Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

Philosopher working to decentre power structures

As calls to decolonise the artworld have grown louder, so the postcolonial thinker’s influence has increased. The only Indian winner of the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy has devoted her career to the principles and practicalities of decentring power and giving voice to marginal populations, specifically those of the Global South. Nor is she shy of putting theory into practice, with a recent lecture at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow taking Rasheed Araeen’s work as a starting point for how thinkers can ‘supplement’ (a key word in Spivak’s work) explicitly activist art. Spivak might not be so regularly quoted in press releases as other contemporary philosophers with one foot in the artworld – her writing does not generally lend itself to soundbites – but there are few whose influence is so pervasive. At a time when artists are protesting, and institutions are reappraising, the narratives that have framed racist and colonialist histories of art, Spivak’s writing is there to assist them.