Andrew Jackson and the modern subject

Is racism a necessary part of the modern gestalt? Yes, say Mignolo, Denise da Silva, and my friend Nicky, each in their own way, and now Greg Grandin.

Writing in the Nation, he argues that racism is at the center of American individualism: individual rights were defined by racial domination. Andrew Jackson is his key example. NOTE that Jackson defended “small government” along with slavery, saw them as going together.

Grandin: the individual rights people are so opposed to social rights that a history of the country could be written in terms of that tension; this explains why racism is such an intractable problem (since the individual rights people base these partly on race). The individual rights people have waged a total war to keep social rights at bay, and this has become a cultural identity (so losing any ground individual rights feels like getting killed).

Individual rights absolutism got entrenched in white political culture during the age of Jackson, Grandin says. (Is “freedom” actually code for white men enjoying impunity and getting stuff?) The Freedmen’s Bureau was a antidote to that, but note that in Europe, the response to 19th century wars and struggles was to actually get some form of welfare/health; note also that Montesquieu’s rights weren’t all property rights.


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De l’or

Very well. First, Robert Irwin 2001 on Anzaldúa — why had I not found this before? (Well, I had, but I had forgotten).

He implies exactly what I think: Chicano Studies is US-centric and needs a view from the South (if it is really going to help do Border Studies in a non colonizing way).

OK so: Mignolo (modernity/coloniality) also, with border gnosis, wants to bring what was suppressed by modernity into view [LIKE FERREIRA DA SILVA]. Note also prestige of knowledge: what is produced at a US R1 has more power than what is produced in the Frontera Norte, for example. The field of border studies needs this approach; Mexican perspectives need to be brought in.

Mignolo likes Anzaldúa, claiming she creates another locus of enunciation. BUT she and other US scholars actually perpetuate and reinforce barriers that prevent both dialogue with Mexican scholars and the study of Mexican texts that speak to border issues.

[Good phrasing by Irwin: Sommer’s *influential* reading of literary romance as national allegory (513).] And I am SO glad someone besides me sees how imprecise J. D. Saldívar’s work is. See p. 513 on his use of Sommer, though; does this indicate problems with him or with Sommer? BOTH: he’s writing out the Mexican and the Indian [more or less] and she makes a similar gesture.]

Interesting: Anzaldúa seems to resonate with transnational 3d world feminism in some ways but also at the same time it, and the scholarship on it, acts “colonizing” to Mexico (and I, because Anglo, was accused of colonizing for pointing this out, in blind peer review . . . but Irwin has gotten away with it, so now I can cite him).

There is interesting material on California in this article, and on Saldívar’s Border Matters. So much of Chicano Studies ignores or makes a distorted use of Mexican material, and does not listen to what Mexican writers and scholars say even if they are also from the borderlands.

Look up SOCORRO TABUENCA on Anzaldúa. She points out that A’s border cuture is narrated from the first world. Anzaldúa’s borderlands are the product of transculturation of central Mexican culture to the US: her indigenous references are Nahuatl and she cites Aztec myths; she quotes La raza cósmica and not Vasconcelos’ borderlands memoirs in Ulises criollo; this bias remains in American Studies.

ONE MUST SEE how much this piece has been cited and also how much Socorro Tabuenca is. (Anzaldúa wants to accomplish a “massive uprooting of dualistic thinking” and this is a laudable goal). [This is the article in which Irwin discusses J. Murrieta, by the way.]

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Encore des articles.

Now let’s talk about some more really old articles, in part to get them out of my files and in part because they are still relevant.

Telles, Edward E. and Nelson Lim. 1998. “Does it Matter Who Answers the Race Question? Racial Classification and Income Inequality in Brazil”. Demography 35(4). November, 465-474. [REALLY ONE SHOULD READ AND CITE MORE RECENT TELLES WORK, BUT THIS MAKES SOME POINTS WORTH NOTING, FOR ME.]

– self-reporting on racial identification is less significant than how others see someone [and thus judge, pay, otherwise act toward them].
– there is also racial ambiguity in the US despite historical ridigity of US racial system. People may identify as mixed or as a different race than the one they are classified as, and appearance may not coincide with ancestry (and the US classifies by ancestry).
– there is a lot of ambiguity in Brazil and this can be used to deny discrimination [“he’s not black, so I didn’t discriminate against him as black”].
– mulatto is not an intermediary stage in Brazil, pace Degler.
– however, it is true that “money whitens”.

Burdick, John. 1998. “The Lost Constituency of Brazil’s Black Movements” (pp. 136-155). Latin American Perspectives.

– already in 1998 people had stopped saying Brazil was a racial paradise and started to valorize negritude. This had been a progressive change over the past 20 years, and the progress would have not been imaginable in the 70s.
– there was still a long way to go, though, and the reason for it was in large part ideological: people had been told there was no racism so did not interpret racist actions and situations as such, and that included black people … although in Burdick’s sample, the people who considered themselves very dark were also those who were aware of prejudice against them, and called racist incidents what they were.
* Movimento Negro says all the intermediate categories were there to manipulate slaves, benefit whites [these are the ideas that were considered “US”, I note].
– [and there is more in the article, revealing about self-identification and its vicissitudes, ringing much truer than what Sansone says, for instance]

Skidmore, Thomas. 1964. Gilberto Freyre and the early Brazilian republic. (Why was I interested in this? We will see.)

– In the modernista era Brazil was asking itself whether misgenation had done it irreparable damage. This was because they believed their backwardness had to do with their blackness . . . they had miscegenated early on but this wasn’t acceptable in modernity. [Freyre himself had had these ideas, only being disabused of them by Boas]. They had always hidden their blackness, saying they were Portuguese and even more, French, but then with the suicidal course Europe took from 1914 forward they got Spenglerian.
– After Casa-grande e senzala Freyre published Sobrados e mucambos, which describes the breakdown of the rural patriarchal society from the late 18th century and the earlier 19th. The third volume, Ordem e progresso, covers 1890-1918 and Freyre considered this his most important book because of its source material (a survey with 1000 respondents). He is interested primarily in the consequences of abolition. Skidmore: “By 1920 the last act in the history of Brazil’s patriarchal society had been played out. It was this tragic climax which Freyre set out to describe in [this volume]. (496)
– The theme: Freyre feels the key to Brazilian social history is the rize and fall of what he calls the patriarchal society. In Casa-grande, on Brazil in the 16th-18th centuries, dominated by a rural aristocracy with slave labor, that worked. But from 1700 onward the economy began to shift southward from the sugar cane growing northeast. Sobrados e mucambos illustrates this problem: the distance from townhouse to shanty is much greater than from plantation house to slave quarters. In Ordem e progresso the focus on patriarchal society works even less well. It just isn’t true that the whole country works on the patriarchal society model he describes from the early NE.


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Czech koruna

There are 23 Czech koruna to the dollar and I have to know this since I have not been able to convince my computer I am not Czech. How it got this idea I am not sure.


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…finishing the post

Back to Da Silva and the modernity thesis. Of course Dussell has pointed out the colonialist tropes in Hegel, etc., with juicy quotations.

Greg McCarthy’s summary of Da Silva is better than mine, for its concision. Note that Da Silva can help with Anzaldúa too.

My thesis for paper #1 is that the evoke-and-elide movement in the 19th century novels is enacting or dramatizing the move Da Silva describes (the engulfment); there is no way out in the modern paradigm. Moving on to Anzaldúa: it is possible that she (and decoloniality generally) are trying to be the resistance to this, the path out of it. The question becomes how well does this theory or does Anzaldúa in particular do it.

We shall see.


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Very well (an unfinished post)

(According to Reeducation, your baseline should be that you are too unhappy to function and your goal should be to function minimally nonetheless, or attain feelings of happiness, just for the day. Before Reeducation I did not think a great deal about happiness, although I was happy most of the time. If your baseline is that you just don’t worry about these things, you are feeling how you are feeling, or perhaps you aren’t questioning yourself so you are comfortable, then you can just do things.)

So I am to: finish the da Silva paper and write a new da Silva abstract. Then write the Sommer paper. Then finish the Anzaldúa paper. Then, within the year, resubmit Pedro’s poems and prepare and submit the Moro — if that press ever has a reading period, that is; otherwise, it may become important to find another. Even White Pine.

Da Silva. Let us start warming back to this topic by reading on her in review essays. I’ve got so many notes of my own already, but we will start with Benito Cao and Greg McCarthy, just so that I will de-intimidate myself. Some reasons I am interested in Da Silva: it’s a global theory, it explains why hybridity theory is part of racism, it takes gender into account, and it addresses what I’ve called “evoke and elide.”

Cao also talks about Telles; note that Portocarrero says the same of mestizaje and racismo (which is why it is suprising to see Anzaldúa still talking about mestizaje as a solution to racism):

In essence, Telles unpacks the apparent paradox of the coexistence of racism andhybridity by revealing how racial inclusion (produced by hybridity) and racialexclusion (produced by racism) coexist and complement each other in Brazil. Indeed, hybridity is not antithetical to racism as popular belief and ‘common sense’ might suggest. Instead, hybridity is the way racism operates in Brazil. Hybridity is theBrazilian contribution to the ‘global idea of race’unearthed by the archaeological work of Denise Ferreira da Silva.

Cao on the chapter “Tropical Democracy”:

Da Silva offers a critical genealogy of the idea of race and of the emergence of European man as a deeply racial/ised subject. She reveals how European man came to see himself as the transcendental Subject of History, the carrier of the Spirit of Humanity, of (Universal) Reason, whilst seeing non-Europeans as the exterior and inferior Objects of History or peoples without history, to borrow from Eric Wolf (1982). This deeply racially inscribed subject, European man, used skin colour as the key to determine who could and could not be civilised, categorising and determining the fate of peoples encountered in the five centuries of exploration and imperial expansion across the globe. The result was often the (re)creation of a new political  formation, the nation-state, deeply inflected by racial discourses, as was the case of Brazil. The configuration of race was encrypted in Brazilian identity through miscegenation, namely the inter-mingling of Indians, Europeans, and Africans. However, as da Silva notes, the process (and representation) of miscegenation was driven primarily by the (sexual) desires of European man, projected onto the bodies (racially inscribed as red and black, respectively) of Indian and African women. Thus, the so-called racial democracy would be more aptly described as a racist (and patriarchal) hierarchy, with Luso-Brazilian men at the top and Afro-Brazilian women at the bottom. This is a seemingly straight-forward conclusion, but da Silva offers an insightful genealogical analysis of how that hierarchy was formulated and came to be seen as the natural state of (racial) affairs in Brazil. In particular, she provides a philosophical account of how gender and sexual desire were crucial in the formation and formulation of the myth of racial democracy. She examines statements deployed between the 1880s and the 1930s to show how miscegenation was formulated using ‘the logic of obliteration’, a logic designed to engulf and ultimately destroy the Other, producing the Brazilian national subject as a transparent ‘I’. Miscegenation was rewritten as ‘‘an eschatological signifier’’ that would result not in the ‘‘degeneration’’ of the European but in the obliteration of the Indian and the African from Brazilian bodies and minds’ (p. 238). Crucially, she notes how in this formulation of race and nation ‘the productive power, the‘‘inner force’’, belongs to the Portuguese because their ‘‘inclination’’ to sexual intimacy produces the slightly tanned Brazilian subject’ (p. 244). In essence, da Silva reveals the workings of miscegenation as ‘a process of productive violence’, a racialised and gendered process that produces a ‘slightly (tanned) transparent subject’: the Brazilian. This arguably genocidal violence that underpins the articulation of miscegenation in Brazil had been already exposed and denounced, notably by Abdias do Nascimento in O Genocídio do Negro Brasileiro (1978), but da Silva’s analysis is the first systematic and philosophical articulation of this argument available in English. Given the mystique of Brazilian hybridity (especially outside of Brazil), this chapter is a must read for anyone interested in matters of race in Brazil, and for anyone interested in the intricacies of miscegenation in the construction of national identities

In the meantime, MURPHY’s run-down is good and key is that da Silva is following Foucault, so perhaps what one may not like about Foucault is also in da Silva.

Re Anzaldúa: the proposal of hybridity as solution if you are familiar with the relationship between mestizaje and racism. To whom is Anzaldúa speaking, and where is she speaking from ? It is the US side of the border. She’s resisting the Anglophone monolith, she’s the difference within, THIS is the interesting key to her (cf. the conversation on Goethe’s Yiddish background, and so on). So: the minor voice, what goes against the grain . . .


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On Weltlitteratur and transnational literature

Transnational is a present but obscured, and often pirated quality of “World Literature:” i.e., Goethe tells us in Dichtung und Wahrheit that as a child, he got a tutor to teach him “Judendeutsch” (Yiddish) and that he composed in it for his seven-language epistolary novel he wrote then (it is not extant now, unfortunately). If there were ever a transnational language at that time, it was Yiddish (as described by Kafka in his Talk in the Yiddish Language, Feb. 1912, English translation available since 1952 or so in the collection Dearest Father). Goethe spoke a version of German related to Yiddish in Judengasse of Frankfurt where his uncle did business. Yet this affects readings of Goethe not at all–as if it never happened. His “richness” comes non-recognized and transnational linguistic sources. “Weltliteratur” begins at home.
Also: Deleuze and Guattari on “minor literatures,” taking the concept from Kafka’s “small literatures,” paradoxically emphasized the “major” or “world” (read powerful national) literatures–finding the “minor” (they called it polylingual) in them and obscuring the particularities of the trans-national: cross-border borrowings and influences.
On Kafka as formed by minor, trans-national Czech–an excellent new book that gets at the transnational in Kafka in other directions: Anne Jamison, Kafka’s Other Prague: Writings from the Czechoslovak Republic.
There is a text Goethe wrote in Yiddish–the literary etablishment finally accepted it–known as the “Judenpredigt.” All this info is in David’s Kafka book. Also: there is a passage in Beckett’s 1946 French text (one of his first) “Premier Amour,” where the narrator (in a graveyard, a very literary one, meeting a prostitute–where the narrator talks about taking notes in “six or seven languages, living and dead” that is a reference to this part of Goethe (G’s epistolary novel included Latin and Greek). “Erste Liebe” is the name of a Goethe poem. (I would like to make a list of references to this activity, taking notes in six or seven languages, living and dead).

And this is a good article. (What’s in a name?)


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