GWSS 3303WResponse Paper #1February 6
Speaking for Others: On Context and Responsibility
Linda Alcoff offers a complex interrogation surrounding the debates and practices of speaking for others. She argues that neither speaking for, nor
speaking for are simple positions to be taken, but rather that it depends on the context, discourse, location of thespeaker, the audience, and variety of other factors. The basic problem of speaking for others, nevertheless, remains an important one. Speaking for others might have intendedor unintended effects on those who are being spoken for; it might distort the realities andexperiences; and give undeserved power and status for the speaker instead of those whoare the subjects of the speech.She argues that speaking
is not completely different from speaking
others, latter being perceived as a less problematic intellectual or political exercise (9). For Alcoff, anyspeaking for or about others, or even about yourself is complicated by the problem of representation itself. Any claim that it is possible to represent anyone objectively fallsinto a trap of Western philosophical claims about the possibility of Truth, which isobjective and disembodied. Alcoff states:“…The attempt to avoid the problematic speaking for by retreating into anindividualist realm is based on illusion, well-supported in the individualistideology of the West, that a self is not constituted by multiple intersectingdiscourses but consists in a unified whole capable of autonomy from others” (21).