Gramsci’s hegemony and the notion of subalternity

Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony has had a great impact on the developmental character of Cultural Studies in general and of Subaltern Studies in particular. Hegemony, which refers to social power relationship, hints, as Thomas R. Bates has pointed, to the idea that sustains that “man is not only ruled by force alone, but also by ideas”. Therefore, hegemony means a societal setting in which a ruling class is imposing its ideas upon a ruled class, be it by force force or consensus. To my mind, the most telling feature of Gramsci’s hegemony is his notion of the “war of position” in which intellectuals play a central role. In Gramsci’s Italy, intellectuals were positioned in-between the “political society” and the “civil society,” most of the time working to gain the “consent” of the ruled group toward the ideas of the ruling class.

Even tough Gramsci’s Italy differs from the case of subalternity in colonial India, some interconnectedness can be made out between both local histories. The role of intellectuals in Gramci’s Italy might, in a sense, refer to the role of nationalist intellectuals in India who sought to write Indian colonial history by ignoring the insurgencies of subaltern people. As Gramsci beleived that democracy and the concepts of political governance had to be made from the ruled class’s perspective, subalternists thought that the colonial history of India not only included that of the subaltern, but must be said and told from that very perspective, instead of the nationalist and elitist discourse. Herein lies the connection between hegemony, in the gramscian meaning of the the term, and subalternity.

That being said, I like the way scholarship  has and is being influenced by displacement/ diaspora/dis-location. Gramsci’s theory was influenced by Marxism, though he deconstructed its superstructure/base’s economist scheme; and the way Gramsci’s theory has influenced subaltern studies while having in mind the difference of locality between Italy and colonial India. I do beleive that rather than trying to applying concepts outright, intellectuals should think of the specificity of locality and in turn make some changes if needed. And finally, subalternity and postcoloniality have come to meet at crossroads as their common goal at some point was to rewrite historiography and history from “below”. I, however, would like to emphasize the complexity of postcolonial and subaltern subjects that is sometimes overlooked by intellectuals. We have to seriously examine the ambivalence of such positionality in colonial history as Ludden has point it out, “the thorny question of (subaltern/postcolonial subject’s) consciousness” as “the  composite culture of resistance to and acceptance of domination and hierarchy” (18). (emphasis added)

About Babacar

I am a graduate student at the Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in American Culture Studies program for a two year Master degree. Am studying the theories of race, multiculturalism and feminism and their intersectionality in the formation of Identity in the racial and postracial America.
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