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Professor Spivak on The Role of the Humanities in Building a Just World

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President Lee C. Bollinger and Provost Alan Brinkley host the University Lecture each semester to highlight leading Columbia faculty and their recent achievements. This semester's lecture honored Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and director of the Center for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia. Professor Spivak was recently named the newest University Professor, Columbia's highest faculty rank. In her lecture, “Thinking about the Humanities,” Professor Spivak spoke on the role of the humanities in globalizing the curriculum and the role of the humanities in building a just world.

Professor Spivak received her B.A. in English (Honors) from Presidency College, Calcutta, in 1959; her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University in 1967; and holds honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto and the University of London, as well as many additional honors. She has just been elected to the American Philosophical Society, established by Benjamin Franklin more than 250 years ago.

The focus of Spivak's work has concentrated on the use of education in the humanities as the best lasting weapon to combat imperialism. Her fields of academic inquiry include feminism, Marxism, deconstruction, and globalization.

Her influence has been felt in art and architecture, law and political science, and in curatorial practices around the globe and has been translated into many languages. A committed activist as well as a renowned scholar, Spivak contributes her time and efforts to the international women's movement, the struggle for ecological justice, and rural literacy in India.

Spivak's books, authored and translated, include: Myself Must I Remake (1974); Of Grammatology (translation with critical introduction of Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie, 1976); In Other Worlds (1987); Selected Subaltern Studies (ed., 1988); The Post-Colonial Critic (1990); Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality (1993); Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993); translations of Mahasweta Devi's Imaginary Maps (1994), Breast Stories (1997); Old Women (1999), and Chotti Munda and His Arrow (2002); The Spivak Reader (1995); A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999); Song for Kali: A Cycle (translation with introduction of Ramproshad Sen, 2000); and Death of a Discipline (2003). Other Asias, her new book of essays, is forthcoming in Fall 2007.

Published: June 13, 2007
Last modified: Jun 13, 2007