Finding Spivak

I recently IM’d someone who sounded interesting on an unnamed quiz/dating site, and was pleasantly surprised to find someone who made me feel dumb. Not that feeling dumb is good, just that it’s easier to see the next plateau when there’s someone there waving at you.

Unfortunately, reaching that plateau involves tracking down a particular essay by Gayatri Spivak, professor of Post-colonial Studies at Columbia University. The essay itself is from 1988 1985, and it’s not on the web anywhere.

Which is the real message to professors everywhere: if you want your writing to be read by people other than yourself, your collegues, and your grant committees, please put them online, for free. Yes, Chomsky has a cadre of fanboys to do such things for him (or at least, that’s my understanding), but he is also practicing what he preaches regarding the responsibilities of intellectuals. He may have a cushier job than most academics, but to my mind that simply means that you should spend a few hours a week wrestling with a computer instead of, for example, a kiln or baggie of psyclotropics. Make web design/publishing your hobby until you get decent at it, then put your shit online so anyone with a network hookup or a laptop can read it.

What I’ve managed to glean from reviews of Spivak tends to mirror my thoughts anyways. As a bit of background, I was introduced to radical politics through black nationalism and white anti-racism, so what she’s quoted as saying regarding the essay doesn’t seem to be anything open for debate—particularly regarding those known within civil rights histories as “white liberals,” and their inability to speak for anyone but themselves. White people telling everyone else what they need to be doing, ostensibly for everyone else’s benefit. Where have we heard this bullshit before? (Hint: It’s the same old racist “White Man’s Burden” that undergirded the whole global colonial enterprise.) White revolutionists (love that term, Emma) can’t tell everyone else how to run their revolution. Yeah, no shit.

But anyways, without getting my hands on an actual copy of the damned essay, any reading I can come up with is just me ranting and raving out of my ass, by turn, so to all you professors: put your stuff online so people like me can grok it, mmmkay? 🙂

Seriously, if you got into academia for the money, you really fucked up somewhere—probably in thinking that something with zero reproduction cost can (or should) be commodified.