"woman" (like "man" among white males) is a name they are claiming for themselves, and themselves alone. Racism decrees that if they are now women (years ago they were ladies, but fashions change) then black women must, perforce, be something else. (While they were "ladies" black women could be "women" and so on.)
Another revealing example of this separatist majority mentality is the story Walker relates of an exhibit of women painters at the Brooklyn Museum: when asked "Are there no black women painters represented here?" (none of them is, apparently), a white woman feminist simply replies "It's a women's exhibit!" Different historical contexts, different semantic contents . . .♗
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak ( 1942-) was born in Calcutta, India. After undergraduate studies in English at the University of Calcutta, she did graduate work at Cornell (Ph.D., 1967) in comparative literature. She has taught at many universities, including Iowa, Texas, Wesleyan, Emory, and Pittsburgh. Spivak first came to wide attention with her translation of and remarkable introduction to Derricia's Of Grammatology ( 1976). Her first book was Myself Must I Remake: Life and Poetry of W. B. Yeats ( 1974). She has lectured and written on numerous subjects in and around issues in feminism, literary theory, Marxism, deconstructionism, and subaltern studies. Among her many books and collected essays is In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics ( 1987).
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak ( 1988)
The first part of my proposition--that the phased development of the subaltern is complicated by the imperialist project--is confronted by a collective of intellectuals who may be called the "Subaltern Studies" group. They must ask, Can the subaltern speak? Here we are within Foucault's own discipline of history and with people who acknowledge his influence. Their project is to rethink Indian colonial historiography from the perspective of the discontinuous chain of peasant insurgencies during the colonial occupation. This is indeed the problem of "the permission to narrate" discussed by Said. As Ranajit Guha argues,
The historiography of Indian nationalism has for a long time been dominated by elitism--colonialist elitism and bourgeois-nationalist elitism . . . shar[ing] the prejudice that the making of the Indian nation and the development of the consciousness--nationalism--which confirmed this process were exclusively or predominantly elite achievements. In the colonialist and neo-colonialist historiographies these achievements are credited to British colonial rulers, administrators, policies, institutions, and culture; in the nationalist and neo-nationalist writings--to Indian elite personalities, institutions, activities and ideas.