HIROKAZU MIYAZAKI: Good afternoon. I'm Hiro Miyazaki, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this special event. It is so nice to see so many of you this afternoon.
This is a very important event for us at the center, the Center for International Studies. And it's part of a series of events on the Rohingya crisis that now the center is organizing in collaboration with the Southeast Asia Program, the South Asia Program and the Comparative Muslim Societies Program, and the collective students-- Concerned Students on Global Issues. The Einaudi Center is committed to the promotion of global justice and peace. And I would like to thank [? Gerika ?] [? Domishinge ?] and other graduate students for reminding me of our moral obligation to respond to a urgent international crisis-- humanitarian crisis like this in a timely and thoughtful fashion.
Given that this is part of-- this is an initiative of graduate students, without further ado, I would like to invite [? Gerika ?] to introduce our distinguished speaker, Professor Gayatri Spivak, whose work remains a source of great inspiration for many of us in this room, including myself, in so many different ways. So [? Gerika. ?]
[? GERIKA DOMISHINGE: ?] Thank you, Professor Miyazaki. Thank you all at Corn U. Thank you for coming. OK. OK.
AUDIENCE: Louder please. Use the mic.
[? GERIKA DOMISHINGE: ?] No, it doesn't work. You hear me right? OK. So I'm going to introduce from [INAUDIBLE] Ms. Spivak in a moment. But before that, I would like to share why as students we want to organize this event and why now.
Once Rosa Luxembourg said, "The most revolutionary things one can do is always to proclaim loudly what is happening." As students and citizens who are concerned about the injustices that are happening in the world and the victims of global forms violence and local politics, we have organized these events on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. On August 23, 2017, Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, delivered a set of recommendations to the president of Myanmar, or Burma, on the ongoing problems in Rakhine State. His commission prescribed actions to overcome the ethnic strife and solve the issue of Rohingya including those who have been confined to internment camps in Rakhine since the violence in 2012. But instead, an attack Rohingyan Army [INAUDIBLE] became the start of what the Myanmar army call a clearance operation.
Three weeks later, top UN officials declared that the new Rohingya refugee crisis amounts to an act of ethnic cleansing. Over half a million Muslims have fled from Rakhine State in Myanmar during the last two months and are desperately seeking refuge in Bangladesh and India. Hastily created refugee camps are not able to meet the demands of the number of refugees that are still coming in every day and now may number 800,000. As we read news reports on the violence every day, we must make more of an effort to understand its history and context. It is this hope that we will want to discuss not just the Rohingya crisis but also the global politics within which it is situated.
The root cause of the crisis goes back to colonial times. The fight between the British and the Japanese during the Second World War divided the people living in Myanmar along religious and ethnic lines. After the end of the war and the independence of Myanmar, the Rohingya were never accepted into the new nation state as citizens. They have since been part of a long struggle against the injustices of the Myanmar nation state. Today, the Rakhine State conflict and ensuing mass displacement of Rohingyas continue to be plagued by destructive forms of nationalism and occurs in the context of American, Chinese, Indian, and Russian interest in Myanmar's natural resources and strategic Indian Ocean ports.
The recent elections of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, were treated as a shining light for democracy in Myanmar. But recent events have provoked a reassessment of her image. Perhaps we can ask whose dreams and expectations has she given up? Was she ever a messiah for the ordinary Burmese people in Myanmar and Rohingya? As [INAUDIBLE] to ask in relation to the horrors committed in the camps, the correct question to pose concerning the horrors in Rakhine is therefore not the hypocritical one of how crimes of such atrocity could be committed against human beings. It would be more honest and above all more useful to investigate carefully the deployments of power by which human beings could be so completely deprived of their rights and privileges in the way that no act committed against them could appear impossible.
Meanwhile, for the newly independent countries, the dream of the nation-state was not realized, often crushed by imperialism and neocolonialism. The model of the nation to gain self-determination and independence can no longer work. We are in an era where we must look for a new vision for self-determination and peace. This is most evident in Greece and politics in Europe and the United States, which requires us to question the concept of the nation-state itself. As we move into an age where a hope for equality under the hegemony of Europe and the United States is fading away, we have to think of what models and what visions the new world will be based on.
It is convenient and easy to talk of human rights and be morally outraged at the situation of Rohingya. As students in the United States, there are many things we can do, but we must develop our ideas and create a discourse which can allow us to intervene in a way that fights not just for certain interest but for humanity as such. We need to recognize shared struggles between people facing comparable forms of oppression. Gayatri Spivak for example has suggested that Rohingya people and those who stand with them might best build solidarity with similar grounded struggles. Thus we must understand and build solidarity with struggles such as those of Myanmar, Palestine, Syria, and communities in the United States itself.
Let me introduce Professor Gayatri Spivak. One of the greatest scholars that Cornell University has produced, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is presently a university professor in the humanities of Columbia University where she is also a faculty member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, which she founded in 1998 to promote a global perspective in the study of literature and culture in a social context. Professor Spivak's teaching and writing is devoted to exposing problems of inequality, exploitation, and injustice in relation to the promise of emancipation and political struggle to the promise of a more just and less exclusionary world. While being one of the most distinguished and influential postcolonial literature theorists and cultural critiques of our times, she has also been an activist in education reform and teacher for the children of early education of the landless laborers in rural India for nearly two decades.
She has published nine books, seven lengthy translations, and over 300 articles and interviews, and her work has been translated into all the major European and Asian languages. Professor Spivak, being a figure in literary studies since her groundbreaking translation of Jacques Derrida's Grammatology set a new standard for self-reflexivity and helped introduce the work of the singularly influential significant philosopher to a larger English-speaking audience. Professor Spivak, being one of the greatest architects of postcolonial studies, made a breakthrough publishing the article "Can the Subaltern Speak?" which made her known way beyond the work of academia.
The article is on the interests that are at play in the production of knowledge and the conformity that is necessarily forced on subaltern people who try to define and assert their identity. It is indeed with great interest and great anticipation that we introduce Professor Spivak to our audience. Her talk today is titled "Situating Rohingya in a Global Context." Please welcome Professor Spivak.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Well, it's a great pleasure to be here. And I came because I want not to be ever absent when called on to speak for the Rohingyas because I think that they are at the moment-- that's it right? Sure. What's happening? Yes. They are, at the moment, I think the worst oppressed subaltern group in the world because if you take Gramsci's definition of the subaltern, "small social groups on the fringes of history," small social groups on the fringes of history, these are people about whom we cannot even say what history are they going to inhabit. What is their past? What is their future? What is their present?
I first actually encountered them in the 80s when I was active in Bangladesh, in Teknaf. And I will say that as they swam across the Naf River, we were on the shore of Teknaf, and they were shot at as they were swimming across. When they came ashore, at that point it was possible to take them into small camps and get organized-- get them organized into schools and so on, everything, because, of course, on that level everyone does everything. It's not like you have this task, and you got that task. But I'm generally most useful as a teacher.
And I will say-- I'm speaking about the 80s now-- I was in close contact with them, and I had never seen human beings so degraded by oppression. So robbed of dignity and so therefore, at that point, the understanding that these, too, are human beings brought to this condition really made me feel that I must whenever possible speak for them, to them, about them.
Now, one thing that I want to say, however, is who are the we [INAUDIBLE] to whom many, many thanks for inviting me. And also I should-- really before I say anything-- thank [INAUDIBLE] and-- who's Burmese, Buddhist origin activist who works nonstop against the policy of the Burmese majority against the Rohingyas. I must thank Tun Khin. They are really my sources of information because I'm not really an information person. I'm much more how to do person, so therefore I take it where I can. And they give me as much as they can.
So Tun Khin, who is the head of the Rohingya Organization of Britain and who is in fact a Rohingya-born in [INAUDIBLE] State, grew up there, but, of course, he's now upwardly class mobile, and that's another question. And also I must thank Vijay Prishad, who gives me all different kinds of information whenever I need it. And having thanked them, let me say that my question is who are the we?
When you say we must, we must, you did say students in the United States. That's very good. But the question that we have to ask is can students in the United States or anyone anywhere behave towards the Rohingyas in such a way that responses will come from that other side? That's the kind of thing-- you may say I'm being impractical. But it is-- I am impractical because I do not want to be practical like that op-ed writer in The Guardian who suggested that we idealistic human rights workers in the West-- of course, this person did not acknowledge that there are lots of people of color living in the West-- white, idealistic, but I think I was included among them. Idealistic human rights workers in the West should be a little practical, and understand that in order to build democracy, it is sometimes necessary to join with the majority party.
I do not want to be practical in that way, and I don't want any of my young friends here, who have indeed organized this wonderful working group, I don't want them to be effective in that way either because the idea that you have to join the majority in order to build a democracy perhaps is true. But when that majority is genocidal, it is not democracy that you are building. So therefore we all questions-- I lay those kinds of questions of practicality aside and say that I would want to begin actually with a story, a story about WEB Du Bois. I work on Du Bois and since I'm trying to connect things in a global context, Du Bois a good beginning.
Everybody in this audience should know this story. And probably many of you know it. It's a well-known story. As he was walking down in Atlanta and he saw-- he heard that the man who had just been lynched the day before, his knuckles-- somehow-- his knuckles were on show at one of the shop windows. He went back, and he wrote, "I realized that the kind of scientific work I was doing had no use anymore, that this kind of scientific work did not need to be done."
So therefore I also say to the students who are actually working on research in Southeast Asia that they should learn something from this remark made quite a few years ago, 1899. Quite a few years ago that is the idea that you work-- you produce research as experts-- is not an idea that you really want to sit on. Therefore, the idea-- the question has to come what is this good for? What am I doing?
So Du Bois then said that "I don't do propaganda." And Gramsci, on the other hand, would give us the phrase "permanent persuader," that the new intellectual has to be a permanent persuader. And these are the models, I think, that we should really think about. This does not contravene the expertise or the standards that we have.
I am not suggesting-- certainly not suggesting essentializing the pre-colonial or essentializing anything cultural. In fact, Roger and I had a slight disagreement this afternoon because I said that Du Bois' Indian novel was absurd. But he [INAUDIBLE] I'm not into ancestor worship, so therefore what I'm trying to say is that what we should ask is why we are doing what we're doing.
Now the-- I also want to suggest that we listen to-- when I said that can we draw responses from them, I want to quote another little bit from Du Bois as he's talking about the emancipated slaves. Now, they were emancipated. The Rohingyas are nowhere near that. And he says, "We cannot imagine this spectacular revolution unless we think of these people as human beings like ourselves."
When we are talking about the Rohingyas, you see how often it's just as a collection of people who are just degraded out of there. There are statistics. There's a lot of information available. That's not the problem. There are statistics.
"So not, of course, unless we think of these people as human beings like ourselves, not honest assuming this common humanity, we cannot-- unless assuming this common humanity, we conceive ourselves in a position where we are close to chattels and real estate and then suddenly in the night become thenceforward and forever free." In other words, not just that they are like us, but that we are like them. Unless we can imagine that, unless this is the-- our imaginations are that flexible, there is no use in the long run working to change policy and to make laws. Certainly in the short run, we must work as hard as we can, and we do, to solve these problems. But in fact we must think of the long run if we are actually going to bring the Rohingyas into a situation where they can claim a history.
And so Du Bois goes on, "Unless we can do this, there is, of course, no point in thinking of emancipation at all." and I would like to ask, especially the young people here, to be able to be impractical in this way. Unless you can imagine that you are like them, unless you are-- your imagination is that flexible, it's not worth going into anything. We are not just there to do good for them. And so that's something that is very, very important for me.
I would also like to say that the idea of global that I'm using is not just-- and generally speaking, global is academic tourism. You go to all different kinds of places, and therefore you establish all kinds of global contacts. In our neck of the woods, the word global also means that we have to change the way we know ourselves as investigators. We have to have epistemological change in ourselves as knowers and producers of knowledge and, of course, also the objects of knowledge. So keep this in mind.
It's not just a thing of-- those things should also be done. In fact, let me begin by saying that the reason why our world is getting destroyed is because large sectors, the largest sectors of the electorate, completely uneducated are being exploited, are being abused by leaders so that they can have a body count votes. And so the whole world is full of bad leaders.
So you have Duterte from Philippines, Temer from Brazil, Duda of Poland, Orban of Hungary, Cartes of Paraguay, Macri of Argentina, Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. You have Modi. You have Doan. You have-- sorry-- your own leader.
And so therefore this situation, what Karl Marx wrote very ironically, they cannot-- very ironically and both Edward Said and Skip Gates missed the irony-- they cannot represent themselves. They must be represented. See that's the situation here. These leaders are coming forth, and our sick world is destroyed because of this. And to this, we add Aung Sun Suu Kyi.
So therefore-- you asked questions about her-- so therefore we have to keep in mind that the only way in the long run that this is changed is by dealing with these sectors of the electorate one on one and collective so that, in fact, their desires can change. The Rohingyas can't come close to this in terms of where they are now. And that's what we should really look for that there will be a point where we can actually bring them. Remember I have been in school situations where I have been teaching them, little schools in the 80s. You cannot-- at that point at least, you could not begin to teach them.
In order to be able to go toward those absolutely damaged cognitive machines, you have to have a different kind of effort at the same time from all of the short-term work that you do. So therefore the-- I would say that I would like first of all to connect this situation with speaking truth to power. And this is something that I would like to-- I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt Aung Sun Suu Kyi is a little younger than I am. And, in fact, she was educated in Delhi. She was educated at Lady Sri Ram College, which I know well. It's a nice upper class women's college. And certainly she was not-- she was taught there to think in a certain way, we as you say. She was one of our we's.
So and then she went to Oxford. And as my friend Romila Thapar says people from upper class colleges in Delhi, when they go to Oxford, it's really-- they're more or less in the same place except more people are white. But-- so therefore I would like to-- I would like to make an appeal to her have the courage to reclaim your education. You are not dumb like these the list that I read. Reclaim your education. Speak truth to power. What happened to you?
Because the-- when she was working for herself, she was fine. That whole house arrest thing, it was just really for her own sake. And once she broke from that, she went over and began to join these-- she should be we. A lot of us in the world would be behind her if she could change. So I think to an extent, we ought to really make an appeal to her to behave like a human being.
She tells lies about how there is health coverage for these Rohingyas and how there is wonderful high school scholarships for the-- this is a joke. You can hear her voice uttering these lies when we know very well that this is not the truth. Why manufacture these facts? She was the one who took their name away remember? When the first case of arson, she said we will not use the word Rohingya. What happened?
How is it? And also not just speaking truth to power but also talking-- speaking as a woman to use Cornell by feminizing ourselves I think it's a disgrace. When she came to Cornell, for example, she said-- Cornell, sorry-- came to Columbia, she says, "When I see someone in military uniform, I think of my father." Ah, Jesus wept! Really [INAUDIBLE] I mean really?
Really the idea of we're against anthropologizing ourselves and saying I'm from this culture or that culture and that's nonsense. But the idea that she would present herself, this woman who is responsible for such mass killings that she would identify herself as a kind of a little girl who really thinks of a daddy when she sees someone in uniform. It's disgraceful. So that to that extent, I would say that one must think of making also not an appeal but asking her to change-- to claim her education, to claim her upbringing, to become once again someone who can actually stand up and speak truth to power. I think she can do it, and we will all support her. There will be many, many people in the world who will support her instead of which we are obliged to take back her Nobel Prize.
This is not-- so that's where I really want to begin. Now when I-- this is when I was at Oxford. [? Monzani ?] had called me, and this is-- I'm not really someone who goes in for these kinds of things. But I was told that I should do this. And so what I-- that I should stand there with [INAUDIBLE] and I agreed. So there you see these are all men. And if you see the women in the pictures The Guardian circulates, you will think that they are completely animal like. You agree. I was very happy that Geethika agreed with me that those pictures are not worth showing, but you can look at them if you want to be-- and I'm sure many of you have looked at them, the file about the Rohingya that Guardian has.
But the thing is there are in fact no women in this particular struggle, and they cannot really call forth and think about that. Why is there this kind of gender difference that they cannot call forth a woman to stand there with them? And then when in Pakistan, I met up with the Rohingya women. Peculiar, very peculiar thing happened.
I, too, thought again and again I cannot access the Rohingya women at all. They are somewhere else. I speak to the men. They welcome me, and we do what we can. But I have never worked with Rohingya women at all except in those schools in Bangladesh.
I was in Pakistan. I was in Karachi, and wherever I am I always ask to be driven to the poorest part of the city because otherwise one is stuck with this very American seeming hotels and so on and so forth and one never really sees the city where one is having these wonderful conferences.
And so the guide, the dean of Harvard University, took me there, and he's a Karachian, but he had never been there before. And lo and behold, I was not expecting Rohingyas. I walk into the poorest part of-- the poorest part of the city. Sitting in mud, there are Rohingya women. I didn't even know that they Rohingya.
They saw something in my face. I look like them. So this happens to me also in my Washington Heights neighborhood. I look Hispanic, so everywhere mi amor. And so it's wonderful.
The Rohingyas saw something in my face. And it is true that the Rohingya language is not really like spoken Bengali, but the thing is my own experience with subalterns and as you were saying I have-- they're not laborers. You said landless laborers, not at all. They are landless, illiterate rural folks, so they-- my experience 30-- and not more than two decades, 30 years, now in fact 31.
So at any rate, the-- when-- and also there's something else I should tell you. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" is a critique of the Hindus. It's not a post-colonial piece at all. Misread as such. But it's true. Glad you're amused. That's what it is.
Anyway, to go back, so generally my experience with subalterns has been including the ones in Africa who speak on systematized mother tongues that they are quite multi-lingual. So that in fact, when I was in-- when I used to work in Purulia, the [? Shabals, ?] they spoke [INAUDIBLE] which they thought was their language, but they also spoke my kind of Bengali as well as they could. And so these Rohingya women realized, looking at me, hey, this is one of us, and they started talking to me.
And this is what, again, charged me into doing what I'm doing today. They spoke to me you see. That's the name of responsibility that you can draw response from the other side. You can draw-- whether you do good or bad, agency is turned around. In the long run, that's what's going to last.
They started talking to me. They was sitting in the mud, and I was being-- but they were happy at-- first of all, they could tell that I thought they were human beings. It's a huge discovery. And also they were not in Burma, so they were happy even sitting in that bloody mud. And I was been doing some rash things, and I was told that I should not walk in that mud now.
The thing is I'm not particularly Christ-like. I'm not interested in walking in mud, but the idea that they were sitting in the damn mud, and I was being told by everyone around me please don't walk in that mud so that your shoes don't get splattered, once again. See, they were just being nice to me, of course.
They were just be nice to me. That's ideology at work. They were not intending anything, but they were implicitly making a distinction between them and us. That's the lesson-- the first lesson of this kind of political work that whatever you do to help them in the short run, change yourselves. Change yourselves so that you can draw responses from them rather than just simply yes, yes from them because that's how they are-- their own sense of themselves will make them behave towards the absurd ruling class that comes in to do top down good and then buzz off. So therefore the-- I just emphasize this once again.
Now, the problem now is that-- and one more thing I will say, nobody in knew that wonderful Karachi Habib University and so on and so forth, nobody knew that in fact these people were shitting in the swamps. In the swamps! This-- it was just an unbelievable thing, and the guy says to me, my host the dean, gosh, I've never been to these parts of the city at all.
This is so therefore the idea of being in a separate place and you work for them and you look at the UN declarations and you make the UN declarations visible to everyone. That is not enough. There is enough information. We are not talking just about the right to information, which is of course supremely important.
But when I actually spoke here, I took all the information that I had. I printed it out, that big of a stack. I'm not joking. That big of a stack. But nobody paid any attention at all. So what I said to them is what I'm doing now. I said, whenever you speak about anything, speak about the Rohingyas and connect the Rohingyas to what is happening.
So therefore I have tried number one to connect the Rohingyas to the fact that all over the world-- Africa, Latin America, Asia and also the United States-- the-- in fact, the largest sector of the electorate is kept uneducated so that they will be bodycount for bringing in these terrible leaders, and I read the list. And so I tried to and-- about the Rohingyas, whatever I connect them to, the real point is they haven't even come to that space. They haven't even come to that place where they qualify for this complaint of mine.
In 1990 The Socialist Review wrote-- in The Socialist Review was written a wonderful article by people who clearly did not like my work at all. So they were more or less with me because I'm not a fan of my own work. But they wrote a wonderful article, which was "Can the Subaltern Vote?" And this really turned my work in another direction because alas the subaltern does vote except as bodycount, and therefore they can bring these leaders. But the Rohingyas are not even there.
So what I'm trying to say again and again to you is that your effort should be to bring the Rohingyas into that space by an epistemological change in yourselves and not say this is impractical because the short run is all that matters. What is happening? Everybody has the information. What is happening? Nothing.
And, in fact, I really say that it didn't just start that colonialism either. It started with Ne Win's coup d'etat 1962 when, in fact, those 10 years before Idi Amin, the Indians were sent out of Burma. And that was when the fear came in that the Western part of Bangladesh-- there was no Bangladesh at that point-- that the Muslims would actually come in and take over the Western part of-- Southwestern part of Burma. And that was the time when they were also redefined and rewritten as not us.
So the-- that was one of the things. Now the second thing is rape. Human Rights Watch has just told us that the ethnic group, despite of Buddhism, is not an ethnicity. The ethnic Buddhists supposedly, they are using rape as a weapon in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas. Human Rights Watch.
Now we-- so I come to my next point, which is-- what is 5:13. It's all right, eh? Because I have to watch my thing. So rape is also a huge point that we have to think about. It's not just these Buddhists who are raping 9 year olds and 10-year-old women and throwing them aside et cetera and putting the men aside. Rape as the reward of valor is a millennial tradition, which is at work all over the world, including in countries where we live. We maybe-- like we, we may be very small.
Yesterday in Austin, Texas, this woman is saying I'm really with the union movement because they are so diversified now. There are women in there. And I said to her, listen, Texas is not the world. So in the same way, we should not think that because Weinstein is being questioned and we are able to-- in fact, I could say a few things. I'm standing in Goldwin [? Sith-- ?]
I could say a few things about sexual harassment when I was a student here, which we didn't open for months. But it's so let's put that aside. But that is certainly one end-- date rape. And, in fact, even rape within marriage as the woman in Tunisia, the feminists both secular and Islamist feminists, they are actually quite active in questioning that regular-- in a legal way-- druidical legal way. But what you have to look at is rape as a taxonomy, not as a good love, consent, and rape being forced non-consensual.
We have to look at rape. We have to place this the way in which rape is being used as a weapon. And I-- I'm literally a critic. I ask everybody in this room to go back and look again at their paperback volumes of Tony Morrison's Beloved pages 10 and 11 where Toni Morrison talks about how the men wanted to rape but kept themselves from rape-- with understanding-- but kept themselves from rape because they felt something for Sethe, and so they confined themselves to cows she says, very violent open two pages, pages 10 and 11. So when we hear this fact of rape being used as a weapon to ethnic cleanse, we should really think of ourselves as complicit within that thing when we claim that we are different because we don't allow it, and we are making everything public.
So this is another point where I want you to think about this. Now, another thing that one thinks about is the nation-state. I was talking about the nation-state. The nation-state is not a good thing. But within this situation, one of the things that's happening to the Rohingyas is, as you well know, a denial of citizenship. That's one of the biggest things.
So I'm not talking about-- as I said earlier today-- I'm not talking about nation. That's the fuzzy part. That's the part with which everything else is managed. I'm talking about the abstract straight-- state structure.
The straight-- the state structure is the only thing left with which the subaltern-- and remember this is what I'm talking about-- is small social groups on the fringes of history. The state structure is the only thing with which the subaltern can be inserted into with work that we do that actually keeps the implementation going. It's not easy. Believe me, this is part of the work I do in India.
So it's like-- it's pathetically difficult, but nonetheless that's one of the-- that's the only way-- given that the state is now managerial and it manages global capital. Therefore the idea that anything can happen in the hands of sustainable underdevelopment joining hands with International Society. I'm not saying individual people are not good in there. Individual good people are all over the place, but that-- we are not talking about individuals here.
The-- from that side, the subaltern will get nothing. The subaltern will get top down so-called human rights without being trained into any notion of rights and, of course, the most terrifying thing, the fact that even for the very poor, if they vote, then they must also think about the responsibilities of democracy. Not just liberty me, me, me, me, me but also equality, people who do not resemble me at all including the top.
This is a really horrible kind of task that is before one, which we quickly reduce into nothing by saying just solve the immediate problem. So I would like to say adding them to truth to power, adding them to largest sector of the electorate electing these fantastically horrible leaders and the latest being Aung San Suu Kyi. Therefore she won't do anything. I'm hoping she will. She's after all from the same planet that I am. The-- let's just say more-- well, she's more upper class than I am, but nonetheless the middle class folks going to school in India, the good colonial universities.
But-- so I attached it then first to largest sector of the electorate and speaking truth to power then women not womanizing themselves in order to claim like the Goldman Sachs female corporate leaders being trotted out to manage the financial crisis of 2007-8. So that was that my father and the military thing. And then I went into the question of the women being raped. And for each-- and then finally I was talking about the nation-state.
Now why am I not keen on the nation? And this is an important point because as I said to you of old histories and new geographies and here we connect the work with work let's say in Africa. All of the borders are in fact negotiated borders. I mean when one recognizes we're going next-- no, in April-- we are going to Yunnan Normal to talk about the imperatives to re-imagine the Silk Road, trying to talk to China, not as if they bad, bad, bad, bad while American exceptionalism is fine. So I gave this title.
They were all going to do one belt, one road. No, give it a poetic title. Imperatives to Re-imagine the Silk Road. But Yunnan had trade with Calcutta. Well, there wasn't a Calcutta, but they had trade with my area since 800.
So to an extent, when you're thinking about the borders, you cannot think of the Rohingyas as illegal immigrants. It's-- and this we can relate to Mexico. We can relate to all kinds of places. One day, it was my place. Next day, it became illegal, and I'm just coming from Austin.
There was a moment when old Stephen Austin took huge chunks. Who gave him the right? Well, you can actually hear the story of who gave him the right so called. But the land under my foot becomes illegal because it belongs to someone else.
It is in that sense that the Rohingyas-- you cannot say they're immigrants from any place because that area where the connections as you folks know much better than I do-- you're southeast Asian specialists. I'm just an English, French, and German comparative literature person. But nonetheless, this is common sense. You cannot in terms of laterally established boundaries simply decide.
We have ourselves seen a lot of problems in terms of that with China, the McMahon Line, et cetera, et cetera. What are these lines, and why do we fight over them? And this-- that's why the nation side-- think of the states in Africa. It's a disgraceful thing that conflicts arise when you actually are dealing with established boundaries of this sort. So the mechanism of the state is a very different thing.
It's medicine and poison. Learn how to use it. Learn how to implement it so that people don't screw the subaltern because they are being put into this structure of welfare that be-- and there-- and teach the subaltern responsibility, which is very, very hard when three or four year olds are looking for-- after other people's goats and cows. So but nonetheless that's if they vote, they have to know it. And spot on the other hand, with the Rohingyas, citizenship is what is being denied.
So remember with every point, what am I saying? I'm saying this is what needs to be done. But they are nowhere near there. This is why I say that they are the worst subalterns in the world today. The only thing to which they can be compared is the new Caliphate because in the new Caliphate also there-- the possibility of getting to these global things that I'm talking about is now gone, ruined.
So therefore if they want to join, if they want to connect the Rohingyas with the European refugees, what they should really connect it to is the internal displacement within the new Caliphate. Millions more than the ones who unfortunately do make it to Europe in a terrifying way. I'm not saying one shouldn't be for them. I'm for everything except the National Rifle Association. But actually there are other things, too. But nonetheless if you want to connect it to the situation of illegal immigrants and refugees, this is the way to go.
Now what else do you think we should talk about? We should also-- you're laughing at it, but it's a real question. We should also talk about the fact that within this situation, when you are connecting the Rohingya to whatever you're working at, there should be real connections. And when you're trying to make those connections, everything that I have said so far, this is part of my work. That's why I started with Du Bois.
So therefore when you actually-- if you work at that rather than simply collecting info-- there's a lot of information there-- simply collecting information, it won't do any good. Nobody gives a damn. In the digital world, there is-- all our resistances are just reply all signature, reply all signature, reply all signature until someone very bothered says please take me off this list. That is our model of resistance. And so therefore we should go away from it a little bit and see if we can't do the connections in this more serious way rather than just simply oh, they're really suffering and we must be concerned.
What does it-- is anything happening by your being concerned? Ask that question, that thing I was saying. I can call The Spirits From the Vasty Deep Brit lit, huh. So can I, and so can anyone. But when you do call, will they answer you?
That's the real question about all this activism. Otherwise, it's feel good activism, preaching to the choir. So therefore ask yourselves is anything happening. And then you have to take risks and not-- you will not be able to protect your research from Visa problems and so on and so forth.
So what are you going to do about it? Are you going to take the trouble or just talk? See because there is a real difference between talking the talk and walking the walk isn't there? Talking the talk is easy as pie, but walking the walk, you're going to have some little [INAUDIBLE] We are all behind you.
So I need-- because I vote in India. I only have Indian passport, 56-year-old green card. So I need your support also, no civil rights here. But nonetheless, we are all behind you, and therefore it seems to me that when you make connections, you must make connections real.
And then finally I want to say-- it's now 5:30-- you said to stop before 5:45, and I said I would speak about 40 minutes. That's just what I've been doing. Finally, I want to say that juridical legally also and this isn't information that you have, but it's good to remind ourselves we have in fact things that we can cite like that joint statement for repatriation.
Some of you will here-- 1992-- some of you here know that joint statement. Absolutely absurd. Why? Because they want from the Rohingyas citizenship papers and other kinds of papers in order for a repatriation. Are they joking?
So we could-- we can cite that one except connect it to other things of the same sort. All over the world, there are these kinds of mechanisms, which mean nothing like the World Bank talking about people. Remember that time when in 1992, again, I was chosen by the Bangladeshis to be their representative at the European Parliament for the World-- the Flood Action Program? This was an extraordinary act of regional support because after all, I'm Indian. And so Indians are not exactly the friends of the Bangladeshis when it came to the Flood Action Program, but they'd chosen me. And I began by saying that in this case, I'm a regional person. I'm not speaking for my country, which was very-- to me a wonderful thing.
And there, the legal person-- the head of the lawyer's guild-- he had assembled an incredibly detailed brief about why the Flood Action Program should go. And he spoke with great intellectual conviction and many facts. What came out in the World Bank book was and radical Islam also spoke period. See, so therefore this kind of repatriation thing, it-- you really can connect it to many, many cases of this sort of prevarication in the juridical legal sphere by many, many state authorities.
And then the Refugee Convention of 1951. If you look at it, you will see that the Rohingya absolutely fits Article 1a. Go and look at it. Absolutely fits it. So insistent on it. Insist on it. Insist on it. Say that look they are refugees. You must redefine them. In India, they're being called terrorists.
In Kapilvatsu, which is where one doesn't know whether it's in Nepal or in India, that's under consideration here and there. So there also it's being considered as a problem of terrorism. So therefore the-- those words, they are shot down. But how you do it? You do it in terms of what Du Bois was saying there. You must be able to imagine that you are like them.
This is a real exercise in flexibility of the imagination. Without that-- it's the literary by the way. It doesn't mean literature. That's the literary prayer to be haunted by the other, unanticipatable and non-periodic. So that-- unless you develop this flexibility of the imagination, all of these gestures are not worth anything.
So therefore, this is one of-- some of the thing-- these are some of the things that I wanted to talk about, but I also wanted to say that in the case of religion-- you see, I've given my title as Buddhism-- and you said that people think that this is just the Buddhists fighting the Muslims, so you ought to give us something more explanatory and clear. So-- do you think this will stay if I sit on it?
GAYATRI SPIVAK: OK.
That would really be-- Gayatri Spivak fell on her butt. But [INAUDIBLE] So I do want to bring in the question of religion. Because that's another thing that you can relate it to, how [INAUDIBLE] there is a lot of faith-based stuff going on. See, I'm on the [? Armond ?] Expert on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion for the World Economic Forum. And there is so much butchered faith-based talk there, I can't tell you. And so but this-- one must be able to see that there isn't an-- religious researchers also do this like there's good religion-- good Islam-- and bad Islam, bad religion, bad Christianity, the moral majority, et cetera. This, too, is a taxonomy.
If you are thinking about secularism, which must be-- look nobody talks about it in the context of Myanmar. Nobody talks about the-- if you talk about the state, nobody talks about it, how to bring about a secularism that is not in fact based on privatization bequeathed to us by a very race-specific and class-specific history. In fact, I was speaking at the 200th anniversary of my university in Calcutta on January 16th. And, of course, nobody [INAUDIBLE] who I adore, of course. He's my homeboy. But But nonetheless he can do no wrong, this ancestor worship thing.
The previous day, he had said that this school-- our university-- was the beginning of secular education in India. Nonsense. If you look at the archival writings, you can see the first bishop of Calcutta saying these natives-- the imbecilic, his word-- because they believe that you can approach the Almighty in many different ways. God love him, that last bit at least. In many different ways whereas we know the one correct way. [? Solas, ?] huh?
And then you go on to hear that-- him say that since we cannot really convert them because of these imbecilic beliefs, this should read at least [INAUDIBLE] so that-- and this my idea-- this is the secular-- beginning of secular education at my university, these remarks describing it's establishment. So this problem, the idea that privatization and religion like going to the bathroom, this privatization is not something that can actually work in the current context. And therefore, the de-transcendentalization of the religious because when, in fact, religion works in normal way, it is almost indistinguishable from language and culture. This is something of an-- after all, solve contrictual co-existence turning into murder. Because I was born in '42, 46 rides, huh. And we lived exactly on the [INAUDIBLE] Avenue stops, Old [INAUDIBLE] Road begins. That's where our little place was.
So therefore, practice can be changed in this way, and so religion is reduced to the most-- the smallest activity of reason, which is our best friend, which is belief, ontological commitment. It happens. It was there. Yes, this is it. That's not-- and that's how it becomes mobilizable.
So therefore when you think of what's happening to Buddhism, you should also go to the ancestor-worshipping [INAUDIBLE] at home. They've decided that Navayana Buddhism is just because [INAUDIBLE] took it, it is just completely impervious to anything else. They don't want to go out-- look outside of India.
And so we all thought [INAUDIBLE] et cetera, et cetera. These were the representatives of secular ethical behavior with no God et cetera, et cetera. My mother even told me, dear, you're so idealistic and you're such a wonderful person that you don't believe in God. You should become a Buddhist nun. [SNORTS] But [INAUDIBLE]
So this is how people think about Buddhism in this context. They don't look at the fact that Buddhism-- yes, 5:37-- eight minutes, man. I said five minutes. So therefore, the idea of religion and how to think secularism and how to protect secularism as absent secular law while [INAUDIBLE] is thinking as absolutely abstract and not to be made into a laundered Christianity. That is also something within which the Rohingyas should be put except they are not yet there.
See that's my theme song. They are not yet there, and it will not happen if we only think that the right to information is the only right. An educated electorate can use information. In other words, we are thinking of the right to intellectual labor. Even recognizing that intellectual labor is a right, the Rohingyas are not yet there. But we are sitting at an Ivy League school. So we can try to start changing ourselves in order to get the responses back.
So as I say, I haven't really talked-- how about-- well, it's 30-- 5:30 exactly. So how about I show just the other picture and then, I'll say goodbye. And you'll never see me again.
Now, like-- this right? Now these are [INAUDIBLE] war-raped women in Bangladesh. In 1973, I went there with my mother as her [INAUDIBLE] because she had really worked for them, but I want to show you the next one. So these are-- they were all together in this [INAUDIBLE]. Look at the next one. This one, one person. We don't need numbers like is Puerto Rico less important than Katrina because fewer people have died.
That is absolute nonsense. One person dying is something. This-- I realized long afterwards that this was the first speechless subaltern that I had seen, 1973. This woman, young woman, had been so badly raped that she was absolutely incommunicado. She's neither spoke nor heard anything nor saw anything, and there she sits. And I just want-- this is not voyeuristic picture because we were working with them, and we did as much as we could.
The other pictures that there are that's released by the government [INAUDIBLE] talking to the [INAUDIBLE], et cetera. It's [INAUDIBLE] book because I give her the pictures. The-- they-- those-- that the contrast to these pictures with those pictures it's very remarkable. But I just wanted to show her to you because she's been in my heart, and I was not able to talk about her at all.
But then I wrote "Can the Subaltern Speak?" about my grandmother's sister. So that-- but this is the first one I saw with my mother in 1973 but never was able to say anything about her. And this is the first time I'm showing her picture in public so that rape becomes a reality which is not just getting settlements and having numbers and so on and so forth. You should really look at this person.
So I'm going to bring my talks-- I'm obliged to bring my talks to an end because there sits my big brother. But I would like to bring what I say then to an end by really urging you to think about the global context as a context that is not just-- I did give you lists here and there. I did give you other places et cetera, of course, I talked about Africa. But it's not just a world tour.
The global requires from us thinking simultaneity with different diachronies, a relief map, not a level playing field. The global requires from us change in ourselves as instruments of knowing. The global requirements from us forging a relationship with that which we know so that side will talk to us. We'll-- we will be able to elicit responses rather than just do good although do good we must also do and again and again ask the question who are we. Thank you very much.
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Thank you so much. That was wonderful.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: That would be great, but there are many chairs. [INAUDIBLE]
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: I'm not miked up, so I'm going to just speak as long as I can. There's a few people leaving. I'm Eric Tagliacozzo. I'm a professor of Asian history here at Cornell, and I'm the director of the Comparative Muslim Societies Program. And I hope you can join me in just thanking Professor Spivak so much for coming all this way.
We have the room until 6:15, and I was told we can bleed towards 6:30 if we need to. And I have a feeling we probably will need to. We're going to have a question and answer session. So if you'd like to ask anything of Professor Spivak, we welcome those questions. I'm going to give literally a minute and a half, maybe two minutes of just some historical background about the Rohingya just to try to lay this out quickly what we know about the roots of this problem.
If we go back to the 4th century CE to Arakan province, Rakhine province, where the Rohingya are located, we know that this province was Indianized around that time because we have Sanskrit inscriptions from that moment and afterwards. And, in fact, there is no evidence of Burman presence in Rohingya until about the 10th century or so. So that's important, and, of course, there's a difference between Burman and Burmese. Burman is the majority ethnic group of Burma. Burmese, it refers to Burmese nationality.
We also know that Arab traders were certainly there in Rakhine province from about the 9th century onward as part of these large maritime Asian links between the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China and that intermarriage was common between male Arab Muslim traders and local women in this part of Burma and that the Rohingya communities may, in fact, have been a result of these unions. This is called ethnogenesis. All of the graduate students who are here have probably read Edmund Leach's books on political systems of Highland Burma where he talks about how ethnicity comes into being. We're going to have a commentary.
So this is clearly the case in Arakan. And it roughly at the same time that Rakhine people were coming from Burma to the coasts and that the Burmese kings were coming after them and that these Rakhine people actually approached Bengali rulers for assistance, and from this came the Mrauk-U Kingdom in the early 15th century. We know that there was competition but also assistance going between this Mrauk-U Kingdom and the Bengali sultans and that mosques were built at this time on the coasts of Western Burma.
So it's a very long cultural conversation between what we now think of as Bangladesh and Burma and, in fact, that this was an extremely cosmopolitan part of Southeast Asia, Bengali, Muslim, Burman, Buddhist, local Rakhine, Portuguese all mixed together on the these coasts. And its only in the later 17th century that Mughals in India started to press against this part of Burma at the same times that Burman kings in Burma itself started to press from the east. So there is a history of population movements flowing through these spaces as Professor Spivak said. What was to the west now Bangladesh but then various Bengali sultanates and what was to the east, what is now Burma proper, was being constantly moved across by these different kinds of people.
So this is-- wars were not for land. Wars were for people, and that is really crucial in thinking about these flows over historical time. This is common to Southeast Asia. It's less common to China and India, the neighboring great societies around Southeast Asia. So when we think about these people in movement, we have to think about this.
And let me just end by getting up towards the modern period that Professor Spivak was speaking about. Once we get to the 18th century and the arrival of the British en masse to parts of Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia, we get even more detailed records about this, which clearly point to a Muslim presence on the east coast. We have these records going back at least 200 years. There were also starting to be a much larger population flows from what we now think of as India and Bangladesh coming towards Burma by the late 18th and into the 19th century, sometimes up to 200,000 people per year.
So if the so-called Rohingya problem is a problem of origins, it's safe to say that Rohingya people have been in this part of what we now call the nation-state of Burma for a very, very long time. And that brings us exactly to where we are now with Professor Spivak's talk. And hopefully in the question and answer session, we can look at two important questions. One, what is to be done? And second, what is the way forward with the so-called Rohingya situation? So if anybody would like to ask questions of Professor Spivak, please, please go ahead. It sounds like Professor Spivak-- yes, go ahead. This isn't my talk. It's your talk.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: No, no, but I-- you can be asked a question?
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Sure. Sure.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: My question is this. This is probably just nonsense, but nonetheless our mythology says that there were-- they were called Rohins, and since that's ya, like my father was born in [INAUDIBLE]. And so my father was an [NON-ENGLISH]. I work in [INAUDIBLE] So the people over there are [NON-ENGLISH]. So to an extent that that's-- that the Rohin is a name, and so the Rohingyas is actually that. Is that just like a mythology?
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: That's been one of the ways that have been described for where the term Rohingya came from. There's a number of different ones.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: But this one we knew from the-- from when we were calling the Burmese Hmongs. See what I mean?
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Yes.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: That's [INAUDIBLE] Anyway, that's what I wanted to ask you.
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Yes, please go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Professor, my question is that what do you think causes such isolations of groups? So, for example, is it by mere identification towards a group that this is us and this is them or we are a nation or we are this ethnic group? Or is it economic competition? And the second part of that would be if it is just by the fact that there are group identities and when these identities become strong enough they cause isolation, then if not the nation, they'll be some other identity tomorrow.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Could everyone hear him? OK, good. [INAUDIBLE] But if you don't have a good voice, you shouldn't just sit. Stand up and talk so that I don't have to repeat the question. Of course, the first answer, as you well know, is all of the above. And the-- so it is, of course, the economic stuff as well as the identitarian stuff.
Now, the identity thing is what can be used. See, this is very close to race ideology again, I'm working with Du Bois, and you can see that a racial and a racialized ideology can be used for-- we have seen that in the outsourcing debate in the United States. So that-- and what does it mean, cheap labor? There's no such thing as cheap labor. But to an extent, that's what brings to us the picture of hordes of [INAUDIBLE] cheap labor, et cetera. So, in fact, both are true in my estimation.
And, yes, there will be something else there is not a nation. And I think therefore this extreme identitarianism which is ethnic cleansing, should not be seen-- you see this is my broken record-- should not be seen as just bad, bad whereas when we say love us, we are Indians, it's good, good. And we do our cultural parades. No, it's not that [INAUDIBLE] In fact, at this identification should be fought at all levels. The feeling of-- the affect is not a bad thing. But you don't-- if you're an intellectual and you're at a university, you don't base policy knowingly on affect. You won't really put together [INAUDIBLE] because you're a human being, but that has to be resisted. So that doesn't mean you throw away the love.
I'm a Bengali. I love Bangladesh, but it's not on that that I base my critique of [INAUDIBLE] today going towards theocracy. So you can't-- you have to resist this from even when it is in you. And when as diasporics you can make it all go away and you're all together, ask yourselves who are we? Are we making the continents, an adjunct to the diasporas that belong to other civil society by this radical movements within diasporas. Again, very necessary, very good adjunct but it's-- it can also at the same time be poison because the continents themselves are getting washed into the background.
So I give you long answer because if this is an extremely important question. So what we need is a revolution in consciousness [CHUCKLES]
Excuse me. A long revolution in consciousness is not going to work. But unless it's there, unless the soul is cooked slow, you won't know how to use anything. That's my answer.
AUDIENCE: Hi, in your talk, you quote Du Bois in--
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Can everyone hear him?
GAYATRI SPIVAK: OK, stand up, man. Stand up.
AUDIENCE: Hi, so in your-- sorry-- in your talk, you claim-- you quote Du Bois in claiming that we must be able to imagine that we are like them in working with others and [INAUDIBLE] this flexibility of the imagination.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: You know where that comes from, right? [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: Yes. And you-- I was wondering as an educator how you instill this line of thinking not only in students but challenge others always to think beyond themselves.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: I fail is the real answer. So don't assume that I instill this. It's very hard, but it has to be tried. And you see, this change has to take place both at the top and at the bottom and with colleagues.
At Columbia, what you see is that they have lost the desires for intellectual labor. As the university corporatizes, they brand their university. They learn how to summarize. They learn how to describe. They learn how to make distorted connections, but they cannot read. They cannot see language moving on the page.
This is something that they've lost and also a digital-- as a crutch allows them to save intellectual labor whereas at the bottom you see that [INAUDIBLE] denying intellectual labor. So they don't even know that [INAUDIBLE] intellectual labor is anything, and they cannot, in fact, make their heads work. So therefore, this is extremely hard work, and I'm not a very good teacher. [INAUDIBLE] realize that everybody does odd teachings. Someone assumes that they are very good at teaching English [INAUDIBLE] makes me laugh.
So my answer is I don't know, I fail, and I learn from my mistakes. I have not succeeded in 30 years at [INAUDIBLE] and I have not-- I'm succeeding less and less in 52 years. I became a tenure-track assistant professor in the fall of 1965, so that's a very long time. So I have not succeeded, but I think all I can say is that you must at least try to learn from your mistakes. The best player knows how to play to lose. That's the best player. So that's all I can say. I don't know how.
ERIC TAGLIACOZZO: Is there a question in the back?
AUDIENCE: Thanks for your talk. I'm very interested in your attempt to bring together Du Bois and subaltern studies. I'm a student of subaltern studies and post-colonial studies for some time. I'm also a student of Du Bois, so I'm trying to think through how you are making these connections in your talk. And one of the questions I started off with was-- and the professor of Asian studies, I'm sorry I missed your name-- but neither of the histories that you sketched of the Burmese question did I hear about the Burmese way to socialism in 1962. That was essentially what the coup was intended to do.
And I'm curious to see how-- the question of Western imperialism, the 1962 coup was a turn against Western imperialism. It was an attempt to nationalize the economy. And, yes, a lot of contradictions emerged, but we see similar ethnic conflicts in Sri Lanka. We see similar ethnic conflicts in Africa. We see similar things that are due to Western imperialism, which intensifies these contradictions. And really it's the problem of Europe. It's a problem of whiteness that is at the heart of this, which is why I was a bit surprised that you didn't start with the African-American situation here in the US because many of the things that the Rohingya face-- this has been ongoing, right? This wasn't-- there was no real emancipation. We know this to be the case today, which is why we have movements for black liberation still because it's not--
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Do you have a question?
AUDIENCE: Yes, so I'm just wondering how you're making the connection, and this I think also goes back to your point about dark princess initially, which you called absurd. But for me, what I'm wondering is how is it absurd? I guess that would be one place to start, particularly because it is offering a political theory of Pan-Africa and Pan-Asia.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: It's a very interesting and important question. I don't think socialism-- I think socialism in this context is a word. And I think that nationalizing everything is not necessarily socialism. I think what the situation is I call it the Mugabe Complex. Everything is the fault of the Western imperialists. No, sir. This is the way in which we essentialize the [INAUDIBLE] In none of our countries was it the case that it came-- the Westerners came-- right on top of a pure and wonderful [INAUDIBLE]-- wait a second. You'll have your say. And I'm just going to say it.
So therefore, that's why I didn't want to begin. Actually, reconstruction-- you know very well how it came to an end. Reconstruction came to an end in the [INAUDIBLE] of 1877. And then it was up to the-- until the civil rights. You don't agree?
AUDIENCE: No. Black reconstruction was repressed by white supremacists.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Well, that's good. Because everything is due to the white. That kind of fetishizing of oneself against the white, I think, is a dangerous position.
But let me tell you about 1877. What happened in 1877? There are Americans here. You know what happened?
What happened? You should know that, because it is like Trump. Rutherford Hayes won by negotiating electoral college votes, not by popular votes, 1877.
And he negotiated with the Southern Democrats. And part of the negotiation-- he was white-- part of the negotiation was that he would and that reconstruction would stop. So that is called the Compromise of 1877, and he became president.
So the idea is that, of course, they were white. But if you look at Du Bois's work, you will see, and this is why Marcus Garvey and all the [INAUDIBLE] and full-blooded Africans going to Africa et cetera, believed, and I quote Marcus Garvey now, that Du Bois was a white man's nigger. Again, I don't use that word myself. But I'm quoting.
So therefore, the idea that Du Bois had-- Du Bois wrote the biography of John Brown. The biography of a white guy as an African-American. This is a very different connotation from the position where everything is a white person's fault. So-- and then I will come to socialism.
The idea that these coups then through nationalizing establishes socialism is to think of socialism in a way that suddenly neither [INAUDIBLE] what did Marx say about socialism? What he said was, that a revolution does not happen. Because, generally speaking, revolutions are-- they come to a situation. And that's why people like [INAUDIBLE] thinks Marx was useless. Because [INAUDIBLE] because there is no idea. [INAUDIBLE] accused me of Marxist prejudice in public because I had said that mass liberation is not [INAUDIBLE].
So therefore, what happened was that you do the revolution thing in non-knowledge. You come to a point and you are making false predictions that, yes, [INAUDIBLE], et cetera, I can do this. And then, you are told, well, do it now. And it doesn't happen.
You remember [INAUDIBLE] That's the description of [INAUDIBLE]. The only description that Marx ever wrote. So it's a false claim made. made. But on the other hand, you have to do something [INAUDIBLE]. And of course, you can't [INAUDIBLE]. It's not possible, because you can't cross this stretch of road.
So what does Marx say? Because this is all formal. But he then sets context. Now remember, Marx's entire theory is formed, [INAUDIBLE] that is to say, as he says in German, [SPEAKING GERMAN] without content. Which British translators not understanding his spirit, that he was talking about financial [INAUDIBLE] data, fortification, et cetera. They invariably translated slight in content, and [INAUDIBLE]. Content, less. Why [INAUDIBLE]?
But [INAUDIBLE] this idea of [INAUDIBLE] it's all around you. But this, just like all credos have to be bound to conditions in order to be exercised. Revolution is a different thing. Revolution needs content. And what does Marx write?
The revolution of the 19th century would take its content from the poetry of the future. Why poetry? It is not just a metaphor for, you know, bogus behavior. It is, actually, the idea of this [INAUDIBLE] of the imagination, poetry as practice. [INAUDIBLE] whatchamacallit-- doctorate.
So the idea of he uses dance-- dance here. He uses drama in that very thing, OK? First time is strategy. Second time is farce. Why is he using those words? It's not just to kind of play around, et cetera. Because he knows what he is talking about.
That when you think revolution, you don't say socialism was established. Socialism-- when did socialism die? When Marx's own party voted in [INAUDIBLE] in 1914. Yes, they did. So that to an extent, it died exactly on this kind of identity thing. We, the good ones-- they, the bad ones [INAUDIBLE].
I don't think life is like that. So therefore, I [INAUDIBLE] and I'm not bringing Du Bois [INAUDIBLE], I was just quite amazed to read [INAUDIBLE] the first thing again in the first volume. And, you know, I assigned it, obviously, to one class, and so I read it again.
[INAUDIBLE] is interested in the production of the subordinate intellectual, not the subordinate [INAUDIBLE]. They were studying the subordinate. They did a good thing. They changed [INAUDIBLE]. And I'm completely with them. And I adore [INAUDIBLE] a wonderful and brilliant historian.
But nonetheless, that's not who the Du Bois was interested in. Du Bois, in fact, has some connections that can be made-- they're not similar-- that can be made with [INAUDIBLE]. And [INAUDIBLE] himself was, as you know, the son of an Albanian refugee. Right?
So what are we going to call him? Is it important? I don't think so. But nonetheless, it's a way of looking at this Western-- where is the West?
Where is the West? How about [INAUDIBLE] in all our countries now? Socialism died of an ethics-shaped hole. Because it did not-- Marx did not think-- he went very far. But he thought that if, indeed, the means of production were owned by the worker-- although he knew this as [INAUDIBLE] in some of the things in capitalist [INAUDIBLE] and continue the [INAUDIBLE] program, all of those. But if the means of production were owned by the workers, they would, by consent, produce enough and use capital for social ends.
Now, in order to introduce this desire in the UNE-- what I am talking about-- is talking of the soul has to take place. Nothing can prove that, in fact, this desire. For me, yes. Striking, for me, yes. That is a different thing. That's freedom from. But then to go into freedom to, no. Don't forget I'm from [? Bagot, ?] and
I'm completely within the intellectual level. So it's not a given that [? when you ?] and I was 15 by my [INAUDIBLE] who was [INAUDIBLE]. So I'm not talking about some kind of foreign-- no Marxist recession. But I still was excused for performing. Marx is my brother. I know Marx fundamentalism.
And socialism is not the name of any system that we have seen. Socialism is to foster the desire of using the social. For using that for social ends is hard as hell. It's almost-- it's almost against being human, and that's why. This is committed to the [? antropocite, ?] so therefore, you have to do a kind of dehumanizing thing for people to want to use their own small business capital for social ends. No.
So therefore, I'm not particularly in saying that. And Du Bois himself, look at his essay called "The Talented Tenth," 1948, where he's incredibly critical of the African-Americans. I was wrong when I suppose about "The Talented Tenth," so this auto-critique is what makes him so wonderful-- this acknowledging the relationship between the poor wife and the black neighbor is what makes him very immutable. He's a very different kind of man. He's not a finger pointer. So that's why we're bringing together. I'm not interested in bringing him in supported studies.
AUDIENCE: OK, my question is for [INAUDIBLE] and the ubiquity of images of files that we are privy to. So I'm wondering to what extent it's possible without that space, where you are distanced from those images-- to feel like or to think like them. So can you speak about how'd we carve out that space-- when we're not bombarded on a daily basis of images of violence-- what to think or to think of them like us?
GAYATRI SPIVAK: That's a very hard question you have asked, because it is also-- this entire effort is very slippery, because to think of, oh, dear. I could also have to catch up with-- that's the human interest trend, which I think probably is not what would yield to something. You see what I mean?
So that's why I was very much with [INAUDIBLE] when she agreed with me that to show the images of violence would be counterproductive. productive So to an extent, there is a sudden kind of voyeurism in seeing such sustained images of violence. On the other hand, you can't just-- I mean, I think you shared my problem of what I'm talking about. You can't just say, no, I won't see images of violence. See what I mean?
So I don't know where or when to draw the line. I can only say that for each of us, it is an effort. It's for each of us, it is an effort to think that you don't get violent, because ultra violence can be desired. See, that's the [INAUDIBLE] rule. That's the-- I didn't talk about [INAUDIBLE] in here, because I can't get in that-- within of the radius. But it should really introduce gendering apart from just the political regal, which is where we should work-- so people rights, [INAUDIBLE] rights, et cetera.
But as we get away from [INAUDIBLE] ego, and you supplement with gendering and such, you can get into the dangerous areas in calculating what can be desired. So that thing-- so the question you have asked is absolutely crucial that in our efforts to go towards the other-- how do we deal with identifying with words and not just the people. You know what I mean? So we'll both keep working at it. OK?
AUDIENCE: So thank you so much for talking [INAUDIBLE]. I'm actually from [INAUDIBLE], involved. And here of course, we should have talked to, in the population of [? Kurachi, ?] so I can [INAUDIBLE].
GAYATRI SPIVAK: So you knew before us?
AUDIENCE: Yes. Yes. But I feel the kind of issues that include [INAUDIBLE]. Anyways, my question was about sort of-- and I don't know this much about this situation. But we know there's news reports in Burma, in Myanmar-- most of the population completely believes that the [INAUDIBLE] are sort of foreignized or they're not sort of-- the history that you sketched, their whole population refuses to believe-- or a large majority refuses to believe that's true.
And of course, it's something that you see in many other countries including Pakistan. These are the relationships [INAUDIBLE]. And so, they refuse to acknowledge that they recolonized. Right, so how do you actually sort of explain or talk about history too? Invasion is not an answer. They are all complicit in some way. It's sort of through capitalism, through [INAUDIBLE], through Buddhism. And so, it's perpetuating but also then going to the stadium complex and going to save these [INAUDIBLE] individuals from sort of these [INAUDIBLE].
GAYATRI SPIVAK: We should try to do what we can in the short run however. That was like establishing safe zones, but then the peacekeeper arranged. So what are we going to do? So the two are connected. [INAUDIBLE] was asking that there were-- that, then, the language is of course very different from the language before them.
On the other hand, who says that two different families of languages cannot denounce the same nation school? You go around, and you see many examples of the same. And as I said, there is not much in recognized India today, but on the other hand, you can at least say descriptively that when you look at the north and the south, there are two different families of [INAUDIBLE].
And of course, a lot of them are just scenarios, and so on, and so forth. But nonetheless, they are in their own ways. And also, if you note the [INAUDIBLE] languages [INAUDIBLE] they are also [INAUDIBLE]. So to other families-- so to an extent, this idea that all of them are foreign because it's another family is arranged. It won't wash. Is it [INAUDIBLE]? So that's where our work is cut out.
And as I said to my brother here, we cannot hope to succeed, but the non [INAUDIBLE] failures, one does the question [INAUDIBLE]. You see what I mean? So that's the rules.
AUDIENCE: I wanted to ask you something related to all the topics but a bit different. So about a week ago, there was an article. It talked about that listed [INAUDIBLE] in the University of Chicago as something [INAUDIBLE] as use in particularly towards female and what is students. And then the past week, there's been a whole post of Facebook posts coming out of [INAUDIBLE] professor, [? JOU-- ?] University of [INAUDIBLE], IIT-- [INAUDIBLE] figures, et cetera, as being corrupters.
And I've not any particular question, but I was just wondering if you would comment on this method of pursuing justice or any of the names that have come up. Thank you.
GAYATRI SPIVAK: It's hard for me to take a very simple position on most things, not because I'm busy but because of my [INAUDIBLE] experience of the double bond. OK, so therefore, I would say that this is, in a sense, not a bad thing. In a sense, it's not a bad thing.
Because for too long, we had really had beliefs that [INAUDIBLE] should just playfully touching [INAUDIBLE] dropped. Yes, it was playful, but that's how ideology. And that is enough. I mean, we were involved for so long, humorless, because we wouldn't allow sisters [INAUDIBLE]. But then comes a moment with your question, which is so important when it becomes, perhaps, a kind of-- let's see how many more we can get.
And then we begin to try to visit with the ones that are doing it rather than impact them saying, oh, well. [INAUDIBLE] value because [INAUDIBLE] nice people. So therefore, I think it has to be negotiated over and over again. I don't feel quite [INAUDIBLE] but it's so true that milennially, we have been treated in this way.
I mean, I'm not exercised on my behalf. I taught myself to be in use. And most of the time, it becomes because I have more institutional power to enforce the rules trying to make me into nothing but, you know, someone to be fucked. But the thing is, this has happened all through my life.
I mean, if I talk about it, then it becomes an important issue. But I'm only giving this example, saying that nobody escapes from it. So is coming out not so bad for me? But then there's a varied interest in the why will you do this to me? Then I ask the question, are we beginning to enjoy this kind of listing?
But then I then begin to remember all of the ways in which people have enjoyed putting us down either because I was [INAUDIBLE] but that was somehow a proof that I was not an individual-- not even allow one to enjoy [INAUDIBLE]-- that one was adamant in the University of Chicago. She used the fact a given dad could talk. She used the fact that she was a woman. What other fact-- what else could I use? I'm not a dog, so I couldn't use the fact that I was a dog.
So therefore, in this, [INAUDIBLE] criticized on such as you, but the examples are a little different from [INAUDIBLE]. So therefore, the moment you start thinking, oh, well. Perhaps the [INAUDIBLE], you look back on a number of people who may posit at you right after you have given a talk. And they are given more to the unfortunate [INAUDIBLE].
So then, [INAUDIBLE] then at least that had stopped [INAUDIBLE] but it's just amazing how men have responded to this [INAUDIBLE]. In fact, the last one-- my sister is now [INAUDIBLE] a guy who was talking nonsense about demand at a community bank in New York. And I said [INAUDIBLE] this is it. And he didn't say anything.
He writes me an email. If I had really [INAUDIBLE] I would have won the debate, but I should also tell you that the pink hair does not go with your wrinkles. Oh, jeez. You see what I mean? You see? You know what I'm saying?
So therefore, then one begins to think, well? But then again, one begins to think, no. That's the way it goes. Sorry for such a long answer, but it's a problematic position, and these are my friends.
AUDIENCE: Mrs. Spivak, I found really fascinating in your talk today, that you talk about negotiating with the state in a specific way. You sort of gave the metaphor of, on the one hand, the activism being of the joining hands type activism versus being with the state. I work at [INAUDIBLE] City, and I do face that problem. And you've been [INAUDIBLE] with work [INAUDIBLE] with the dispossessed, so to say, and you've been dealing with this type of thing. So I would want to know of what your experiences are from the field, because you liked--
GAYATRI SPIVAK: That's a good question.
AUDIENCE: Right, you liked. So how do you live that duality, and how do you negotiate that?
GAYATRI SPIVAK: Now remember I'm doing something that I don't approve of. [INAUDIBLE] that's what I do [INAUDIBLE] OK, this old man is a zero, and I don't take borrowed money. So that's not good. But on the other hand-- so that's why I'm saying to you, you do what you can. You don't keep your hands to your so on the other hand, like I said, I verbalize on both sides in social enterprise.
So therefore, what I do is a very fine question. You don't just go to the stage and put it on the stage, et cetera. This doesn't work. Remember I grew up, as I was [INAUDIBLE] supporting myself [INAUDIBLE] 17 years old, and the devaluation nationalization. I mean, [INAUDIBLE] wonderful social issues. So the thing is-- again, [INAUDIBLE] explain this on what that can mean.
So I started the walk [INAUDIBLE] since I'm a humanities teacher-- that all I have known is [INAUDIBLE]
So for [INAUDIBLE] purpose and [INAUDIBLE] response, but whenever they go do what you want them to do, you know what happens? They created the reputation for bad sexual behavior. And so, I can think of many early examples. And then one begins talking forward [INAUDIBLE] but the lowest state position is what? Do you know? [INAUDIBLE].
The amount of [INAUDIBLE] development [INAUDIBLE], they are still unused. So not all-- like, most developers one does approach. But then there's one or two, one or two, one or two. You're doing something about them, which I can't talk about for another week or so-- the subject is.
And so, what you do-- once again, within that agency, you hang up the [INAUDIBLE] if in fact, they were used to deport. And one and not many of them-- one of them [INAUDIBLE] who is the [INAUDIBLE]-- what is the first offense [INAUDIBLE]
And this picture was [INAUDIBLE] Brazil. And they made these [INAUDIBLE]. So like in the beginning, of course, he was [INAUDIBLE] one of them. I didn't know that he was going to New England. But there's that one in perhaps he would [INAUDIBLE] the zoning office didn't give the elections and Donald's support. Who won the news?
But you cannot use it. So the state structure, you have to be sure that it's not going to be famous. So it's like that. [INAUDIBLE] recognized position has an advantage there, because you want it like that. But you don't want [INAUDIBLE] I often say that-- any time I said to these people the whole position against [INAUDIBLE] was the Republican party [INAUDIBLE]. Therefore, you don't understand, but you're against [INAUDIBLE] politics. So that's a very different type of situation. Good question. And I could give you a real answer, because I didn't need my work.
PROFESSOR: I think we have to end now. But before we thank Professor Spivak, I just wanted to point out that there's going to be a second event on November 7th-- Tuesday, November 7th next week that's also sponsored by the Einaudi Center. It's called The Roots of the Rohingya Crisis. We have a professor coming in from [INAUDIBLE] Oriental and African studies of London-- a filmmaker coming in from Minnesota, and a Cornell [INAUDIBLE] Magnus Fiskesjo in the Anthropology Department. Please join me in thanking professor Spivak.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Gayatri Spivak delivered a public lecture titled "The Rohingya Issue in a Global Context," on Monday, October 30, 2017 in Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Goldwin Smith Hall.
Gayatri Spivak is a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She is a prominent literary theorist whose scholarship is grounded in deconstructivist theory, and ranges widely from critiques of post-colonial discourse to feminism, Marxism, and globalization. Her books include In Other Worlds (1987), Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality (1993), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), Imperatives to Reimagine the Planet (1997), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Death of a Discipline (2003), Other Asias (2007), An Aesthetic Education in the Age of Globalization (2012), Readings (2014), and Du Bois and the General Strike (forthcoming).
An activist as well as an educator, Spivak is involved in international women's movements and issues surrounding ecological agriculture. She has been deeply involved in rural education in Asia for nearly two decades, regarding education as a focused means of empowerment.