Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dialogue, marginalization and possibilities of communication

Mahuya and I just heard today that our piece "Dialog theory in marginalized settings: A Subaltern Studies approach" has just been published as the lead article in Communication Theory. This is a piece that took a great deal of love, care, commitment and honestly, work. We started working on this in 2007, three years ago, and the piece went through many iterations to get to its current form in Communication Theory. As the piece evolved, it also tracked our trajectory as writers/thinkers/collaborators. As we grappled with the piece, we wondered: what really are the possibilities of participating in dialogues with the subaltern sectors, especially when the discourses of possibility, participation, empowerment, and democracy are so often co-opted into the neoliberal framework. The one thing that amazes me the most these days is the gross appeal of terms such as participation and democracy, which have simply become ways for co-opting the subaltern into the profit making agendas of transnational capital. Business schools and management programs are now starting to pick up the languages of Critical Theory, Subaltern Studies, and radical politics to redefine themselves in the contemporary academic scenario for the goals of profiteering. I am amazed to hear the language of transparency enter into the discourses of the business world. It is precisely in this backdrop that dialogues in subalternity offer entry points for disrupting transnational hegemony. It is also at these very entry points that the discourses of subalterns are continuously co-opted to serve the agendas of transnational capitalism. It is this fine line between emancipatory agendas and co-optation that any attempt at dialogue with subalternity has to work through, continually working through the politics of co-optation as it imagines a politics of structural transformation.

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