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August 14, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Answering the “Speaking for Others” Critique by Alcoff

Here is an answer from a thread on Cross-x:

Depends on the aff, largely

But a few common answers are
a. Identity is fluid
b. Perfcon
c. Speaking with others
d. You recognized your priveldge and are using it as a starting point to speak out
E. Someone has to speak for the oppressed or who will? Case = Da

Here are two cards also mentioned:
And, by staying silent, slavery stays invisible and that invisibility is the root cause of slavery. We have to speak out because those trapped in slavery cannot.
Shahinian, 4/26/13 – Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, United Nations (Gulnara, April 26, 2013, “Slavery must be recognised in all its guises,” The Guardian,….ised-all-guises, Hensel)
¶ Five years ago, I became the UN’s first special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. Since then, I have been asked time and again by government officials, businesspeople and NGOs not to use the word “slavery” at all. I have been asked to change the name of my mandate and not speak out about what I have seen. They have asked me to use other words instead – ones that don’t carry the same meanings or implications.¶ ¶ Yet what other word describes people who have been beaten mercilessly, shut indoors, made to work without pay, sexually abused, poorly fed and threatened with more abuse against themselves and their family if they attempt to leave? This is not just violence or exploitation. What describes the situation in which a mother has no right over her child, or a father is forced to put down his own life – and those of his family – as collateral, working for nothing to try to repay a debt that will never go away? These are the forms of slavery that exist today.¶ ¶ Millions of people live in some form of enslavement. The exact numbers are impossible to calculate. Modern slavery is one of the most powerful criminal industries (pdf), and it is because of our collective silence and refusal to acknowledge its existence that it thrives and transforms itself into new forms year after year. By not speaking out, we are helping to perpetuate an industry that strips millions of their humanity and rights.¶ ¶ Slavery did not end when it was legally abolished. Instead, it is flourishing, extending its tentacles into every corner of the planet.¶ ¶ This is something that touches all our lives. It is almost impossible not to be complicit. How many of us ask ourselves who makes biofuels, jewellery, vegetables, fruit, clothes, shoes and even carpets? We all enjoy the cheap fruits of enslavement, while telling ourselves that exploitation happens “over there” and is nothing to do with our own country or community.¶ ¶ Sex trafficking is finally starting to receive visibility as the horrendous human rights abuse it is. Yet more widespread forms of slavery and trafficking continue to go unreported and ignored.¶ ¶ I have spent the past five years talking to people in forced labour, domestic servitude, bonded labour, servile marriages and child slavery. These forms of slavery remain invisible, since people are silenced by discrimination, fear of retaliation and lack of awareness. These modern forms of human slavery and criminal acts are often excused as tradition, culture, religion or poverty, or dismissed as nothing more than bad labour practices.¶ ¶ The slavery industry relies on the invisibility of those it preys on. Those trapped are not visibly shackled, but they do live their lives under the control of others.¶ ¶ For the world to tackle slavery effectively, we need to recognise this industry in people in all of its manifestations. Human rights are equal and inalienable. I have met organisations working on ending forced marriage, or on the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers and children, who feel they are unable to call these abuses slavery as the word is too loaded and they would put their work at risk. This must stop. Slavery is slavery, no matter what form it takes.¶ ¶ We must face up to all forms of slavery or inadvertently ignore the plight of millions. One type of slavery, such as sex trafficking, cannot be considered more worth fighting for than another. We have a collective responsibility to end this pernicious and persistent problem.¶ ¶ All countries must ensure that they have national legislation prohibiting and criminalising all forms of slavery, and this legislation must be properly enforced. The failure of justice systems to put anti-slavery laws into action is one of the props the slavery industry relies upon. This needs to change.¶ ¶ To combat slavery, we need to speak for people who have been silenced by this most brutal of trades. We must stop being complacent, and find the courage to hold individuals, companies and governments accountable. Complacency is no longer an option.

(The formatting is nice in the word document, just doesn’t copy well)

Look for evidence like this, that’s very contextual to the issue at hand about why one must speak for those populations.

Alcoff concludes Aff – Speaking for the other is key to activism
Alcoff 91, Hunter College and CUNY philosophy professor, 1991 (Linda Martin, “The Problem of Speaking for Others” originally published in Cultural Critique, No. 20, Winter, 1991-1992 , cut from
*gender modified

The major problem with such a retreat is that it significantly undercuts the possibility of political effectivity. There are numerous examples of the practice of speaking for others which have been politically efficacious in advancing the needs of those spoken for, from Rigoberta Menchu to Edward Said and Steven Biko. Menchu’s efforts to speak for the 33 Indian communities facing genocide in Guatemala have helped to raise money for the revolution and bring pressure against the Guatemalan and U.S. governments who have committed the massacres in collusion. The point is not that for some speakers the danger of speaking for others does not arise, but that in some cases certain political effects can be garnered in no other way. Joyce Trebilcot’s version of the retreat response, which I mentioned at the outset of this essay, raises other issues. She agrees that an absolute prohibition of speaking for would undermine political effectiveness, and therefore says that she will avoid speaking for others only within her lesbian feminist community. So it might be argued that the retreat from speaking for others can be maintained without sacrificing political effectivity if it is restricted to particular discursive spaces. Why might one advocate such a partial retreat? Given that interpretations and meanings are discursive constructions made by embodied speakers, Trebilcot worries that attempting to persuade or speak for another will cut off that person’s ability or willingness to engage in the constructive act of developing meaning. Since no embodied speaker can produce more than a partial account, and since the process of producing meaning is necessarily collective, everyone’s account within a specified community needs to be encouraged. I agree with a great deal of Trebilcot’s argument. I certainly agree that in some instances speaking for others constitutes a violence and should be stopped. But Trebilcot’s position, as well as a more general retreat position, presumes an ontological configuration of the discursive context that simply does not obtain. In particular, it assumes that one can retreat into one’s discrete location and make claims entirely and singularly within that location that do not range over others, and therefore that one can disentangle oneself from the implicating networks between one’s discursive practices and others’ locations, situations, and practices. In other words, the claim that I can speak only for myself assumes the autonomous conception of the self in Classical Liberal theory–that I am unconnected to others in my authentic self or that I can achieve an autonomy from others given certain conditions. But there is no neutral place to stand free and clear in which one’s words do not prescriptively affect or mediate the experience of others, nor is there a way to demarcate decisively a boundary between one’s location and all others. Even a complete retreat from speech is of course not neutral since it allows the continued dominance of current discourses and acts by omission to reenforce their dominance.

** It also might be smart to use disaster images (if you have more time)

** Someone in the thread mentioned Kleinman as an author, I would also chase down his/her work

You can find other answers to this critique here and here.


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