Category Archives: Race book

La imaginación histórica y el romance nacional en Hispanoamérica

I will use Interlibrary loan and get this book. I don’t want to spend almost $40 to buy it used. The nearest copy is in Texas, 208 miles away. But it should be in all libraries, including at least two in this state. I will do it tomorrow.

I don’t like interlibrary loan because first you wait, then you quickly xerox because the three days you have the book won’t be the three in which you can read it. I wish I had a PDF of it.

Maybe there are articles that became chapters of this book, and I can read those. There are also later articles.


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Filed under Banes, Race book, Resources, Working

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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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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Things I learned at a conference

I was only there for 8 hours. It was a bright fall day on a pretty campus, where people are present and energetic. I want to read Poétique de la relation and find out what a dépassement is. I had an illuminating discussion with someone at a parallel institution in a state next door. She talked about the disadvantages of going R-1 without actually being R-1; about the authoritarian and top-down structure of our universities; about how different it had been to be at a similar university in Michigan; about how she is not the favorite of her chair and here there is no solidarity; each of is is all alone.

I learned that the rhetoric on the abuse of ICE detainees is the rhetoric of all abuse: look what you made me do to you. If you just hadn’t crossed that border, when I had told you not to . . .

I learned about Ignacio Ramírez and Monsiváis’ work on him (this is interesting and I’d really like to read the article). I learned why I should really read Radiografía de la Pampa.

I learned more about decoloniality (it is an otro saber and it comes from within L.A., not from without like postcolonial studies; I am not the only one who finds its subjectivism limiting).  I learned it is important to go back and read the texts I am interested in as attempts at [founding other modernities].

I was reminded that racialization is key not just in modernity but in the nation-state.


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Free write for that next version

Situate F da S in CRS and decolonialidad (and other currents).

Useful: scene of engulfment / transcendental poesis – explains creation of L.A. subject but also – more interestingly – repetition of EVOKE AND ELIDE [does this have other contributing factors?]

Problems: blaming the enlightenment, vague decoloniality as solution.

Advantages: global problem, global analysis, with local specificity [allows me to talk about race in Brazil, for instance].

Pero vaya, this needs work.


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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.


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