Category Archives: Borderlands

Rubén Medina

I have to read that old Robert Young book, Colonial Desire. I never did.

Meanwhile, Rubén Medina is a smart person I met randomly at one MLA early on, and who has been smart since. I need to find an old article of his, “Gloria Anzaldúa: The Politicsand Poetics of Mestizaje”, in Crítica: A Journal of Critical Essays (Primavera,1998): 73–85. This is from his 2008 piece.

Gloria Anzaldúa and mestizaje as self-fashioning

+ People think of hybridity as transgressive, but it isn’t always, as Gruzinski has pointed out (in the first half of the piece Medina talked in detail about the colonial history of mestizaje and about Vasconcelos).

+ Pnina Werbner notes the lack of a “process-based” theory of hybridity in critics like Hall, Bhabha and Gilroy. These critics only recognize that heteroglossia opposes monologism. There are a number of questions to be asked here.

+ on 119, Medina agrees with me: the mixing Anzaldúa, and others emphasize is between a subaltern and hegemonic, not among subalterns. An example in the U.S. is that many Chicanos “mix” with people of other races; Anzaldúa is working on the Mexican, the idealized indigenous, and the Anglo.

+ A. uses the mestizaje model in one way, to promote post-structuralist, constantly reforming, interculturality, and then in an aspirational, individualist way, to self-fashion, to imagine another way of being/world. Medina asks: how do you get from here to there?
Can you disentangle elements of a culture to form one of your own?  How do you get from the material/historical circumstances of nation to utopia (as a scene of desire) to design a culture of your own, outside discourse and daily life? How will the subalterns do this and can they really tolerate contradictions, in the way the author would like?

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More academic, more leftist, more actually political

…and we will try…

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Borderlands

The thing about Anzaldúa’s book is that it is not just about any borderlands, it is about a specific region. Yes, I know she extrapolates a great deal from there, but it is STILL into largely US based theory (gone global). But it is from a region and the writing voice does have an identity, even if not a flat one.

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La bibliothèque

I have to get the things I said I would, and López Velarde, and the Anzaldúa book I don’t have, and that’s there. I ordered the other one, and might donate it to the library. I’ll see about the Thomas Ward article (Gloria Anzaldúa y la lucha fronteriza).

I’m keeping in mind this manifesto on G.A. and healing and also the books that seem to have ended up in my Amazon carrito and not on a library list. I’ll keep the Saldívar-Hull introduction to the 1999 Borderlands in mind — the border subject is anyone, it says almost literally. I’m keeping in mind Kraniauskas on hybridity, and his references.

There is also the Crítica de la razón andina AND the critiques of postcolonial and ALSO of decolonial reason.  And there are the books I have hiding in my nascent electronic bookshelves, in Apple and Google.

And those e-shelves are probably where I should put the books I keep on Amazon wishlists. And it does not seem I will ever really use Jabrefs  or Zotero, although I know they are cool — these things remain to be seen.

I need Unzueta’s book, and I need to check out, for teaching, the anthology Spanish American Thought and Culture ed. by Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, y Barbara C. Ewell.

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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.

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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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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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Compulsory heterosexuality and alternative anthropophagy

I thought I was just puttering around, rereading Adrienne Rich because someone sent me that essay, and reading about Oswaldo Costa because this article popped up, but actually: they are for my paper.

Anzaldúa is a lesbian writer and following Rich, that is more important than her just being a defender of all supposedly “marginal” or “border” identities. (And I suppose I should give more respect to Mignolo’s “border thinking.”)

And Costa, apparently, has an actually counter-colonial form of anthropophagy. I will have to think about this again, reread the piece, but these are three interesting thoughts.

And as lagniappe: did you know Jameson was a Pérez Galdós fan?

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