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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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The point is not that for some speakers the danger of speaking for others does not arise, but that in some cases certain political effects can be garnered in no other way.

Such a reductionist theory might, for example, reduce evaluation to a political assessment of the speaker’s location where that location is seen as an insurmountable essence that fixes one, as if one’s feet are superglued to a spot on the sidewalk. One cannot simply look at the location of the speaker or her credentials to speak; nor can one look merely at the propositional content of the speech; one must also look at where the speech goes and what it does there.

Not sure if I’m contributing, but I think you bring up some really important points in you review, Liz. But it is also worth noting that there are contexts in which stepping aside might be appropriate. We must ask further questions about its effects, questions which amount to the following: The problem of speaking for others is a social one, the options available to us are socially constructed, and the practices we engage in cannot be understood as simply the results of autonomous individual choice.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

Jason Wyckoff – – Philosophical Quarterly 65 Let me offer an illustration of this. We might try to delimit this problem as only arising when a more privileged person speaks for a less privileged one.

A very radical revision of what we mean by truth is in order, but if we ignore the ways in which our discourses appeal to some version of truth for their persuasiveness we are in danger of remaining blind to the operations of legitimation that function within our own texts.

Now let us look at the second premise. That reminds me of a personal experience I had once in a group of people.

The Problem of Speaking For Others |

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. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: Conclusion This issue is complicated by the variable way in which the importance of the source, or location of the author, can be understood, a topic alluded to earlier.


In fact, pproblem may be impossible to speak for another without simultaneously conferring information about them. I can find out, for example, that the people I spoke for are angry that I did so or appreciative. But Trebilcot’s position, as well as a more general retreat position, presumes an ontological configuration of the discursive context that simply does not obtain.

When she got to the microphone, she stated that she had observed the gender disparity in who was lining up othdrs speak, and encouraged other women to ask questions.

Find it on Scholar. The issue of stepping back is a really important one too—when others monopolize the floor time provlem to particular issues it becomes more difficult for others to step forward.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others – Hook & Eye

This created an impetus to reconfigure the ontology of truth, from speakinb locus outside human interpretation to one within it. A plethora of sources have argued in this century that the neutrality of the theorizer can no longer, can never again, be sustained, even for a moment. In speaking about theories or ideas that gain prominence, she says: The remainder of this paper will try to contribute toward developing ov possibility.

If I should not speak for others, should I restrict myself to following their lead uncritically? Once we pose it as a problem of representation, we see that, not only are speaking for and speaking about analytically close, so too are the practices of speaking for others and poblem for myself. When we sit down to write, or get up to speak, we experience ourselves as making choices. George Marcus and Michael Fischer Chicago: Those who are not in a position of speaking ov all cannot retreat from an action they do not employ.

For instance, after I vehemently defended Barbara Christian’s article, “The Race ror Theory,” a male friend who had a different evaluation of the piece couldn’t help raising the possibility of whether a sort of apologetics structured my response, motivated by a desire to valorize African American writing against all odds.

It is the latter sources of authority that I am referring to by the term “privilege. Similarly, when one is speaking about another, or simply trying to describe their thhe or some aspect of it, one may also be speaking in place of them, i. She agrees that an absolute prohibition of speaking for would undermine political effectiveness, and therefore says that she will avoid speaking for others only within her lesbian feminist community.

The Problem of Speaking For Others

We have to be careful to do othres to the people who are entrusting us with their experiences. This may be the intention of my speech, and even its meaning if we take that to be the formal entailments of the sentences, but it will not be the effect of the speech, and therefore cannot capture the speech in its reality as a discursive practice.

On another view, the original speaker or writer is no more privileged than any other person who articulates these views, and in fact the “author” cannot be identified in a strict sense because the concept of author is an ideological construction many abstractions removed from the way in which ideas emerge and become material forces. Menchu’s efforts to speak for the 33 Indian communities facing genocide in Guatemala have helped dor raise money for the revolution and bring pressure against the Guatemalan and U.


Thus, to promote “listening to” as opposed to speaking for essentializes the oppressed as non-ideologically constructed subjects. However, they if meant only to suggest the questions that should be asked concerning any such discursive practice.

I hope that this analysis will contribute toward rather ;roblem diminish the important discussion ofr on today about how to develop strategies for a speaoing equitable, just distribution of the ability to speak and be heard. Othefs, the effect of a U. 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.

For example, can a white woman speak for all women simply by virtue of being a woman? And the desire to retreat sometimes results from the desire to engage in political work but without practicing what might be called discursive imperialism.

While the “Charge of Reductionism” response has been popular among academic theorists, what I call the “Retreat” response has been popular among some sections of the U. In this sense, a genealogy involves asking how a position or view is mediated and constituted through and within the conjunction and conflict of historical, cultural, economic, psychological, and sexual practices.

Spaces in which it may seem as if it is impossible to engage in dialogic encounters need to pproblem transformed in order to do so, such as classrooms, hospitals, workplaces, welfare agencies, universities, institutions for international development and aid, and governments.

If one’s immediate impulse is to teach rather than listen to a less-privileged speaker, one should resist that impulse long enough to interrogate it carefully.

Thus, in the Hegelian aftermath, so-called subjective elements, or the historically specific conditions in which human knowledge occurs, are no longer rendered irrelevant or even obstacles to truth. In conclusion, I would stress that the practice of speaking for others is often born of a desire for mastery, to privilege oneself as the one who more correctly understands the truth about another’s situation or as one peoblem can champion a just cause and thus achieve glory and praise.