ‘as the implicit referent’ (1988: 64). In vivid terms this means that:
…a homogenous notion of the oppression of women as a group is assumed, which, in turn, produces the image of an ‘average third-world woman. This average third-world woman leads and essentially truncated life based on feminine gender (read: sexually constrained) and being ‘third world’ (read: ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, religious, domesticated, family-orientated, victimized, etc.). This, I suggest, is in contrast to the (implicit) self-representation of western women as educated, modern, as having control over their own decisions…These distinctions are made on the basis of privileging a particular group as the norm or as the referent.” (1988:64)
Mohanty makes it clear that it is not just white western women who can fall into the trap of taking their own position as the norm. She says third world women located in the third world, in the West or those who shuttle between the two can also easily fall into these traps which are latent features of international feminism.
The question What are you looking for in the figure of the subaltern? needs to be put to all intellectual and political schools of thought. As they all engage in a form of looking which is very specific to this figure. So often analysts who work in the area of political economy have taken for granted that their perspective is the most radical position there ever can be. In addition they make the assumption that their hard-nosed analysis does not have damaging consequences for the underdogs they whole-heartedly support. Let us reconsider.
In an analysis of feminist texts in the area of development studies (Nelson 1981; Young, Wolkowitz and McCullagh 1981), Aihwa Ong analyses collections that attempt to look at women’s position in the encounter between global capitalist forces and the everyday life of paid and unpaid work. She notes that ‘capitalism is delineated as a historically conditioned, polymorphus system; it has more contradictions and personalities than the women and men who are ostensibly the subjects of the volume’ (2001: 112). She says “The papers taken as a whole tell us more about Marxist-feminist thinking about the capitalist world system than about the experience of women or men in the industrializing situation.” (ibid.) What are people looking for in the subaltern?
There is a tendency to hold simple and static pictures of subaltern or ‘black’ women. They are either pitied as being the victims of multiple oppression or held in ecstatic acclaim for being the heroines who will bring the world tumbling down.
Flights of Fantasy
Those who combine complicated notions of subjectivity with the economic may see much that needs to be celebrated rather than pitied in the lives of women of colour. Thus they don’t bring sad faces of pity to the poems or novels theyread but joy, and most of all desire. There is a fascination with the condition of the nomad, with living on the border, with being in a constant state of negotiation. Looking at Hurston’s poems can take people to extraordinary flights. So much of the analysis of the globalized condition, in a social and cultural, as well as an economic sense, is seen to reside with what is taken to be the condition(s) of the subaltern female, the contemporary ‘heart of darkness’. Amidst growing debates on globalization and its relationship to place-based identities and diasporic existences, we find that the so-called hybrid, pastiched, negotiated and ambiguous identities of young second-generation ‘migrant’ women are the foci of attention and fascination. The mixing and matching characterized in the simultaneous donning of styles such as saris and trainers are a somewhat exasperating site for some, as these figures are seen to project the archetypal global cultural subject; one that is beyond borders, in flux and highly syncretic. These figures raise unknown levels of excitement in political and academic ranks, because their bodies seem to bring the rhizomatic flows of culture and capital to the brink in one carnivalesque affair. Oh what a celebration!
In the last ten years or so we have witnessed a welcome move away from static binary notions towards more complex and nuanced understandings. It is a move that has been particularly fruitful for freeing up the boundedness of groups and cultures for an appreciation of the interconnected, changing and fused nature of identities. Influenced by post-structuralist thinking, the academic conceptual toolbox for understanding life at the margins has become quite expansive. Discourses of hybridity, flows, borderlands, ‘becoming minor’, the nomadic, ambivalence are all to be found among the motley crew of concepts that are all too often called upon to narrate alterity and the path to alterity. As noted by Kaplan “romanticizing nomad or guerrilla cultures is a frequent practice in contemporary poststructuralist theories” (1994: 146). However, “Unfortunately, despite critiques of humanist categories, poststructuralist methodologies are no less prone to desiring the ‘other’ or exoticizing difference.” (1994: 144).
While the attempt is made to escape the monsters of binary structures and essentialist thinking, here we can see that even the most sophisticated theory is not immune from making a serious error, one that we have seen repeated again and again – where someone is made into a spectacle, an object. The effect of the continuous use of poets, filmmakers, writers, and artists from the ‘margins’ as raw material for theoretical acrobatics can so often be further marginalization. Even those academics who want to write culture and politics otherwise can, as is noted by Cornel West, bring in debates on difference and borders ‘in a way that it further marginalizes actual people of difference and otherness’. Once again the ‘Other’ can be ‘made object, appropriated, interpreted, taken over by those in power … ‘ (quoted in hooks 1991: 125).
Our hearing filters often sandwich the subaltern female between the voyeurism of the phantastically exotic and a ‘rescue paradigm’ (Rajan 1993: 6) which is underlaid by ‘salvational motives’ (Chow 1993: 3) re-played and reformulated in a myriad of contexts, including the ‘revolutionary tourism’ and ‘celebration of testimony’ (Spivak 1993: 284) found in international feminism and global politics on the left more generally.
While we seek ethical responsibility with the subaltern through a one-to-one loving relationship where we systematically unlearn our privileges (Spivak, Landry and MacLean 1995) so that we ‘speak to’, not ‘of’ (Minh-ha 1989), we must not escape the probing and uncomfortable question: What kind of ethical relationship with the subaltern are we seeking in the first place? What kind of subject position does it enable us to hold? If the activists, academics and film makers for instance (here I include post-colonial feminists located in the belly of the beast, who have access to public forums, conferences, publishing circuits, and UN platforms), hope to transform, save or protect her, as many of them do in one guise or another, they must first debunk ‘… the illusion that, through privileged speech, one is helping to save the wretched of the earth’ (Chow 1993: 119).
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