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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak on Her life & on Her work with Derrida

  • G.C. Spivak

    Interview Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

    Because of the unusualness of my parents…my mother was very active. When the refugees from the newly created state of East Pakistan came in the millions into Calcutta at Independence at 5:00am in the morning she was in the railway station helping with rehabilitation. She helped establish a nunnery particularly for educated middle-class women who really wanted to get out of their lives, etc. She ran the first working women’s hostel in Calcutta so well that even the state asked her, “Mrs. Chakravorty, how do you do it? We failed!”

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    Spivak – Interview

    Has your understanding of Derrida’s book changed over the four decades since you first translated it?

    So I found. When I began, I didn’t notice how critical the book was of “Eurocentrism” because the word in 1967 was not so common. Derrida was an Algerian Jew, born before World War II, who was actually encountering Western philosophy from the inside. A brilliant man, he was looking at its Eurocentrism.

    He also said a very powerful thing about African orality: they could remember seven generations back; we’ve lost that capacity. There, “writing” takes place on the psychic material called “memory.” Derrida connects this to Freud. So he was saying, look at reality carefully. It’s coded so that other people, even if they’re not present, can understand what we are saying. He looked at how this was suppressed in philosophical traditions.

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