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Concept of subaltern

The term ‘subaltern’ is not a very old term. it is rather a comparatively modern term which means socially, politically, and geographically marginalized people. The term ‘subaltern’ is used in postcolonial theory. The exact meaning of the term in current philosophical and critical usage is disputed. Some thinkers use it in a general sense to refer to marginalized groups and the lower classes - a person rendered without agency by his or her social status, Others, such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak use it in a more specific sense. For them, the term commonly refers to persons who are socially, politically, and geographically outside of the hegemonic power structure. In Kaiser Haq‘s poem “Ode on the Lungi” the poet presents the lungi as a symbol for the subalterns. Lungi as a dress is commonly viewed with contempt by the inhabitants of the posh world. They also look down upon the lungi users. But for the poet, the lungi is the metaphorical spokesman for the marginalized people throughout the world  “Raised and flapped amidst laughter / it’s the subaltern speaking”. In the flapping sounds of lungis the poet hears the voice of the marginalized people.

concept of subaltern


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