That which cannot be spoken


Movements of self-assertion by marginalised communities, through art, film, music or performance, often address the ‘tropes of unsayability’ (Gilroy 1993) produced in the context of exploitation by transforming relations of visibility / invisibility, sayability / unsayability, and by bringing what was hidden and despised to the realm of the sensible (Rancière 2004). This involves processes of re-symbolisation but also a crucial tension or relation between that which can and cannot be said, seen or heard; and between preservation and erasure. A key dilemma for movements of marginalised groups then is: how does one relate to the ‘injurious’ name, the name that marks us as criminals, as oppressed castes, as queers, as minority religions? Do we pick it up and instil pride in it, do we emphasise our otherness, or do we disavow the name, or indeed disavow difference itself? Do we embrace sanitised forms of address or hold on to, and reinvigorate our ‘states of injury’ as names of pride? In this lecture we will examine these questions comparatively, and with a focus on Dalit, Adivasi and DNT movements in India. 

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