In her famous essay "Can the Subaltern speak?", Spivak indicates that the representaion of the third-world in Western discourse has several latent principles. And in more radical tone, Spivak announces that some Western intellectual production complicit with Western international economic interests. Therefore, she wants to provide an alternative representative way that different from Western discourse, and try to speak for the subaltern woman. That is her main topic.
Before she open up her main topic. Spivak spends many page to explain that why she choice Marx and Derrida's theory but not Deleuze and Foucault. I am not familiar to French philosophy, so in fact, I can not catch lucidly of her argument. All I know is that she choice Derrida's theory as a base for her own. And also, she doesn't agree to Foucault and Deleuze that these two philosophers claimed that "the oppressed, if given the chance, can speak and know their conditions." In other words, Spivak believes that the oppressed can never has a chance to comprehense the condition they are, because there are something impede them to have chance, which Spivak calls "epistemic violence."
The epistemic violence is a concept that hard to catch if one who are familiar to Foucault and Deleuze. But I think the word means something that can causes a violation results to somepeople, or creates inequity in intellectual level. Therefore, even thought that many disciplines turn their eyes to the third- world, especially those subaltern classes and poverty. Spivak claims that though it is a good phenmomenon, but the latent episteme viloence will cause such disciplines' research cause subaltern woman as mute as ever.
Since, I am weak in current Western philosophy and also poor in my English writing, so let's go straight to her case study-- the self- immolation of widow in someplace India. In this case, Spivak is not "introduce" or "explain" a extoic custom to Western society, but uses this as a case to present that subalter-- the widow women. No matter in the modernity discourse, or the post- colonial discourse can not have their own voice. On the modernity side, the prohibition of the immolation had been represented as "white men save brown women from brwon women", in another side, the post-colonial discourse represents such custom as "The women wanted to die."
Spivak indicates that both rehetoric do not provide any space for those widow. We can not find out their real thought from the document or the discourse. Those widow, deprived of their voice by scholar, become subject of discourse. And can be distorted by these opposing sides.
Spivak beleives that those "untold" are those most important things. And in my viewpoint, Spivak want to find out a kind of voice that is pristine, pure and undistorted by any discourse. The vocie must be straight from subaltern women. In other words, that is a representative problem for her. how to nuturalize intellectual represent of subaltern is her main point, but I just wonder that what is different between what she disdain and whate she do? If we all agree that purily objectivity is a chimera when we need to do any representation?