Alcoff’s widely-cited article titled, exactly: “The problem of speaking for others.” Alcoff’s essay is a review of the arguments that have been presented by. ; revised and reprinted in Who Can Speak? Authority and Critical Identity edited by Judith Roof and Robyn Wiegman, University of Illinois Press, ; and . The Problem of Speaking for Others. Author(s): Linda Alcoff. Source: Cultural Critique, No. 20 (Winter, ), pp. Published by: University of.

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Certain races, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and classes confer privilege, but a single individual perhaps most individuals may enjoy privilege in respect to some parts of their identity and a lack of privilege in respect to other parts.

In feminist magazines such as Sojournerit is common to find articles and letters in which the author states that she can only speak for herself.

And this is simply because we cannot neatly separate off our mediating praxis which interprets and constructs our experiences from the praxis of others.

On the one hand, a theory which explains this experience as involving autonomous choices free of material structures would be false and ideological, but on the other hand, if alcof do not acknowledge the activity of choice and the experience of individual doubt, we are denying a reality of our experiential lives.

Linda Martin Alcoff, The problem of speaking for others – PhilPapers

Those of us in the audience, including many white women and people of oppressed nationalities and races, wait in eager anticipation for what he has to contribute to this important discussion. In the examples used above, there may appear to be a conflation between the issue of speaking for others and the issue of speaking about others. In other words, some persons are accorded discursive authority because they are respected leaders or because they are teachers in a classroom and know more about the material at hand.

However, while there is much theoretical and practical work to be done to develop such alternatives, the practice of speaking for others remains the best option in some existing situations.

The Problem of Speaking for Others by Karen Lo on Prezi

Adequate research will be a necessary but insufficient criterion of evaluation. Therefore, privilege must always be indexed to specific cor as well as to specific locations. One person a straight woman was regaling us with tales about how difficult it was to come out as a queer person—as told to her by her gay male friends—meanwhile queer people like myself were being shut out of the discussion or talked over so our voices could not be heard.

Even a complete retreat from speech is of course not neutral since it allows the continued dominance of current discourses and acts by omission to reenforce their dominance. However, this objection presupposes a particular conception of truth, one in which the truth of a statement can be distinguished from its interpretation and its acceptance.


One important implication of this first premise is that we can no longer determine the validity of a given instance of speaking for others simply by asking whether or not the speaker has done sufficient research to justify her claims. Some of us have been taught that by right of having the dominant gender, class, race, letters after our name, or some other criterion, we are more likely to have the truth.

I am a Panamanian-American and a person of mixed ethnicity and race: As my practices are made possible by events spatially far away from my body so too my own practices make possible or impossible practices of others. Joyce Trebilcot’s version of the retreat response, which I mentioned at the outset of this essay, raises other issues. Yet the effects of the two statements are vastly different because the meaning of the claim changes radically depending on who states it.

Given that interpretations and meanings are discursive constructions made by embodied speakers, Trebilcot worries that attempting to persuade or speak for another will cut off that person’s ability or willingness to engage in the constructive act of developing meaning. An absolute retreat weakens political effectivity, is based on a metaphysical illusion, and often effects only an obscuring of the intellectual’s power.

Two elements within these rituals will deserve our attention: Cameron’s intentions were never in question, but the effects of her writing were argued to be harmful to the needs of Native authors because it is Cameron rather than they who will proboem listened to and whose books will be bought by readers interested in Native women.

The conjunction of Premises 1 and 2 suggest that the speaker loses some portion of control over the meaning and truth of her utterance. The Problem of Speaking For Others. Speakers may seek to regain control here by taking into account the context of their speech, but they can never know everything about this context, and with written pproblem electronic communication it is becoming increasingly difficult to know anything orhers all about the context of reception. For this reason, the work of privileged authors who speak on behalf of the oppressed is becoming increasingly criticized by members of those oppressed groups themselves.

University of Illinois Press, Problemm it ranges over diverse spaces and transforms in the mind of its recipients according to their different horizons of interpretation, the effective control of the speaker over the meanings which she puts in motion may seem negligible.

Edited by Milton K. Moreover, making the decision for oneself whether or not to retreat is an extension or application of privilege, not an abdication of it.


On the Problem of Speaking for Others

The meaning of any discursive event will be shifting and plural, fragmented and even spea,ing. In the history of Western philosophy, there have existed multiple, competing definitions and ontologies of truth: Those who are not in a position of speaking at all cannot retreat from an action they do not employ.

Adopting the position that one should only speak for oneself raises similarly difficult questions.

In some cases, the motivation is perhaps not so much to avoid criticism as to avoid errors, and the person believes that the only way to avoid errors is to avoid all speaking for others. Rituals of speaking are constitutive of meaning, the meaning of the words spoken as well as the meaning of the event. Another problem concerns how specific an identity needs to be to confer epistemic authority. Oyhers, how what is said gets heard depends on who says it, and thf says it will affect the style and language in which it is stated.

In fact, it may be impossible to speak for another without simultaneously conferring information about them. But this does not tell us how groups themselves should be delimited. Sometimes, I worry sometimes that my criticism overrides what I see as the value of these texts. This loss of control may be taken by some speakers to mean that no speaker can be held accountable for her discursive actions.

All such evaluations produced in this way will be of necessity indexed. It has long been noted that existing communication technologies have the potential to produce these kinds of interaction even prob,em research and development teams have not found it advantageous otjers capitalism to do so. Singing in the Fire: A quick impulse othhers reject criticism must make one wary.

Now let us look at the second premise. This insistence is not based on a commitment to transparent accounts of representation or a correspondence theory of truth, but on my belief that the demarcation between epistemically better and worse claims continues to operate indeed, foor is inevitable and that what happens when we eschew all epistemological issues of truth is that the terms upon which those demarcations are made go unseen and uncontested.

The final response to the problem of speaking for others that I will consider occurs in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s rich essay “Can the Subaltern Speak? The recognition that there is a problem in speaking for others has followed from the widespread acceptance speaming two claims.