African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 170

Full Length Research Paper

Retracing the concept of the subaltern from Gramsci to Spivak: Historical developments and new applications

  El Habib Louai    
Department of English Studies, Ibn-Zohr University, Agadir, Morocco. 
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 13 December 2011
  •  Published: 31 January 2012



The aim of this paper is to retrace the historical developments and new implications of one of the most disputed concepts in post-colonial theory. The study of the concept of the subaltern deals first with preliminary definitions of this concept as it was initially used by the Italian Marxist political activist, Antonio Gramsci, in his widely known book “Prison Notebooks”. Later, this paper examined the new reflections of the subaltern concept as explicated by those critics and historians who defined themselves as members of the Subaltern Studies Group. A particular focus at this stage is laid on the key insights of the forefather of the group, Ranajit Guha, and on the latest assumptions and ideas provided by the prominent deconstructivist, post-colonial critic, Gayatri Spivak, mainly in her seminal essay: "Can the Subaltern Speak?" The study finally tackled some of the present day implications of the subaltern concept as it unfolds in a post-modern condition. The analysis at this stage focused on key ideas introduced by the post-modern scholar, Jean Baudrillard, and post-colonial critic, Homi Bhabha.


Key words: Subaltern, post-colonialism, colonial discourse, subaltern historiography, political mobilization, domination, sexual division of labor, history, third world women, Sati women, globalized post-modern world, difference, identity, consciousness of subalternity, revolutionary voice, liminality, third space of enunciation.

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