Signature Lecture Series
Gayatri Chakravorty was born in Calcutta, West Bengal, 24 February 1942 to "solidly metropolitan middle class" parents. She thus belonged to the "first generation of Indian intellectuals after independence," a more interesting perspective she claims, than that of the Midnight's Children, who were "born free by chronological accident" (Arteaga interview).
She did her undergraduate in English at the University of Calcutta (1959), graduating with first class honours. She borrowed money to go to the US in the early 1960's to do graduate work at Cornell, which she chose because she "knew the names of Harvard, Yale and Cornell, and thought half of them were too good for me. (I'm intellectually a very insecure person . . . to an extent I still feel that way)" (de Kock interview 33). She "fell into comparative literature" because it was the only department that offered her money (Ibid.).
Her translator's introduction to Derrida's Of Grammatology has been variously described as "setting a new standard for self-reflexivity in prefaces" (editor's introduction to The Spivak Reader) and "absolutely unreadable, its only virtue being that it makes Derrida that much more enjoyable."
Her subsequent work consists in post-structuralist literary criticism, deconstructivist readings of Marxism, Feminism and Postcolonialism (including work with the Subaltern Studies group and a critical reading of American cultural studies in Outside in the Teaching Machine ), and translations of the Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi. She is currently an Avalon Foundation professor at Columbia.