Monthly Archives: December 2019

The edge of democracy

It is a film by Petra Costa about Bolsonaro and it is opening in San Francisco January 5, although it is almost a year old and is apparently available on Netflix already. Apparently it is very important and we should show it in class if there is any way to justify doing something in Portuguese.


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Filed under Cinearte, Teaching

For Anzaldúa and JALLA

For ages I kept around this essay by Linda Gordon, from Dissent (Spring 1999, 41-47), called “The trouble with difference.” As she notes, it follows on a piece of hers in Genders (1991) on related issues. She says gender difference called up hopes of community among women, sisterhood; differences among women (typically racial) reinforce bonds within smaller groups. This idea of difference, though, also impedes connection and the imagining of a larger community. It’s fragmenting. (Note that she points out that the discourse of personal guilt is not helpful.) Also, she notes that difference talk leads us away from specifying the relationships that give rise to gender, racial, class and other inequalities / alienations. “We need to ask for much, much more than merely respecting difference.” [47, emphasis added] Mere respect depoliticizes the idea of difference — and “difference” and “diversity” come to mask power (46). It is a smart piece.


The JALLA paper is about alternatives to Sommer, and the possible impossibility of positing a nation. This old paper by Alberto M. cites an old paper by Jean F. that talks about novels dealing with the impossibility of construction of the modern Latin American state. Franco apparently looks at GGM, Yo el Supremo, and some of Rodríguez Juliá. She is engaging in a polemic with Jameson … and doesn’t talk about Arguedas/Zorro which does fit Jameson’s model while turning it against itself. . . . Magical realism seeks its own undoing; can we say the same of transculturation?

From the fourth section of the piece: Zorros opens up a new cycle of LA writing because it closes the possibility of anthropological writing, or ethnofiction. It does so by taking anthropological ethnofiction to a breaking point. There, magical realism, the organizing principle of ethnofiction, is epistemologically shattered because it is revealed to be inexorably dependent upon the subordination of indigenous cultures to an always already Western-hegemonic machine of transculturation: to modernization itself. The indigenous components are enormous and they break the frame, as it were; it is not possible to join Andean culture and modernity in a relation of non-subordination; transculturation is still part of coloniality . . . and magical realism is as well.

Earlier on: “Transculturation is a war machine, feeding on cultural difference, whose principal function is the reduction of the possibility of radical cultural heterogeneity.” (94)

That is key, and I have always like this article, and that has always been my impression of Latin America, before I could say it: a place of radical heterogeneity that everyone is trying to contain.

I will keep trying to work on this, too, and I think the radical heterogeneity is the germ of my JALLA paper. But I was reading this, on Arguedas, for Anzaldúa, and Moreiras quotes Spitta (all of this is so old) — see p. 88, A.’s subject would be that perfectly transculturated one.


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Filed under Borderlands, Race book

US Latinos writing in Spanish

This is another hip course I could give, at an advanced level, with a baby-level that would be a freshman seminar. SPANISH language writing would be the topic, we wouldn’t work on English language writing, or read a lot of Spanglish.

Algunos nombres: Elizabeth Acevedo (“The Poet X” se ha traducido al español), Gloria Anzaldúa, Herrison Chicas (Carolina del Norte, algunos poemas están en español), Juan Felipe Herrera, Martín Espada (a mí me gusta mucho el trabajo de este último).

Algunos más, todos con redes sociales que se pueden encontrar: Raquel Abend Van Dalen, Yosie Crespo, Oriette D’Angelo, Douglas Gómez Barrueta, Kelly M. Grandal, Legna Rodríguez Iglesias, Román Luján, Urayoán Noel, Carlos Pintado, Keila Vall de la Ville.



Filed under Poetry, Teaching, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Freshman seminar in the Lorca lab

If I were to do a freshman seminar like that, we’d read plays we aren’t reading in other classes, and do dramatic readings. We’d learn to write abstracts, summaries, and annotated bibliographies; we’d learn how to seriously look things up in the library. I’ll have to keep working on this.

The classic play to read, in this course, would be the Casa de Bernarda Alba. We could contrast it with Da. Rosita la soltera. I’m interested in Mariana Pineda, and there are also the Zapatera prodigiosa and the Amores de D. Perimplín con Belisa en su jardín. I’m also interested in the Maleficio de la mariposa, even, and I’m very interested in the puppet theatre: Los títeres de cachiporra, the Retablillo de D. Cristóbal. And then, for odder things I also don’t teach a great deal, we could look at the Comedia sin título and El sueño de la vida. Así que pasen cinco años I am saving for my other class.

But I was thinking about this as a course about Lorca and flamenco and dance, so there is that to think about, too.


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Third World Literature; Our America and the West

Another old journal I am going to clear out is the 1986 Social Text that has in it Jameson’s article “Third World Literature and the West.” Here he uses the term national allegory – not quite for the first time, but it is still new here. He reveals how much he likes Balzac. And he relates national allegory and love: the nation and the individual are conscious about the allegorization of politics and “libidinal dynamics” in third world works, in a way they are not in first world works (where they are unconscious).

Laura Kipnis wrote in this issue and she is interesting, but I am most interested of all in Retamar’s piece (I’ve stolen its title as the title of this post). It’s dated too, of course, but it’s a good review of many things. I, meanwhile, seem to be more decolonial than I had realized, and at the same time need to find out more about what decolonial really is.


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Gilberto Freyre

It seemed like pleasant work, getting the house ready for the cleaner and rearranging books so I could finish my paper, but I got to a more total rearrangement, recycled a lot of journal issues, and got other books and papers corralled for recycling and reduction.

There was a review essay on Freyre in LARR 43:1 (2008), by David Lehmann. Casa-grande e senzala (1933) caused Joshua Lund et al to publish an edited collection on GF and LAS (Pittsburgh: ILLI, 2006); there was also a book on Freyre as Victorian (Ma. Lúcia Garcia Pallares-Burke, UNESP, 2005).

Lund et al: as we know, Freyre’s book caused even the Estado Novo to embrace mixedness, and to call it Brazil’s true nationality. And GF may be “racist,” but with all these non-white identifications he has, is he really white? He wasn’t thinking about the European immigrants in the South as Brazilian at all. And he did NOT say Brazil was a “racial democracy.” And since about 1990 Brazilian scholars have been less worried about GF’s “racism” than before, and more interested in other, more subtle vertientes of his work. Yet the question of privatization of power — coronelismo, patriarchy — get less attention, and Freyre himself knowingly leaves these contradictions unresolved [I am quoting/paraphrasing from p. 213 of the article].

Pallares-Burke’s book on GF’s early intellectual development is important and very well researched. She shows how undigested his influences (if they are influences and not just quotations of recortes) are. He also kept revising his texts, and the translations are not always accurate since they are to some extent also revisions. He is both a progressive and a decadent Victorian. Although he appreciated very much the non-white Brazil, he gave it no protagonic role; candomblé did not catch his notice, and “strategies and purposes [of self-conscious race mixture and identity-mixing] are the preserve of the [elites]” (217). Freyre “avoided any intellectual arena save that which he could control” (217).

ALLCA put out a critical edition of C-G e S in 2002. GF is incoherent, although interesting, says Lehmann, and Lund’s collection is not so arranged as to get the essays it includes, and their insights, into the public eye; but Pallares-Burke’s book is brilliant. The article has much more in it than I have indicated here, but I’ve linked to it, so I can recycle my paper copy and think about all of these things.


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Books and things on nations and borders

There is The Borders of Dominicanism, useful to me in that it invokes another borderland with the U.S.

There is At the edges of states: Dynamics of state formation in the Indonesian borderlands (Michael Eilenberg)

The book rests on the premise that remote border regions offer an exciting study arena that can tell us important things about how marginal citizens relate to their nation-state. The basic assumption is that central state authority in the Indonesian borderlands has never been absolute, but waxes and wanes, and state rules and laws are always up for local interpretation and negotiation. In its role as key symbol of state sovereignty, the borderland has become a place were central state authorities are often most eager to govern and exercise power. But as illustrated, the borderland is also a place were state authority is most likely to be challenged, questioned and manipulated as border communities often have multiple loyalties that transcend state borders and contradict imaginations of the state as guardians of national sovereignty and citizenship.

There is National Identities and Sociopolitical Changes in Latin America, eds. Durán-Cogan and Gómez-Moriana, Routledge 2001, with a Wynter piece in it I am told to read.

In other news, there is also Maite Condé’s Foundational films: early cinema and modernity in Brazil and the film, A 12-year night. This and “La operación,” the documentary on sterilization of Puerto Ricans, would be good for our planned class on film and human rights.


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Filed under Bibliography, Borderlands