Living in smooth space: Deleuze, postcolonialism and the subaltern

Andrew Robinson*, Simon Tormey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

16 Citations (Scopus)


Any attempt to situate Deleuze in relation to the postcolonial, and in particular to postcolonial theory, will inevitably involve a reckoning with Gayatri Spivak's well-known critique of Deleuze (and Foucault) in ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ (1988). Spivak is, of course, an exemplary figure as far as the development of postcolonial theory is concerned. Her brutal dissection of the interview between Deleuze and Foucault, ‘The Intellectuals and Power’, remains an emblematic encounter between the claims of a certain wing of ‘French theory’ – particularly the Nietzschean inflected variant of it – and a nascent postcolonial critique which Spivak has been so instrumental in establishing. Here, famously, Spivak demolishes the pretensions of Deleuze and Foucault to offer an escape from the universalising ambitions of post-Enlightenment thought, demonstrating how their admonition to give up representing the oppressed ends up enacting the very same logic of subordination to the Western ‘global-local’ they claimed to confront in their own work. Deleuze and Foucault are revealed as post-Kantian avatars preparing to subordinate otherness to the claims of cosmopolitical reasoning, and the subaltern periphery to the globalising empire of liberal-capitalism. Spivak has not to our knowledge disavowed her analysis of Deleuze, which implies that the latter's work and approach remains in some important sense a valid subject of the critiques she develops in the piece; that what Deleuze offers is ‘Eurocentric’, teleological, totalising and so forth. It is clear that unless the claims advanced by Spivak are examined on their own terms, there will continue to be a significant barrier to the reception of Deleuze – and indeed Deleuze and Guattari – as ‘postcolonial’ thinkers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeleuze and the Postcolonial
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9780748637010
ISBN (Print)9780748636990
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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