More from that notebook

1/ Lott: hairsplitting accounting for differences is not interesting if these differences are not politically charged. Hollinger: racial mixture will fix racism! He replicates Myrdal’s liberalism: US is democratic but flawed, can be fixed, have progress. Guimarães: racial democracy is an incomplete project. Me: postethnic projects substitute normative mestizaje for the earlier normative whiteness. Hollinger wants blackness to be transcended — but AA culture is FUNDAMENTAL to US, not marginal, not something to rub out.

2/ Reconceptualizing ethnicity is pointless if you are not talking also about power and privilege; Hollinger repeats the error of multiculturalism by ignoring the question of class. The “apolitics of complexity” is an avoidance strategy! Michaels’ book OUR AMERICA says that to discuss racism is to perpetuate it, and Hollinger innocently thinks we should think about cultural and not racial identity (he is so reinventing so many wheels, his lack of historical knowledge is amazing).

3/ José Carlos Luciano has a 2002 book on Afro-Peruvians. It says the trauma of slavery has not been broken, and continues to be reproduced. There is a writer Valdés, who was also a doctor and a member of cabildo of Lima; had to make a special petition to the King to be allowed to study and graduate; discussed by Menéndez y Pelayo, José de la Riva Agüero, L. A. Sánchez, and also Cornejo Polar and González Vigil. His religious poetry is praised and his work on patriotism and the nation is not discussed as much; see his 1848 novel El padre Horán, Gothic, anti-clerical, and with implied incest in it. Mbare N’gom 2004 has written on him and says his 1818 Poesías espirituales were one of the first afrodescendiente texts. [I HAVE TO CHECK ALL OF THESE FACTS – my notes are hard to read.]

4/ My paper then: ethnic movements provide critiques of standard “American” values. The critique of the dominant modernity proposed in Ariel and Nuestra América is continued in Freyre and Vasconcelos; liberal US multiculturalism (and some civil rights discourse) make similar gestures and have similar errors and blind spots. Racism is constitutive of identity from the 16th century on … race in America is assigned to phenotypes … cf. Las Casas, Sepúlveda; at the same time Spanish and Portuguese became racial identies; race was invented to legitimate colonization. With the decisions made after the rebellion of Túpac Amaru racism gets worse; institutions punish race but also reward correct racial behavior. MATALINARES said it was a bad idea to have a republic of Spaniards and one of Indians; it was unstable; a single nation was needed to prevent a constant civil war.

5/ With Independence, and the Cortes de Cádiz, the castas did NOT get suffrage; the idea of nation and patria change. Different groups, also, imagine the nation differently and mean different things when they invoke it. Mariano Melgar: “unión y mande el digno,” says the “gato manchado (indio/mestizo). Cecilia Méndez: “Incas sí, indios no.”

6/ Holguín: La posguerra del Pacífico: before, the Indian was good but oppressed and weak; afterward, he was considered a patriot and a good soldier. There were 2M Indians at this point. G. Prada discusses this change in perception in “Nuestros Indios.” Palma has a famous letter about how Indians were cowards. Clorinda? or López Albújar has a poem about an Indian licenciado and veteran distressed to see the ruins of his house after the Chilean victory. All of this is part of the progressive incorpration of the Indian.

7/ Doris Lessing, The grass is singing. Whiteness means LEARNING how to perceive races in the “right” way and act accordingly. And has to be protected by separation. (In Lat. Am., as we know, it’s whites-and-mestizos.) PATRICIA FOX says separating race and culture is a bad thing: it is done to transfer cultural capital upward, i.e. to white people. (NOTE that this is how Cajunization works!)

8/ Back to Sansone. Robin Sheriff’s review was the only one I read that says anything critical — she says his is a “familiar and conservative” voice. He defines ethnicity as a militant investment in identity politics and is terrified of that. (I had more notes here, on different implications of “culturalizing” race, referring to remarks by Marisol, Winant, and Karen M.). My interest is in strategies of denial, ways of driving racism underground; I note that while racial meaning may be formed in different ways, racist practices and strategies of denial of these are remarkably uniform. Lessing’s character’s “You just have to get used to the country” is what was said to me in Bahia, for instance.

9/ People keep saying Winant is uncareful and essentializing. I don’t see it. He says race is a fundamental organizing principle in 20th century politics, a significant dimension of hegemony; I do not see how that is essentializing. He also says mestizaje boosting is an apologetics for racism, and the calls to racelessness are attractive to whites when blackness gets too strong.

10/ Let’s look at DuBois’ double consciousness, always looking at yourself through others’ eyes (also important for my piece on Veloso and Bahia). I said that Guillén’s ambivalence was double-voiced: split subjectivity, consciousness always mediated; what possibilities does this offer for political action? Ambivalence, splitting, resistance, critique. Again: see Winant on midcentury liberals wanting to culturalize race. It is important (I think) because, it seems, cultural recognition and affirmation were supposed to tke the place of remedying inequality (I need to check on this; there is a LOT of work on it).

11/ When Martí said there were no races: were there others who said this? Or was he just saying that in Our America, his ideal America, there shouldn’t be racism/race?

12/ Sansone: the book appears in English with an introduction by Paul Gilroy, and revives the mestizaje idea. it is mainly an anti MNU / anti global black activism book. It reiterates a lot of truisms and myths, including on the fluidity of race in Latin places but mainly the idea combat racism it is best to not INCLUDE people in the categories corresponding to the lowest strata. I wanted, when I composed this presentation, to plead with people to stop going for the postethnic ideal — the liberal common sense — and move to a transnational study of race and nation. (THIS IS A 2004 PAPER BY ME, and if I’d actually published it, it would have been much cited.)

13/ Sansone and Hollinger both evoke and elide difference: it is a strategy to evade discussion of racism and marginalize racialized others, keep them from speaking. And Sansone’s comparisons are odd (he is being transnational, but with odd choices) — the comparisons to Bahia I’d make would be Havana, Lima, Cartagena, New Orleans, Charleston, Haiti — the Afro-Latin places.

–Da Silva is trying to enable rigorous transnational study of race and nation. My disagreement, really, is with saddling the Enlightenment with all of this, and it’s a disagreement not just with Da Silva. THIS is where my research should push, it seems, for various projects.

Axé.

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