A Brief Approach to Spivak’s Reflections on Subalternity and Agency from the Perspective of Cognitive Science


The purpose of this research is to examine Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s reflections on subalternity and agency from the perspective of cognitive science. The sciences of mind and brain shed light on how the human brain processes and transforms the inputs it receives and highlight the importance of contemplating how the “machine” of mind works in order to achieve a better understanding of social phenomena. Experiences alter the physical structure of the brain and the distinction between nature and nurture is now challenged by psychological and laboratory studies: “indelible, microscopic impressions accumulate to make who you are, and to constrain who you can become” (Eagleman, David. THE BRAIN. Canongate Books, 2015, p. 20). Therefore, empirical evidence invites Cultural Studies and Theory to review and reformulate their main concepts. Specifically, this study focuses on Spivak’s essays “Can the Subaltern Speak?” and “Scattered Speculations on the Subaltern and the Popular” and it examines to what extent the main statements in these essays agree with cognitive theory and particular psychological and laboratory experiments. The discussion eventually concludes that Spivak’s ideas on subalternity and agency seem to be corroborated by cognitive science which suggests that discourses and practices may alter the brain “wiring” to the extent of depriving certain individuals and social groups of the ability of exercising actual agency.

Author Information
Frank G. Toro, Espacios Culturales del Ayuntamiento de Pozuelo de Alarcóns, Spain

Paper Information
Conference: Global2018
Stream: Literary Studies / All genres/ Theory

This paper is part of the Global2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon