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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However, this objection presupposes a particular conception of truth, one in which the truth of a statement can be distinguished from its interpretation and its acceptance.

Rituals of speaking are constitutive of meaning, the meaning of the words spoken as well as the meaning of the event. In the history of Western philosophy, there have existed multiple, competing definitions and ontologies of truth: The declaration that I “speak only for myself” has the sole effect of allowing me to avoid responsibility and accountability for my effects on others; it cannot fog erase those effects.

Cameron’s intentions were never in question, but the effects of her writing were argued to be harmful to the needs xlcoff Native authors because it is Cameron rather than they who will be listened to and whose books will be bought by readers interested in Native women. 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.

The Problem of Speaking For Others. Science Logic and Mathematics.

This view works only up to a point. Priblem might one advocate such a partial retreat? But surely it is both morally and politically objectionable to structure one’s actions around the desire to avoid criticism, especially if this outweighs other questions of effectivity. To the extent it recognizes irreducible differences in the way people respond to various traumas and is sensitive to the genuinely variable way in which women can heal themselves, it represents real progress beyond the homogeneous, universalizing approach which sets out one road for all to follow.


We may experience hesitation from fear of being criticized or from fear of exacerbating a problem we would like to remedy, or we may experience a resolve to speak despite existing obstacles, but in many cases we experience having the possibility to speak or not to speak. Sign in Create an account. In speaking about theories acoff ideas that gain prominence, she says: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society And the effect of the practice of speaking for others is often, though not always, erasure and a reinscription of sexual, national, and speking kinds of hierarchies.

Some have come forward as former workers, but I wonder what impact that has on their careers and on their conceptualizations of their spaces as safe.

Arguably since Kant, more obviously since Hegel, it has been widely accepted that an understanding of truth which requires it to be free of human interpretation leads inexorably to skepticism, since it makes truth inaccessible by definition. It also comes up a lot in classroom contexts. Often the possibility of dialogue is left unexplored or inadequately pursued by more privileged persons. 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.

On the Problem of Speaking for Others

It comes up in research, teaching, and activist contexts. When I “speak for myself” I am participating in the creation and reproduction of discourses through which my own and other selves are constituted. Thw is at stake in rejecting or validating speaking for others as a discursive practice?

Moreover, the concept of groups assumes specious notions about clear-cut boundaries and “pure” identities. But it seems to me soeaking the importance of the source of a view, and the importance of doing a genealogy, should be subsumed within an overall analysis of effects, making the central question what the effects are of the view on material and discursive practices through which it traverses and the particular configuration of power relations emergent from these.

To our disappointment, he introduces his lecture by explaining that he can not cover the assigned topic, because as a white male he does not feel that he can speak for the feminist and post-colonial perspectives which have launched the critical interrogation of postmodernism’s politics. One important implication of this first premise is that we can no longer dor the validity speakiing a given instance of speaking for others simply by asking whether or not the speaker has done sufficient research to justify her claims.


Interview with Andrew Feenberg. First of all, it can be limiting to make it necessary for people to alciff to certain groups in order to permit them to speak; secondly, I think it is dangerous to demand a coherence between academic and personal life; third, self-identification can be dangerous for some people so ‘outing’ others or ourselves can have serious consequences. Singing in the Fire: Similarly, when problm is speaking about another, or simply trying to describe their situation or some aspect of it, one may also be speaking in place of them, i.

In order to answer these questions we need to become clearer on the epistemological and metaphysical issues which are involved in the alckff of the problem of speaking for others, issues which most often remain implicit. This conflation was intentional on my part, because it is difficult to distinguish speaking about from speaking for in all cases.

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

These examples demonstrate the range of current practices of speaking for others in our society. Such a desire for mastery and immunity must be resisted. Who is speaking, who is spoken of, and who listens is a result, as well as an act, of political struggle. The need for an interrogation of one’s location exists with every discursive event by any speaker, but given the lopsidedness of current “dialogues” it seems especially important to push for this among the privileged, who sometimes seem to want to study everybody’s social and cultural construction but their own.

The Problem of Speaking For Others

When meaning is plural and deferred, we can never hope to know the totality of effects. While the prerogative of speaking for others remains unquestioned in the speakihg of colonial administration, among activists and in the academy it elicits a growing unease and, in some communities of discourse, it is being rejected. Vostral and Kate Boyer. One of the things your post reminds me of is that the ethics of self- representation are always context-specific and shift around constantly.