‘Must the Subaltern Fight?: Resistance and the Art of Forming Your Masters' "CANCELLED"

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 68
Noel PARKER , University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen K, Denmark
There are many instances from the history of colonialism – not confined to the experience of successful anti-colonial conflict – of the impact of the subject's on those who purport to be their masters.  With this reformulation of Spivak’s classic question from 1988 set alongside the anthropology alluded to by a version of James C. Scott’s book title from 2008, the paper focuses on the subaltern’s alternatives to open, violent resistance.  Thus the paper attempts to map the interplay between top-down power (the paradigm of ‘power over…’) and the bottom-up capacity of the subjects to maintain a degree of autonomy, or even effectively shape the power which is ostensibly exercised ‘over’ them.  

How can a ‘power to…’ be shaped into an enabling power which facilitates human activities from the subaltern side? The answer is to be found in the combination of three further dimensions in power relations over and above the top-down will: the resistance of the subject; the practices which actualize activity in a society; and the structuring of conceptions which is traded in discursive exchanges.  

Scott (plus Hirst 2005) and the historical sociology of resistance provide an access point for the first of these; Foucault for the second; and Bourdieu an account of ideology that illuminates the third. The paper will draw empirically not only on the history of colonialism and its end, but also on the many histories of popular resistance.  The purpose is to read the historical sources with this particular blend of theory, showing the contradictory impulses within which actual power develops.