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Subalternity

In: English and Literature

Submitted By kherwa
Words 1331
Pages 6
Can the subaltern speak? Subaltern, meaning ‘of inferior rank’, is a term adopted by Antonio Gramsci to refer to those groups in society who are subject to the hegemony of the ruling classes. Subaltern classes may include peasants, workers and other groups denied access to ‘hegemonic’ power. Since the history of the ruling classes is realized in the state, history being the history of states and dominant groups, Gramsci was interested in the historiography of the subaltern classes. In ‘Notes on Italian history’ (1934—5) he outlined a six point plan for studying the history of the subaltern classes which included: (1) their objective formation (2) their active or passive affiliation to the dominant political formations (3) the birth of new parties and dominant groups (4) the formations that the subaltern groups produce to press their claims (5) new formations within the old framework that assert the autonomy of the subaltern classes; and (6) other points referring to trade unions and political parties. Gramsci claimed that the history of the subaltern classes was just as complex as the history of the dominant classes, although the history of the latter is usually that which is accepted as ‘official’ history. For him, the history of subaltern social groups is necessarily fragmented and episodic, since they are always subject to the activity of ruling groups, even when they rebel. Clearly they have less access to the means by which they may control their own representation. and less access to cultural and social institutions. Only ‘permanent’ victory (that is, a revolutionary class adjustment) can break that pattern of subordination, and even that does not occur immediately. The term has been adapted to post—colonial studies from the work of the Subaltern Studies group of historians, who aimed to promote a systematic discussion of subaltern themes...

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