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Notion of the subject - Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

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  1. Introduction: The question 'who am I?'
  2. What we can be and the society
  3. The meaning of the position that the individuals have
  4. Identity, attitude and rejection
  5. Relying on the others to read ones position
  6. Understanding our identity
  7. conclusion
  8. Bibliography

?A subject position is a hard place, we cannot read it ourselves; we are given over to others even as we make inevitable public attempts to read our subject position? (Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak).
Discussion of the complexities of Spivak's notion of the subject in the context of race and/or class and/or gender and/or sexuality and/or nationality.

The question ?who am I?? seems to be an important concern for individuals. They need to understand who they are, to know what their identity is. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ?identity? comes from ?idem? (?the same?). It comprises two basics meanings: a concept of absolute sameness and a concept of distinctiveness. Like this, identity allows us to situate ourselves in the world in which we live. It allows us to find our position in the society, which gives us the landmarks we need to get ahead. The subject's identity could be defined as the whole of its characteristics. It is different from its personality and its roles, and can include elements such as nationality, race, class, gender, sexuality, and so on. Answering this question deals with the content of our identity, but also with our way of reading it.
How is the identity built? Identity comes from a process including ?internal? and ?external? factors. It is shaped by the individual and by the ?outside?. The extent to which individuals are able to shape their identities has often been put under question. Some argue that we can speak of ?self identity?, giving to the subjects the ability of forming their own identity. On the other hand, a lot of others tempt to say that ?what people become, and who they are, are influenced or even determined by other factors, outside their control.? Such factors include economic, social, cultural, and political elements. If they seem to agree on the fact that identity is both constructed from the inside and the outside, the contemporary thesis seem to put under light the importance of the external factors in the construction of identity, like this minimizing the freedom of individuals in the shaping of their identity, and emphasis their lack of control in the process of construction of who they are. Thus, the content of the subjects' identity seems to be a concept mostly out of their control.
But, if it seems that they can't really control its content, can the individuals succeed in reading their identity, their position, themselves? In the same way that what we are is, for a lot of authors, mostly out of our control, being aware of what we are also depends on others. In this way, Spivak argues that our position is given to us by the others, considering individuals unable to read it by themselves. In which extent do we rely on the others to read our identity, our position, and thus, to find our place in the society? What are, for the individuals, the consequences of this supposed lack of independency? Do we not have any autonomy in the reading of our position?

[...] II: Power Of Identity?, Blackwell publishers, Massachusetts (U.S.A.), Oxford (U.K.) Donald, James, and Rattansi, Ali Culture and Difference, Sage Publication, London, California, New Delhi Hetherington, Kevin, Expression of Identity, Space, Performance, Politics, Sage Publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi Jenkins, Richard, Social Identity, p.3, Routledge, London, New York Landry, Donna, and MacLean, Gerald The Spivak Reader, Routledge, London and New York Rajchman, John The Identity in Question, Routeledge, New York Rose, Nikolas, Inventing Ourselves, ?Psychology, Power, and Personhood?, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne Skeggs, Beverley, Class, Self, Culture, Routledge, London and New York Willett, Cynthia Theorizing Multiculturalism, Guide to the Current Debate?, Blackwell, Malden Woodward, Kath Questioning Identity: gender, class, ethnicity, Routledge, London and New York Woodward, Kathryn, Understanding Identity, Ch. [...]


[...] ?What is called ?homosexuality? may have been practised for the whole of human history, the person classified as ?homosexual?, as a specific subject, was produced by being into discourse in the nineteenth century?. Categories are not natural; they are constructed, given to the subject. Thus, individuals cannot read their position on their own. A man could not read his ?homosexual? identity before the category did exist. Moreover, these categories have a performative effect[5]. It is to say that, if the classifications do not correspond to the reality, individuals finish in adapting themselves to them and integrating them. [...]


[...] This phenomenon of reading our identity through a process of rejection could also be illustrated by the case of black identity. At first, this identity was one of it was a way for the white people of qualifying the ?coloured? individuals. In the 1970's, this concept of ?blackness? was ?transformed ( ) into a confident expression of an assertive group identity?[11]. The ?Black Power? played a role in this sense. The identity, perceived as negative and opposed to the identity (with a positive connotation) by the white people, has been internalised by the and lost its pejorative aspect. [...]

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