More Afro-Pessimism

The words about slavery — negro, mulato, zambo, and more come from Spain. The idea of race and racial discrimination came from there too, starting with religion, Jewishness as a race. The Portuguese brought slaves to Spain in the early 15th century and slaves were brought to the Americas early on; the Iberians may have invented the idea of hereditary slavery.

What is blackness as category in this context? Afro-pessimists suggest slavery comes from anti-blackness and not the other way around but what about Jewishness? Limpieza de sangre got related to blackness in the Americas in the 16th century.

In 1492 Nebrija’s grammar had united everyone under language, and blackness in what became modern Spanish has certain associations–and black voices assert difference. My book is about dealing with blackness.


These points are very basic and even the atlas obscura makes most of them. What am I trying to do / what do I want to know? I want to make sense of the really strange racial discourse and odd subjectivity that gets created 1819-1930 and that seems to evade discussing actual policy. Does Afro-pessimism help think about this?

Afro-pessimism: blackness is not created by chattel slavery, but is constitutive of it / race is constitutive of modernity. This is why modernity/coloniality has to be dismantled (note Dussel has that category, the transmodern). But note that not all decoloniality is very decolonial (cf. the critique of M. Lugones, my critique of Anzaldúa); the privileging of the mixed once again submerges the black.

What I am interested in is figuring out what is going on in these discourses which (a) produce the Latin American as not-European and somehow passing though African/Native identity, yet (b) remaining white, so as to be in resistance to Europe when necessary and in control or solidarity here, as is convenient, and (c) constantly having to grapple with blackness, negotiate with it somehow. This category that should not exist, yet must, and that the “we” does not want, but needs.

I should read the Legras book more seriously, the one about Mexico. There is a great deal in it, particularly about film and image, that I could use for various things, but also, for purposes of this project, there is the point on seeing like a state, but through the eyes of art, and the point on indigenismo: the paradox of taking something encoded as utterly alien and making it essential to your identity. He also talks about differences between Andean and Mexican indigenismo, as Mexico did not really have literary indigenismo until the 50s.


9 thoughts on “More Afro-Pessimism

  1. THERE ARE PERMANENT CONTRADICTIONS — just like those of the results of the Mexican revolution — short-circuits and unresolvable contradictions … that these novels are trying to manage

  2. Also: Scott, seeing like a state, and Legras, trying to create a relationship between pueblo and state, (or what I called in my notes nation vs state); seeing is also erasing, what is erased and what is seen; also, as you look, what other territories need to be looked at / how does concensus come in, how is it formed

  3. OT: neobarroco y lalalengua, breaking limits of langue . . . making nonsense. Lat Am has huge repertory of this and it is the local instance of goce

  4. Mex rev: super violent (this was the goce, ultrapasar the limit), and then you get this cultural paradise of the 20s and 30s in Mex. (this is part of symbolic order). Placer is civilized and limited and goce is just responding to pulsiones, this is Freud etc

  5. Legras: there’s so much language policing and it’s antidemocratic. Lalalengua is the space of liberty that is left

  6. And: in Afropessimism (Oxford bibliographies), blackness is an effect of structural violence (as opposed to a set of attributes). “The claim that humanity is made legible through the irreconcilable distinction between humans and
    blackness is one of the first principles of Afro-Pessimism, and it is supported by the argument that
    blackness is a paradigmatic position, rather than an ensemble of cultural, social, and sexual
    orientations. For Afro-pessimists, the black is positioned, a priori, as slave.”

    Humanity is made legible by the distinction between humans and blackness

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