#spivak
LectureHop: Can the Subaltern Speak?

On Wednesday night, a retired Bwogger relived his glory days of lecturehopping when he headed downtown and attempted to decipher the postmodern conundrum of a panel featuring Columbia professors Gayatri Spivak and Rosalind Morris, and soon-to-be-Columbia-professor Judith Butler.

So, humanities majors, you know that first time you go back home freshman year, probably for Thanksgiving? Over turkey, you try to explain to your parents the colonial problems with the holiday, which then somehow becomes you trying to explain how gender is socially constructed. You end up sounding pretentious, and your dad ends up saying something like, “if gender is socially constructed, then why do all girls like pink? Can you explain that?” This results in you slamming your face down into the mashed potatoes.

Well, the two academics perhaps most responsible for this conversation—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Judith Butler—shared the stage this past Wednesday at the CUNY graduate center to discuss and celebrate “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, Spivak’s foundational 1983 essay that helped make postcolonial studies into the pervasive discipline it is today. Any attempt to sum up the essay’s arguments will be insufficient, but suffice it to say that the answer to the title’s question was and remains “not yet,” according to Spivak. (more…)

Op-Hop: Kickin’ it with Postcolonial Opera and Gayatri Spivak
 Photo via Voices from the Gap

In a night of good theater and crazy-ass/disastrous commentary, famed authors Toni Morrison and Assia Djebar stopped by Miller Theater for a presentation of selections from their theatrical works. Though the night started out well, it ended with an onstage intellectual train wreck.

First up was Margaret Garner, an opera based on the central story in Beloved. Though an opera based on the Pulitzer-prize winning novel may sound like a strange idea, the four songs performed were impressive, rousing the audience to a hearty round of applause for Morrison. The performers were clearly well acquainted with the music, and the opera brought the story a more immediate emotional poignancy than the novel possessed.

Djebar’s The Daughters of Ishmael was similarly a success. The Italian play depicts the events surrounding the death of the prophet Muhammad, focusing on the women around him. The female characters’ personal strength and freedom subverts misogynist forms of contemporary Islam. As the woman who introduced the selections phrased it in the understatement of the year, “the interpretations [modern Islam] went a little far from the original.” But the play is compelling because it is more than an anti-radical diatribe; it defies the typical Occidental view that Islam is, at its core, an oppressive religion. It is well worth picking up Far From Medina, the novel on which the play is based. (more…)

Academic Freedom, Palestine and SDS All Before Lunch

Today, a group of faculty members sent a letter with 120 professor signatures regarding PrezBo’s “silence regarding academic freedom in Palestine.” While the last Israel/Palestine student rally may not have exactly been of 1968-proportions (ah, but what is these days), the faculty list has many well-known professors, including Lila Abu-Lughod, Gil Anidjar, Richard Bulliet, Yinon Cohen, Victoria de Grazia, Rashid Khalidi, Philip Kitcher, Mark Mazower, Bruce Robbins, Gayatri Spivak, and Michael Taussig. 

Several campus groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, have also been forwarding the email to several political and activist groups on campus with the hope that they can accumulate a “sizable list of student signatures” to add to their 107-person-and-growing Student, Alumni and Community Support list. The student list will not, however, be presented to Bollinger.

The full letter and faculty list can be found after the jump. UPDATE: Our post originally reported that the letter had been made public by SDS. In fact, according to SDS members, the letter was created by “faculty have passed it on to students, who have forwarded it around.” (Photo by LPM) (more…)

Profs Sign Stuff About Gaza

While student groups may still be in the planning stages of any events about the Gaza conflict, some more Columbia professors have voiced their opposition to Israel’s actions, signing an open letter to Barack Obama written by USC English professor David Lloyd.

Among the approximately 800 signatories are 14 Columbia faculty members, including:

New York Authentic Mexican Restaurant Week

As we all know Columbia loves controversy.  We also know that Columbia loves Mexican food.  Thankfully Morningside Heights entrepreneurs have recognized this and consequently the neighborhood offers plenty of Mexican eateries. 

So many in fact that the recent increase in Mexican restaurants has caused quite a controversial and competitive commotion.  Where can a student find the cheapest nachos? The most filling burrito? The freshest guacamole? The quickest quesadilla or closest taco? All these questions have roused heated debate.  But the most contentious question of all does not concern the price, proximity or preparation of the food, but its authenticity. 

(more…)

Is the Subaltern there?

Bwog just saw big name Anthro Comp Lit Prof Spivak slumped against the window next to the bookstore turnstile entrance to Lerner, talking on the payphone (that we didn’t even know existed). Can the world’s foremost translator of Jacques Derrida not afford Verizon? She looked dazed and confused.