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Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Age, Husband, Family, Biography

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Age: 82 Years
Hometown: Calcutta
Marital Status: Divorced

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Bio/Wiki
Profession(s)• Scholar
• Literary Theorist
• Feminist Critic
Physical Stats & More
Height (approx.)5' 5" (165 cm)
Eye ColourBlack
Hair ColourGrey
Career
Awards and Honours• Padma Bhushan (2013)
• Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy (2012)
• Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities (1995)
Personal Life
Date of Birth24 February 1942 (Tuesday)
Age (as of 2024)82 Years
BirthplaceCalcutta, Bengal Province, British India
Zodiac signPisces
NationalityIndian
HometownCalcutta, Bengal Province, British India
SchoolSt. John's Diocesan Girls' Higher Secondary School, Kolkata
College/University• University of Calcutta
• Cornell University
• Girton College, Cambridge
Educational Qualification(s)• Bachelor of Arts from Presidency College, University of Calcutta (1959)
• Comparative Literature Studies from Cornell University, U.S. (1961)
• Masters in English (1962)
• Ph.D. from Girton College, Cambridge (1967)
ReligionAtheist [1]Dawn
CasteBrahmin [2]The New York Times
Food HabitNon-vegetarian [3]History for Peace
Relationships & More
Marital StatusDivorced
Affairs/Boyfriends• Talbot Spivak ​(educationalist)
• Basudev Chatterji (historian)
Family
Husband/Spouse(s)First marriage: Talbot Spivak ​(educationalist) (m. 1964⁠ - div. ⁠1977)​
Talbot Spivak
Second Marriage: Basudev Chatterji (historian) (div. 1992; died in 2017)
Basudev Chatterji
ChildrenShe has no children.
ParentsFather- Pares Chandra (doctor)
Mother- Sivani Chakravorty
SiblingsSister- Maitreyi Chandra

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Some Lesser Known Facts About Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

  • Gayatri Chakravorty was born in Boro Mama Pratul Majumdar’s house at 6 Ironside Road now called Jnan Majumdar Sarani in Kolkata.
  • In her school days, she studied science and aimed to pursue Physics honours. She was not good at maths.
  • As a teenager, Gayatri Chakravorty was fond of dancing, but she left because the instructor hit her with a tabla hammer. She is a trained singer.
  • Her first degree was in music.
  • In 1959, after completing her graduation, Gayatri Chakravorty got a job as an English professor. She worked for forty hours a week.
  • During her postgraduation, her thesis was about the representation of innocence in Wordsworth. M.H. Abrams was her guide in research work.
  • In 1961, her graduate program in English at Cornell University in the U.S. was funded by a loan.
  • In 1961, Binoy Majumdar dedicated a book of love poems titled ‘Phire Esho, Chaka’ to her. Her name appears in the lyrics of Le Tigre’s song ‘Hot Topic.’

    The cover of the book 'Phire Esho, Chaka'

    The cover of the book ‘Phire Esho, Chaka’

  • In 1962, she was transferred to a new program called Comparative Literature when she could not get financial aid from the English department.
  • While studying comparative literature, her dissertation was titled ‘Myself Must I Remake: The Life and Poetry of W.B. Yeats,’ and her guide was Paul de Man.
  • In 1963-1964, she attended Girton College in Cambridge, where she was a research student under Professor T.R. Henn. In her research work, she wrote about the stages of development of the lyric subject in Yeats’ poetry.
  • She taught a course on ‘Yeats and the Theme of Death’ at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland, during the summer of 1963.
  • In 1965, Spivak began working as an assistant professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. She got permanent in 1970.
  • After that, she did not publish her doctoral dissertation and decided to write a book on Yeats so that her undergraduate students could easily understand the ideology of Yeats.
  • In 1967, Spivak bought a book called ‘De la Grammatologie’ and decided to translate it. She wrote a long translator’s preface for the book.
  • This translation was a success, and her preface became widely used as an introduction to deconstruction. Deconstruction was the philosophy of the ‘De la Grammatologie’s author, Jacques Derrida, whom Spivak met in 1971.
  • In 1974, at the University of Iowa, Spivak founded the MFA in Translation in the Comparative Literature department.
  • In 1974, she released her first book for young adults, “Myself I Must Remake: The Life and Poetry of W.B. Yeats.”

    The cover of the book Myself I Must Remake The Life and Poetry of W.B. Yeats

    The cover of the book Myself I Must Remake The Life and Poetry of W.B. Yeats

  • In 1975, she became the Director of the Program in Comparative Literature and was promoted to full professor.
  • After her divorce from her first husband in 1977, while teaching at the University of Iowa, she began a relationship with one of her students, who was nine years younger. The relationship lasted for ten years, and she once claimed this relationship as “a second marriage,” although it was not legally binding.

    An old picture of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

    An old picture of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

  • In 1978, she was appointed as a National Humanities Professor at the University of Chicago and received many visiting professorships and fellowships.
  • In 1978, she joined the University of Texas at Austin as a professor of English and Comparative Literature.
  • In the early 1980s, Spivak was recognized as a co-founder of postcolonial theory. However, she did not completely accept this label.
  • In 1982, Spivak began working as a Longstreet Professor in English and Comparative Literature at Emory University.
  • In 1986, she was appointed as the first Mellon Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, where she established the Cultural Studies program.
  • Since 1986, Spivak has been teaching and training adults and children among the landless illiterates on the border of West Bengal, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
  • Her work in rural education has helped her to understand the effects of the caste system and the limitations of the ‘high’ theory in global contexts.
  • In 1987, she revisited the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, Ireland, to discuss Yeats’ position in post-coloniality.
  • Spivak is recognized for feminizing and globalizing deconstruction philosophy. She mainly focuses on the subaltern, a term used by Antonio Gramsci to describe marginalized groups lacking citizenship rights.
  • Spivak’s essay ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ (1988) made her a well-known feminist thinker who considers history, geography, and class when studying women’s issues.
  • In the essay, she examines the Sati practice and questions whether the subaltern can truly have a voice.
  • Her work aims to access the subjectivity of marginalized individuals.
  • In 1991, she joined Columbia University as the Avalon Foundation Professor in Humanities.
  • In 1997, her friend Lore Metzger left her $10,000 in her will to support rural education.
  • With this money, Spivak established the Pares Chandra and Sivani Chakravorty Memorial Foundation for Rural Education and donated most of her Kyoto Prize to it.
  • In 1997, she received a translation prize from the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Literature.
  • Spivak gained popularity with her translation of ‘De la Grammatologie,’ which included a highly appreciated introduction.

    The cover of the book Jacques Derrida of Grammatology

    The cover of the book Jacques Derrida of Grammatology

  • She is a member of the ‘Subaltern Studies Collective,’ where she works on historical studies and literary critiques on imperialism and international feminism.
  • Spivak describes herself as a “practical Marxist-feminist-deconstructionist.”
  • Her main ethical and political focus has been on the subaltern, mainly subaltern women, in both discursive lectures and Western institutions.
  • Edward Said once praised her work and stated that she pioneered the study of non-Western women in literary theory and produced readable versions of their roles.
  • Her 1999 book ‘A Critique of Postcolonial Reason’ examines how major European philosophers like Kant and Hegel exclude non-Europeans from being seen as fully human subjects.

    The cover of the book 'A Critique of Postcolonial Reason'

    The cover of the book ‘A Critique of Postcolonial Reason’

  • In this book, Spivak introduced the concept of ‘sanctioned ignorance,’ which refers to the planned silencing and dismissal of certain contexts to support colonialist structures.
  • She introduced the term ‘strategic essentialism,’ which describes temporary solidarity among diverse groups to achieve social action.
  • Since 2002, Spivak has discussed terrorism and suicide bombings on various occasions. She aims to understand and end these acts. She believes that the idea that suicide bombings are a desperate form of communication when no other means are available.
  • Once, a critic claimed that her language hid important moral issues related to terrorism.
  • In addition to Derrida, Spivak has translated works of Bengali author Mahasweta Devi, 18th-century Bengali poet Ramprasad Sen, and ‘A Season in the Congo’ by Aimé Césaire from Martinique.

    The cover of the translated book 'A Season in the Congo' by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

    The cover of the translated book ‘A Season in the Congo’ by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

  • Spivak has been a Guggenheim fellow.
  • She was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2007.
  • In 2007, she was appointed as a Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
  • She has served on the editorial boards of various academic journals including Boundary 2, Janus Unbound, differences, Signs, Interventions, and Diaspora.
  • Spivak has received 11 honorary doctorates from universities such as the University of Toronto, University of London, Oberlin College, Universitat Rovira Virgili, Rabindra Bharati University, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, University of St Andrews, Université de Vincennes à Saint-Denis, Presidency University, Yale University, and the University of Ghana-Legon.
  • In 2012, she became the only Indian recipient of the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.
  • Spivak has advised many notable post-colonial scholars including Jenny Sharpe and Mark Sanders.
  • In May 2018, Spivak joined other academics in signing a letter to New York University in support of Avital Ronell, who was accused of sexual abuse by a graduate student.
  • In 2021, she was elected as a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s May 2024 lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) attracted discussion when a video surfaced showing a conversation between Spivak and an audience member. In the video, Spivak repeatedly corrected the audience member’s pronunciation of WEB Du Bois’ name during the interaction.
  • She likes smoking cigarettes occasionally.

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak while smoking a cigarette (1982)

    Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak while smoking a cigarette (1982)

  • For talks and lectures, she usually wears a sari paired with combat boots in the United States. In India, she often opts for jeans.
  • She once stated that during her period in the US, she experienced sexual harassment from some professors.

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