The Loud and Silent Voices

For Michel Foucault, those in position of power dominate the production of knowledge; they determine epistemological position. For Edward Said, the discourse in the West on the East has been determined by the West’s position of power over the East. The Subaltern Studies group completed the work of Said and reclaimed their history. They wanted to retake history for the underclasses; the voices of those who had never been heard before, such as peasants, women workers and what Said calls the “other”, but not the elites and the Eurocentric bias of current colonial and imperial history. In the same respect, Said claimed that “every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was. . . a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” Ergo, the argument about discourse, power, and knowledge as outlined in Michel Foucault’s work was adopted by Edward Said in his seminal Orientalism. The Subaltern studies group attempts to do work that Said identifies as needed: the retrieval of history lost in hegemonic violence.  In this essay, I will discuss the narration of history through Michael Foucault’s lens. Then, I will analyze how Said was influenced by Foucault’s arguments on the relationship between power and knowledge and the concept of discourse. Finally, I will explore how Subaltern Studies group would provide a different narration of history that voices their perspective regarding major historical events—a perspective that has been previously ignored by those in power.