Angelaki Journal of Theoretical Humanities, Vol 6, n. 1, April 2002, pp: 21-33
In this article, Brian Carr discusses subalternity from a philosophical perspective in that he compares Althusser’s notion of “interpellation” of the subject with Jacques Lacan’s psycholoanalysis of the mirror stage. According to Carr, Althusser’s notion of interpellation , the very act of hailing the subject “does not appear to presume the subject, but seeks to explain the production of the subject” (21), even though Althusser suggests that there is a sort “obviousness” that is attached to the subjecthood to the subject being hailed:” It is clear that you and I are subjects”. In addition, according to Brian Carr, Althusser suggests that “individuals are always-already subjects since the category of subject always awaits them”, that is to say, “individuals are just subjects waiting for the interpellating call” (24). Here, thus, discursivity is central to the production of subjecthood, even though this subjecthood is denied or mis-recognized. Lacan’s notion of the unconscious is also a tool to discuss subalternity but Brian Carr seems more cautious about applying it outright. “The unconscious” he says” understood within the Lacanian framework as constitutively disruptive of the subject, emerges in ‘spoken or written sentence(s) [where] something stumbles,” the subject being always understood as “self-divided” in the notion of the symblic in Lcan’s Psychoanalaysis (25).
If I understand well Brain Carr’s article, what he is trying to do is a close reading of what he calls “mirrors and calls” (referring to Lacan and Althusser) to the exclusion of subaltern people in relation to normative metanarratives, be colonial or national elitism. As a result, Brain Carr has discussed Spivak’s seminal question of subalternity, suggesting that the subaltern cannot speak not because he has not the ability to speak, but because his discourse will be misrecognized, denied, or simply misheeded by hegemonic discourses. Lacan notion of the Pyschosis, that is the subject’s “inability to mobilize language” (26) is kind of different from the subaltern’s subjecthood, which is denied or simply not taken into consideration.
As a result, Brian Carr suggests that “the universal drama of misrocognition in Lacan and Althusser is troubled in the figure of the subaltern insofar as the subaltern derails the inevitablilty of the individual’s movement into subject” (26). Therefore, Brian wants to “demomstrate the inadequacy of ‘interpellation’ as a model of apprehending sociosymbolic exclusion”. However, Brian has asked important question, at least for me, in that he interrogates the applicability of “interpellation” into the condition of subalternity, asking to know :” if the subaltern is interpellated, how might this work since silence and non-recognition (neither speech nor recognition) govern her dominant construction?”. In other words, “how can the subaltern speak as a subject whe she is deleted as such from official discursivity?” (27).
This question has been, and perhaps still is, central in the scholarship of subalternity. Brian Carr has asked to know the better way for the subaltern to resist hegemonic discursivity, which refer to Leela Ghandi’s Anticolonial thought and the politics of friendship. And therein lies my interest in linking Subaltern Studies with Postcolonialism in that both scholarships face the complicated taske of writing about national history, when that history happened to be vilified by colonialism and hegemonic imperialism. What I found interesting is Brian Carr’s implicit linking of the universal theory of interpellation to the national elistism of colonial India as he reminds us “that the notion of interpellation originates in a theory of bourgeois ideology” (29). And Brian concludes by saying that “the category of the subaltern demands, and what Spivak’s question of her “speech” calls for, is a reading of symbolic exclusion that is somewhere between the success of ideological interpellation (where a subject can speak) and total failure of symbolic constitution (foreclosure in the real)” (30, my emphasis).