A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Kincaid focuses on the ugliness of tourism, and how morally/spiritually wrong it is to exploit the land where one travels. When people travel to escape the boredom of their own mundane lives, they are exploiting the daily lives of the locals. This creates a space where the locals are now “Other” to the tourist in their own residence. Tourist travel to escape and view the beauty of other countries, be more simple and be closer to nature, while this romanticization exploits the humble and impoverished state of people.

The colonial education the Antiguans receive is under a British system, so they are learning not of their own history, but of one that has enslaved, and then colonized them. Due to this the Antiguans are passive objects of history, so they are always second, and the British system will always dictate events, history, and language. This makes the Antiguan people “Subaltern” according to Spivak. They are removed from all lines of social mobility, due to how they were enslaved and colonized by the British system, and how the tourists have exploited them. They have no control of what happens in the future, what they are educated on, or any say in the governmental affairs. Little to no change will ever happen if the Antiguan people do not revolt against this colonial oppression.

There is a connection between corruption and colonization, and this is why there is a continuation of oppression. Colonization creates class differences, and this leads to broken systems, that likely do not change. The British system claims to be helping the Antiguans by colonizing Antigua, but all the while the system is continually taking more and more from the people. The government ministers were running brothels, stealing the public’s funds, and arranging ill intended deals. There is no outrage from the people due to how they were shaped and molded into being passive objects of history. The class differences created by the corruption, and colonization lend to Othering and prejudice. Those well off in the government see no wrong as they continually benefit from the corruption socio-economically, and do not care of the Othering they create. The “Other” and “Subalterns” go together, as the Other is a subaltern. The system does not help those who have no voice or economic impact, and for this reason their voices continue to go unheard, circumstances never change, and oppression goes on unchecked.

Kicaid wants the readers to walk away with a new perspective; one that is to think twice before you travel to escape your mundane, and potentially exploit the lives of the locals. Tourist hurt the daily lives of the locals even more so, on top of the colonial oppression and corruption they experience. It’s made me think twice about where I travel, and what my intentions are when doing so. It’s made me question, “will there be a detrimental spill-over effect, from doing this”?

Chinese School District House

By Haoxiang Dai

Education has become one of the most concerned topics for Chinese people, while Chinese house prices rose rapidly in the past ten years, leading to a systematic injustice overlapping these two fields.

House price in China has been unusual high for a decade or even more. For survival, people can just rent a house because rent fee is very low compared to the ridiculous house price. However, nowadays, many rules come out requiring people to buy a school district room otherwise their children cannot go to school. The rule also made requirements about the area of the room and the length of living time. It all turns out that whether children can get good educational resources has nothing to do with the children’s talent and endeavor. The only thing that matters is the wealth and social status of children’s parents. Education is already unfair for students before facing the so-called the most equitable “The national college entrance exam”. Meanwhile, the phenomenon forces all parents under the pressure of unusual high house price, extracting their hard-earned money to the pocket of real estate companies which represent a group of upper classes.

This instance reminds me of Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. Like Spivak points out that “the terms ‘people’ and ‘subaltern classes’ [are] used as synonymous throughout [Guha’s definition]” (page 26). The word “Subaltern” defines a group of people oppressed by power. In this case, general Chinese people are forced to afford the sky-high house price for their children’s future. Otherwise, they and their children will be considered as “Others”. As a result, there are so many Chinese families under the pressure of house loans and making money for real estate companies for decades. General people don’t have right to speak. They can only follow the rules made by authorities. However, the reason why it is systematic injustice is the government has strong relationship to these real estate companies. Through bonding sky-high house price with children’s future, Chinese families’ hard-earned money is extracted to authorities for decades. And what is worse, when these children grow up and get married, they have to face the same problem as their parents.

Link 1: https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1002882/chinese-parents-are-paying-a-high-price-for-free-education

Link 2: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/04/china-cost-of-education/2489899/


Work Cited:

Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. Class Material.

Ni Dandan. (2018). Chinese Parents Are Paying a High Price for Free Education. SIXTH TONE. Retrieved from https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1002882/chinese-parents-are-paying-a-high-price-for-free-education

Calum MacLeod. (2013). Sky-high house prices surround China’s top schools. USA TODAY. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/04/china-cost-of-education/2489899/

What Does Subaltern Mean Anyway?

In Postcolonial Theory, “Subaltern” describes people in the lower social classes and the Other social groups that are displaced and marginalized while also living in an imperial colony. If there is little access or no access at all to the cultural imperialism then one is described as subaltern. The term Subaltern was coined by Antonio Gramsci, who was an Italian Marxist intellectual. He used it when describing cultural hegemony, in order to identify groups that were excluded, displaced, and marginalized due to the socio-economic institutions put into place, so their political voices would be denied. Gayatri Spivak states that “the reasonable and rarefied definition of the word subaltern that interests me is: to be removed from all lines of social mobility” (Spivak, 475).*

Now knowing what subaltern means, I am going to apply it to examples. In India, “the evidence suggests that Subaltern Studies has been an effort by secular “Southerners” (Biharis, Bengalis) to withstand the hegemony of the ‘North’, represented by the liberal-Marxist alliance centered in New Delhi” (Gran). It has also been an effort to withstand the religious fascism that has been rapidly trending in the “South” of India. Anyone who is not associated and one with the hegemony force, or part of the religious fascism that is spreading is considered to be subaltern. There is no line of mobility in the social hierarchy for the marginalized group(s). “Consciousness of the oppression of the subaltern, one senses from reading Guha, will induce the ruling class to change its ways” (Gran). Even with this consciousness of what is happening, it would be extremely hard, and near impossible to change the institution from the inside out to revert from its oppressive practices in the hierarchy.

The field of Subaltern Studies is about examining the “histories from below” (Ludden, 403). Ludden states that, “Subaltern Studies from its beginnings was felt by many, with some justice, to be somewhat too dismissive about predecessors and contemporaries working on not entirely dissimilar lines, and the claims of setting up a new ‘paradigm’ were certainly overflamboyant” (Ludden, 403). It studies the conditions of those in the social groups that have virtually no way to climb up the hierarchy of power within the institution that they dwell in. It studies the socio-economic conditions and statuses of those considered to be subaltern, and how the groups are affected as they are. The late Subaltern Studies has focused on three areas to study, which comprise of ‘derivative discourse,’ indigenous ‘community,’ and ‘fragments (Ludden, 407)’. The ways in which in this field is studied have and continue to change. This can be attributed to always evolving institutions, new scholarly perspectives, etc.


Works Cited:

Ludden, David. (2005). “Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning, and the

Globalisation of South Asia”Permanent Black

Gran, Peter. (2004). “Subaltern Studies, Racism, and Class Struggle: Examples from India and the United States”. International Gramsci Society Online Article. http://www.internationalgramscisociety.org/resources/online_articles/articles/gran01.shtml

Spivak, Gayatri. (2005). “Scattered Speculations on the subaltern and the popular”. Postcolonial Studies, 8(4). https://doi.org/10.1080/13688790500375132


*Quick note from Caroline: Devon is doing a great job explaining a really tricky concept, and I want to highlight this important quote. Someone, or a group, who is subaltern is not just Other, minority, or disadvantaged; they are essentially unable to speak for themselves in the existing structures of power. That’s what Spivak is talking about here, and what Devon is talking about in the second paragraph.