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What is Subaltern

Handbook of Research on Deconstructing Culture and Communication in the Global South
The term was coined by Antonio Gramsci, notably through his work on cultural hegemony. The concept identifies the groups that are excluded from a society's established institutions and thus denied a right to raise their voice in their society. In India, the concept shot to prominence with Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. She is of the view that patriarchy creates subaltern women whose voices “cannot be heard or read”. The concept is utilized in mythic fiction to voice the aphonic female characters of Indian myths.
Published in Chapter:
Demystifying Mythology: Deconstructing the Indian Myth Through Modern Mythic Fiction
Charu Ahluwalia (Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts, Shoolini University, Solan, India) and Purnima Bali (Chitrakoot School of Liberal Arts, Shoolini University, Solan, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-8093-9.ch007
For centuries, classical myths have been celebrated as models of excellence. Initially, the study of myths was undertaken to understand culture by only being mindful of the fixed literal meaning of the text. In this context, the ancient myth of the Ramayan in India stood as a monolithic structure unquestioned since time immemorial. However, in modern times, when the deconstruction philosophy of Derrida rejects the idea of a fixed meaning as conveyed by a text, the latent meaning of the text arises to the surface. With the emergence of feminism, the unheard voices of canonical texts are brought to the limelight through the contemporary mode of mythic fiction. The mythic fictions undertaken for study—The Forest of Enchantments, Sita-Warrior of Mithila, and The Liberation of Sita—highlight myriad ways of deconstructing the character of Sita and other subaltern female characters who were initially construed under the androcentric dictates of the classical literary canon. Hence, feminist deconstruction of mythology by mythic fiction deconstructs age-old cultural axioms.
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The “Subaltern” Will Speak: Investigating Portrayals in the Acclaimed OTT Series of India and Pakistan
Subaltern refers to those who are socially, politically, and culturally marginalized, often belonging to lower socio-economic classes and facing various forms of discrimination. This includes but is not limited to issues related to caste, gender, race, and ethnicity. The subaltern often lacks agency within dominant power structures and their voices are frequently silenced or ignored.
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Can the Subaltern Play and Speak or Just be Played With?
A term emanating from post-colonial theory, it refers to minorities—those marginalized and disempowered—who have been systematically silenced and denied agency by the power structure.
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Majaivana and Protest Music in Zimbabwe: A Challenge to Political Hegemony and Marginalization
A reference to the Ndebele minority group which feels marginalized in Zimbabwe.
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The Question of Gender Equality: A Feminist Perspective
The term was originally used to denote a junior ranking officer in the British Army. It was the early twentieth century Italian Marxist Thinker Antonio Gramsci, who, in his Prison Notebooks brought the term ‘Subaltern’ into theoretical discourse to denote subordinate groups or classes. The term was later taken up by Subaltern studies collective, a group of historians to signify the subordinate groups of South Asia, who were marginalized based on caste, class, age, gender and office.
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Aguirre, Caché, and Creating Anti-Colonialist Puzzles: A Normative Perspective
The marginalized, lower classes or the colonized other who cannot exercise their agency.
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Orientalism, Colonialism, and Bouchareb's Indigènes
Community or class who are silenced and rendered invisible by the practices of the hegemonic mode of history writing.
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