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Spivak, G.C. (1994). Examples to Fit the Title. Am. Imago, 51(2):161-196.

(1994). American Imago, 51(2):161-196

Examples to Fit the Title1

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

I am very well aware that in dealing so autocratically and arbitrarily with [psychoanalytic] tradition—bringing it up to confirm my views when it suits me and unhesitatingly rejecting it when it contradicts me—I am exposing myself to serious methodological criticism and weakening the convincing force of my arguments. But this is the only way in which one can treat material of which one knows definitely that its trustworthiness has been severely impaired by the distorting influence of tendentious purposes.

Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism

I begin again with explanations and complaints.

Explanations and complaints are exactly not promises and excuses, which are structural performatives, whose uttering is their performance. In a certain sense a promise can never quite be kept or broken (although this does not concern the performance of the promise, its utterance), even as, mutatis mutandis, an excuse can never quite be false or true. Explanations and complaints inevitably arise in the rifts and fault lines of this structural (non) necessity of and in promises and excuses. They invoke a future present, and they invariably evoke a past present in order to dissimulate the fact that a performative is structurally (though not necessarily “in fact”) free of the burden of the future.

The performative, dependent as it is upon social convention, has something like a relationship with the explaints and complanations—absolution by accusing knowledge—that a “multicultural subject” (!) is obliged to utter on the occasion of psychoanalysis as ethico-cultural practice. And the compulsion to offer ethno-cultural complanations or explaints is produced both by the demand for them as well as the absence of such demands in different ways.


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