14-perreault 4/9/01 3:17 PM Page 152 CHAIN GANG NARRATIVES AND THE POLITICS OF “SPEAKING FOR” JEANNE PERREAULT who was in charge of definitions and who stood by receiving them when the name of compassion was changed to the name of guilt when to feel with a human stranger was declared obsolete. —Adrienne Rich, “And Now” The problem of “speaking for” has become a problem since the spoken for have begun, publicly, to examine the unconscious or unspoken assumptions of superior knowledge, insight, and solutions of well-meaning speakers for. The assumption of the speakers for is that the oppressed have no voice, and thus intervention is required. This belief is a kind of tautology: to be oppressed is to have no voice / to have no voice is to be oppressed. The fig- uring of oppressed peoples as without voice is no longer accurate, however, if it ever was. We understand, as Canadian Métis writer Emma LaRocque says, that the issue is not of speaking, but of being heard (xv). Some of the earliest challenges to speaking for came from African American feminists like Audre Lorde and bell hooks in the 1970s and 1980s. They raised an impas- sioned double
Biography – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Feb 1, 2001
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