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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Cultural scholar tackles borders

When Mexican cultural historian Carlos Monsiváis and Columbia University professor Gayatri Spivak parted ways in the summer of 2006 at a conference in Philadelphia, the two planned to meet again to lecture together. That meeting never happened. Monsiváis, whom the UA gave an honorary doctorate, died in the summer of 2010.

On Thursday, Spivak spoke to a packed auditorium in his honor. Her lecture was part of a lecture series to commemorate Monsiváis. The UA’s Confluence: Center for Creative Inquiry sponsored the series with the help of the department of Spanish and Portuguese and the College of Humanities.

“The idea was that Monsiváis and Spivak were going to meet again in Tucson,” said Javier Durán, director of the Confluence: Center for Creative Inquiry. “But unfortunately that could not happen. That is why she is here today, to help give honor and her perspective.”

Spivak, a literary critic and theorist, didn’t just want to offer her perspective during her lecture, called “A Borderless World?” She also wanted to gain some knowledge of her own.

“I have come here to learn,” Spivak said during her lecture when talking about border and cultural issues. “I accepted the invitation because the situation in Arizona is as such that really everyone in the United States have to learn this in detail what is going on.”

During the lecture she talked about a variety of topics, including globalization, capital and the influence of different cultures nationally.

“When people feel they are in a culture, they feel that it is human nature, that is the thing,” Spivak said in regards to cultural movements. “It’s not like anthropologist where you study culture. It’s good you should study culture, but when you begin to study culture it is somewhere else running.”

Spivak also commented on her experiences as a professor at Columbia University and her identity as an Indian woman.

“I was told during a costume party someone dressed as Gayatri Spivak,” Spivak said. “When asked how the person dressed, they said combat boots, a sari.”

Biochemistry freshman Ashley Arnold said she attended the lecture as part of a class on Mexican-American studies and found it interesting that a majority of what was being discussed in her class was applied in the lecture.

“Right now we are studying borderlands and I came here to get an opinion on the issue,” Arnold said. “It’s interesting learning in this way.”

There will be a seminar today at noon to continue the points brought up in Spivak’s lecture in the Agave Room of the Student Union Memorial Center. Durán anticipates a large turnout and encourages attendees to arrive early.

Monsiváis was an intellectual in Mexican studies. The UA awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2006. The UA was the only university in the nation to give him such an honor and, as a result, he had a good relationship with Tucson and the UA, Durán said.

“I am deeply honored to be asked to speak in the name of Carlos Monsiváis,” Spivak said during her lecture. “He, like me, spoke from both sides of the borders.”

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