“Planetarity” Summary


Indian scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak describes her views on a new comparative literature in “Planetarity,” a chapter from the short novella “Death of a Discipline.” Spivak illustrates her beliefs on the importance of reading, clearly citing that, “anyone who believes that a literary education should still be sponsored by universities must allow that one must be able to read” (71-72). This concept, which may seem quite obvious, undermines the idea that people must be able to act independently. This translates into something much greater than simply being able to read, but rather the power individuals have in being able to act independently. Spivak outlines the globe to be “our own computers,” this means that “it allows us to think that we can control it” (72). The concept of “planetarity”  circulates around the idea that globalization is driven by capitalist demands for resource extraction and profit. This ignores the earth; the living space that we inhibit. Spivak attempts to recreate an image of ourselves and of our lives that will allow us to overwrite the globe.

With regards to globalization, Spivak understands that there is a long history spiraling around the topic. Globalization touches upon colonialism, colonialism and postcolonialism. It is truly an abstract concept to grasp your hands around. The planet, on the other hand, is concrete and ecological. If humans wish to share it with the rest of the world as one cohesive entity, alongside other species, then we need to imagine it not as a place to put our capitalist markets. However, this must also be a place where we can keep our mind and our soul in a safe haven. This is the concept of “planetarity”.

In Spivak’s efforts to recreate comparative literature, she observes that “cultural studies is heavily invested in New Immigrant groups” (84). She seeks to move away from this base and touch upon older minority groups such as African, Asian and Hispanic. Ultimately, Spivak sees the necessity to highlight the postcolonial era as imperative for the new comparative literature she writes about creating.

The idea of a new comparative literature is one that has been pondered and contemplated for decades now, however few have attempted to prescribe a method of actually writing for a new comparative literature. Spivak does so in “Planetarity” in efforts to trump “an era of global capital triumphant” (101).



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