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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Defragmenting the Subaltern: New Methodological Blendings for the Humanities

Katherine S. Miles.

Our paper wrestles with issues of textual or non-textual representation of the other or 'subaltern': those whose fragmented voices often get reified and homogenized in the dominant culture of scientific and economic rationalisms. Specifically, we discuss the problematics and identity politics inherent in the representation of two different, yet similar, subaltern groups: domestic abuse victims currently in shelter and culturally and linguistically diverse undergraduate students in professional communication courses.

Our paper blends two qualitative studies that were guided by different, yet complementary, methodologies. We applied feminist and post-colonial theoretical lenses to two separate subaltern groups in two separate fieldsites: the workplace and the classroom. This methodological blending sought to address the observation that a fragmentation of the issues results in less power for both subaltern groups.

By defragmenting the subaltern, our paper speaks to Spivak’s interrogations of the postmodern crisis of representation and also allows us to move beyond the paralytic effects of this crisis. In essence, the practical value of our studies is twofold: it enables us to see how postcolonial and feminist theoretical concepts surface in specific fieldsites and it reveals the dialectic between the subaltern’s individual experiences and larger socio-political structures. In so doing, our paper mounts a case for the humanities by enriching our understanding of those subaltern experiences that have hitherto been silenced in the dominant culture of rationalisms.


Katherine S. Miles
Instructor of Advanced Writing
Oksana Hlyva Department of English

  • Postmodern Representation
  • Feminist Methodology
  • Post-Colonial Methodology

(Virtual Presentation, English)