question of what it means to speak for an-other. I explore that question in relation to philosophers like Linda Alcoff, Iris Marion Young, and Gayatri Spivak, and. ; 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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In rejecting a general retreat from speaking for, I am not advocating a return to an unself-conscious appropriation of the other, but rather that anyone who speaks for others should only do so out of a concrete analysis of the particular power relations and discursive effects involved.

One may be speaking about another as an advocate or a messenger if the rhe cannot speak for herself. 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.

Speakig reminds me of a personal experience I had once in a group of people.

The Problem of Speaking For Others |

The content of the claim, or its meaning, emerges in interaction between words and hearers within a very specific historical situation. Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: In her important paper, “Dyke Methods,” Joyce Trebilcot offers a philosophical articulation of this view. Even a complete retreat from speech is of course not neutral since it allows the continued dominance of current discourses and acts by omission to reenforce their dominance. What this entails in practice is a serious commitment to remain open to criticism and to attempt actively, attentively, and sensitively to “hear” the criticism understand it.

Edited by Milton K. Freedom, Identity, and Rights. In anthropology there is similar discussion about whether it is possible to speak for others either adequately or justifiably.

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

The answers to these questions will certainly depend on who is asking them. 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.


Interview with Andrew Feenberg. By learning as much as possible about the context of reception I can increase my ability to discern at least some of the possible effects. To our disappointment, he introduces his lecture by explaining that he can not cover the assigned topic, because as a white male seaking does not feel that he can speak for the feminist and post-colonial perspectives which have launched the critical interrogation alocff postmodernism’s politics.

On a coherentist account of truth, which is held by such philosophers as Rorty, Donald Davidson, Quine, and I would argue Gadamer and Foucault, truth is defined as an emergent property of converging discursive and non-discursive elements, when there exists a specific form of integration among these elements in a particular event.

Such a concept would require truth to be independent of the speakers’ or listeners’ embodied and perspectival location. Still, it is sometimes called for. Thus, her argument does not fall into a self-referential incoherence. Feminist Epistemology in Epistemology. In this case, we might say that I should only speak for groups of which I am a member.

An absolute retreat weakens political effectivity, is based on a metaphysical illusion, and often effects only an obscuring of the intellectual’s power. Louise Racine – – Nursing Inquiry 10 2: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism Bloomington: Both collective action and coalitions would seem to require the possibility of speaking for.

Thus, to promote “listening to” as opposed to speaking for essentializes the oppressed as non-ideologically constructed subjects. Now let us look at the second premise.

Since no embodied speaker can produce more than a partial account, and since the process of producing meaning is necessarily collective, everyone’s account within a specified community needs to be encouraged.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

This question has come up for me repeatedly in my own research on feminist magazines like BUST and Bitch. Thus, the question of whether location bears simply on what is taken to be true or what is really true, and whether such a distinction can be upheld, involves the very difficult problem of the meaning of truth.


This view works only up to a point. While some of us may want to undermine, for example, the U. The use of the term “Indian” here follows Menchu’s use. This seems to be a running theme in what are sometimes called “minority discourses” these days: But Spivak is also critical of speaking for which engages in dangerous re-presentations.

Edited by Linda L. When I acknowledge that the listener’s social location will affect the meaning of my words, I can more effectively generate the meaning I intend. This is meant to acknowledge their own understanding that they are speaking from a specified, embodied location without pretense to a transcendental pfoblem. Where do we find that balance between ethical representation and non-representation, though? Speakers may seek to regain control here by taking into account the context of their speech, but they can never know everything about this context, and with written and electronic communication it is becoming increasingly difficult to know anything at all about the context of reception.

These are feminist texts, and yet I write in ways that are frequently critical dpeaking them. University of Illinois Press, Constructing hypotheses about the possible connections between our location and our words is one way to begin. But this does not tell us how groups themselves should be delimited. Rowman and Littlefield, There was one woman in line.

This response is motivated in part by the desire to recognize difference and different priorities, without organizing these differences into hierarchies.

In other words, the claim that I can speak only for myself assumes lindx autonomous conception of the self in Classical Liberal theory–that I am unconnected to others in my authentic self or that I can achieve an autonomy from others given certain conditions.

However, a partial loss of control does not entail a complete loss of accountability. This created an impetus to reconfigure the ontology of truth, from a locus outside human interpretation to one within it.