Subalterns Between Paternalism and Rights
The notion of subalternity, that Subaltern Studies have taken from Gramsci to apply to certain aspects of the post-colonial condition, raises a number of questions. The subaltern is – according to the definition of Spivak – a person who «wants against its own interests». It is unclear, however, whether it is really possible to distinguish between «subjective» wiliness and «objective» interests or needs. Even assuming that it is possible, under certain conditions, we can ask whether paternalistic interventions are justified. Can (and should) the State intervene to protect subalterns from their own self-destructive desires? In the essay this question is addressed starting from the analysis of two laws passed in France in the last decade, which have both been justified, at least in part, by the argument of the paternalistic protection of «subaltern» women. The former law prohibits public school students from wearing religious symbols in the classroom; the second prohibits the use of the full veil in public places. In both cases, one may wonder if the declared intention of promoting the empowerment of women is in fact contradicted by similar measures.
Keywords: paternalism, subalterns, rights, islamic veil
Parole chiave: paternalismo, subalterni, diritti, velo islamico