Category Archives: Race book

Encore des articles.

Now let’s talk about some more really old articles, in part to get them out of my files and in part because they are still relevant.

Telles, Edward E. and Nelson Lim. 1998. “Does it Matter Who Answers the Race Question? Racial Classification and Income Inequality in Brazil”. Demography 35(4). November, 465-474. [REALLY ONE SHOULD READ AND CITE MORE RECENT TELLES WORK, BUT THIS MAKES SOME POINTS WORTH NOTING, FOR ME.]

– self-reporting on racial identification is less significant than how others see someone [and thus judge, pay, otherwise act toward them].
– there is also racial ambiguity in the US despite historical ridigity of US racial system. People may identify as mixed or as a different race than the one they are classified as, and appearance may not coincide with ancestry (and the US classifies by ancestry).
– there is a lot of ambiguity in Brazil and this can be used to deny discrimination [“he’s not black, so I didn’t discriminate against him as black”].
– mulatto is not an intermediary stage in Brazil, pace Degler.
– however, it is true that “money whitens”.

Burdick, John. 1998. “The Lost Constituency of Brazil’s Black Movements” (pp. 136-155). Latin American Perspectives.

– already in 1998 people had stopped saying Brazil was a racial paradise and started to valorize negritude. This had been a progressive change over the past 20 years, and the progress would have not been imaginable in the 70s.
– there was still a long way to go, though, and the reason for it was in large part ideological: people had been told there was no racism so did not interpret racist actions and situations as such, and that included black people … although in Burdick’s sample, the people who considered themselves very dark were also those who were aware of prejudice against them, and called racist incidents what they were.
* Movimento Negro says all the intermediate categories were there to manipulate slaves, benefit whites [these are the ideas that were considered “US”, I note].
– [and there is more in the article, revealing about self-identification and its vicissitudes, ringing much truer than what Sansone says, for instance]

Skidmore, Thomas. 1964. Gilberto Freyre and the early Brazilian republic. (Why was I interested in this? We will see.)

– In the modernista era Brazil was asking itself whether misgenation had done it irreparable damage. This was because they believed their backwardness had to do with their blackness . . . they had miscegenated early on but this wasn’t acceptable in modernity. [Freyre himself had had these ideas, only being disabused of them by Boas]. They had always hidden their blackness, saying they were Portuguese and even more, French, but then with the suicidal course Europe took from 1914 forward they got Spenglerian.
– After Casa-grande e senzala Freyre published Sobrados e mucambos, which describes the breakdown of the rural patriarchal society from the late 18th century and the earlier 19th. The third volume, Ordem e progresso, covers 1890-1918 and Freyre considered this his most important book because of its source material (a survey with 1000 respondents). He is interested primarily in the consequences of abolition. Skidmore: “By 1920 the last act in the history of Brazil’s patriarchal society had been played out. It was this tragic climax which Freyre set out to describe in [this volume]. (496)
– The theme: Freyre feels the key to Brazilian social history is the rize and fall of what he calls the patriarchal society. In Casa-grande, on Brazil in the 16th-18th centuries, dominated by a rural aristocracy with slave labor, that worked. But from 1700 onward the economy began to shift southward from the sugar cane growing northeast. Sobrados e mucambos illustrates this problem: the distance from townhouse to shanty is much greater than from plantation house to slave quarters. In Ordem e progresso the focus on patriarchal society works even less well. It just isn’t true that the whole country works on the patriarchal society model he describes from the early NE.


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…finishing the post

Back to Da Silva and the modernity thesis. Of course Dussell has pointed out the colonialist tropes in Hegel, etc., with juicy quotations.

Greg McCarthy’s summary of Da Silva is better than mine, for its concision. Note that Da Silva can help with Anzaldúa too.

My thesis for paper #1 is that the evoke-and-elide movement in the 19th century novels is enacting or dramatizing the move Da Silva describes (the engulfment); there is no way out in the modern paradigm. Moving on to Anzaldúa: it is possible that she (and decoloniality generally) are trying to be the resistance to this, the path out of it. The question becomes how well does this theory or does Anzaldúa in particular do it.

We shall see.


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Very well (an unfinished post)

(According to Reeducation, your baseline should be that you are too unhappy to function and your goal should be to function minimally nonetheless, or attain feelings of happiness, just for the day. Before Reeducation I did not think a great deal about happiness, although I was happy most of the time. If your baseline is that you just don’t worry about these things, you are feeling how you are feeling, or perhaps you aren’t questioning yourself so you are comfortable, then you can just do things.)

So I am to: finish the da Silva paper and write a new da Silva abstract. Then write the Sommer paper. Then finish the Anzaldúa paper. Then, within the year, resubmit Pedro’s poems and prepare and submit the Moro — if that press ever has a reading period, that is; otherwise, it may become important to find another. Even White Pine.

Da Silva. Let us start warming back to this topic by reading on her in review essays. I’ve got so many notes of my own already, but we will start with Benito Cao and Greg McCarthy, just so that I will de-intimidate myself. Some reasons I am interested in Da Silva: it’s a global theory, it explains why hybridity theory is part of racism, it takes gender into account, and it addresses what I’ve called “evoke and elide.”

Cao also talks about Telles; note that Portocarrero says the same of mestizaje and racismo (which is why it is suprising to see Anzaldúa still talking about mestizaje as a solution to racism):

In essence, Telles unpacks the apparent paradox of the coexistence of racism andhybridity by revealing how racial inclusion (produced by hybridity) and racialexclusion (produced by racism) coexist and complement each other in Brazil. Indeed, hybridity is not antithetical to racism as popular belief and ‘common sense’ might suggest. Instead, hybridity is the way racism operates in Brazil. Hybridity is theBrazilian contribution to the ‘global idea of race’unearthed by the archaeological work of Denise Ferreira da Silva.

Cao on the chapter “Tropical Democracy”:

Da Silva offers a critical genealogy of the idea of race and of the emergence of European man as a deeply racial/ised subject. She reveals how European man came to see himself as the transcendental Subject of History, the carrier of the Spirit of Humanity, of (Universal) Reason, whilst seeing non-Europeans as the exterior and inferior Objects of History or peoples without history, to borrow from Eric Wolf (1982). This deeply racially inscribed subject, European man, used skin colour as the key to determine who could and could not be civilised, categorising and determining the fate of peoples encountered in the five centuries of exploration and imperial expansion across the globe. The result was often the (re)creation of a new political  formation, the nation-state, deeply inflected by racial discourses, as was the case of Brazil. The configuration of race was encrypted in Brazilian identity through miscegenation, namely the inter-mingling of Indians, Europeans, and Africans. However, as da Silva notes, the process (and representation) of miscegenation was driven primarily by the (sexual) desires of European man, projected onto the bodies (racially inscribed as red and black, respectively) of Indian and African women. Thus, the so-called racial democracy would be more aptly described as a racist (and patriarchal) hierarchy, with Luso-Brazilian men at the top and Afro-Brazilian women at the bottom. This is a seemingly straight-forward conclusion, but da Silva offers an insightful genealogical analysis of how that hierarchy was formulated and came to be seen as the natural state of (racial) affairs in Brazil. In particular, she provides a philosophical account of how gender and sexual desire were crucial in the formation and formulation of the myth of racial democracy. She examines statements deployed between the 1880s and the 1930s to show how miscegenation was formulated using ‘the logic of obliteration’, a logic designed to engulf and ultimately destroy the Other, producing the Brazilian national subject as a transparent ‘I’. Miscegenation was rewritten as ‘‘an eschatological signifier’’ that would result not in the ‘‘degeneration’’ of the European but in the obliteration of the Indian and the African from Brazilian bodies and minds’ (p. 238). Crucially, she notes how in this formulation of race and nation ‘the productive power, the‘‘inner force’’, belongs to the Portuguese because their ‘‘inclination’’ to sexual intimacy produces the slightly tanned Brazilian subject’ (p. 244). In essence, da Silva reveals the workings of miscegenation as ‘a process of productive violence’, a racialised and gendered process that produces a ‘slightly (tanned) transparent subject’: the Brazilian. This arguably genocidal violence that underpins the articulation of miscegenation in Brazil had been already exposed and denounced, notably by Abdias do Nascimento in O Genocídio do Negro Brasileiro (1978), but da Silva’s analysis is the first systematic and philosophical articulation of this argument available in English. Given the mystique of Brazilian hybridity (especially outside of Brazil), this chapter is a must read for anyone interested in matters of race in Brazil, and for anyone interested in the intricacies of miscegenation in the construction of national identities

In the meantime, MURPHY’s run-down is good and key is that da Silva is following Foucault, so perhaps what one may not like about Foucault is also in da Silva.

Re Anzaldúa: the proposal of hybridity as solution if you are familiar with the relationship between mestizaje and racism. To whom is Anzaldúa speaking, and where is she speaking from ? It is the US side of the border. She’s resisting the Anglophone monolith, she’s the difference within, THIS is the interesting key to her (cf. the conversation on Goethe’s Yiddish background, and so on). So: the minor voice, what goes against the grain . . .


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The Sommer paper

Titles, notes, and phrases I did not use in the abstract, but must think about, include:

1. Fractured families and dystopian romance in 19th century Latin American narrative
2. Fictional foundations: anti-national non-romance (or anti-national fantasy, colonial rhapsody)
3. Celui n’est pas mon père (yet more fun: Ceci n’est pas mon père)
4. Colonial rhapsody
5. Anti-nation non-narration (review Bhabha)

The volume is pathbreaking and has lasting value, but became landmark in part because of the dearth of work on these novels and the claims of some Boom writers that it was not worth reading anyone before them. NO: Paulk’s explanation of why to move beyond Sommer is better.

Reviews like this one remind us that for Sommer “unsuccessful or tragic versions of these romances point toward the problems that need to be solved in order to attain an ideal future” but I say not. Also note: Ramos talks about national, not foundational fictions, that needs to be discussed/evaluated. Is it enough to make this shift?

A vague and watery, unstable grounding of a [nation]. These novels are not about founding and growing but about emptyingnot about founding a nation but about what is lost and not gained, by the criollo classes, in the transition?

What does it mean to cite these texts as national fictions, if they are about emptying?

Paulk’s points on María are my starting point. Then I point out how OM, Sab and ASN are also diasporic – they’re about not being able to find a home / about displacement.

What about originary violence / violence at origin — it seems that they keep re-staging this, don’t move beyond (I will have to study this, too).

Villaverde’s father-in-law was Inocencio Casanova. So V. writes CV in the US, using many US sources, where he is married to the daughter of this sugar planter who is using family money to run guns to Cuba, against Spain.

In the paper I will quote/refer to Paulk:

“A recent study, ‘Judaísmo y desarraigo en María de Jorge Isaacs’ by Gustavo Faverón Patriau, calls Sommer’s interpretation into question by proposing that Isaacs’ novel does not propose unification through mestizaje but rather is a novel of exile and diaspora (341).” (This sentence is in “Foundational Fiction and Representations of Jewish Identity in Jorge Isaacs’ María.”)

There is a book by one Beckman, Capital Fictions, that I should read. I should also think about the role of Rama/Ciudad letrada here — Sommer is very convincing in her argument that this (what she sees) really is how leaders of the time thought; key in my argument is that she puts far too much faith in what some said of the power of mestizaje, including projecting backward from 1980s acceptance of 1930s ideas.

A question I have is about the need to mix bloods to unify the people. My immediate reaction, years ago, was that the problem was the inability to conceive of equality and cultural difference at the same time; I believe it is Paulk who also says this (and is the first person I have seen say it).


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Language corruption, “public choice,” and more

I had almost finished a very good post and it was lost. In it, I had talked about some pieces of LARR 40:3 (2005), a great issue of the journal but that I am going to put in the café bookshelf because not only do I have electronic access to it but also, the wonderful pieces in it that I had been keeping it for are not central to me now. There is a piece by Juliet Hooker on mestizo nationalism in Nicaragua, that even today works to limit the political inclusion of people darker than mestizos (actually this is a GREAT example for the Ferreira da Silva piece), and an article on violence and difference in the short stories of Mistral. Then there are a lot of useful review essays, including one by Jorge Duany on identity in Puerto Rico, one by Marc E. Prou on Haiti, and one by Nancy Appelbaum on post-revisionist scholarship on race. The “revision” to which she refers is the critique of “racial democracy.” What can still be said? A fair amount, she shows, by looking at case studies like Jerry Dávila’s Diploma of whiteness.

Important: by 2005 Appelbaum no longer thought racial democracy needed critique; that work had been done. Then: there is an essay by Virginia Higginbotham on (then) new work on cinema, still useful. There is also an essay on Mayan identity, by anthropologist Les W. Field, that criticizes identity discourse. This is very interesting. 1/ It is capitalist economies which have organized social stratification around axes of race, class and gender, conjugated in ways that reproduce hierarchies again and again. 2/ In the last 3 decades or so of the 20th century many social movements were created on the basis of these identities. 3/ Anthropologists used these as analytic devices — thereby misunderstanding or misrepresenting these categories as scientific or always relevant/germane.

The other and arguably more important discovery is a point in Nancy MacLean’s book. “Buchanan was the leading light in what has become the public choice movement, which uses the concept of choice to undermine public belief in a broader common good and public interest.” To get support for this or at least compliance, it was necessary to use “a level of language corruption.” For instance, you promote the idea of school choice when you are actually aiming to dismantle public education.


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[denial of difference]

I gave this paper in 1990 wherein I said the problem in this novel was the “denial of difference” [sic]. I am still working on the problem. Now I see a 2011 article saying: “What is suggested by [this] tragedy is a twenty-first century solution: the expansion of the notion of national identity to include those who are understood to be ‘different’ and the allowance for the possibility of inhabiting multiple identities at once.”

Very well, or a U.S. solution, I’d have said; everyone always told me my expectation was U.S., based on segregation, and that the idea of multiple identities was racist and un-Latin American. And I always told them that their idea of one national culture, one national identity, was Eurocentric.

Qu’est-ce qui arrive là?

ETA: The final paragraph of the article reads:

“For [this character], nineteenth-century discourse of national identity makes it impossible to inhabit multiple identities. She cannot be both an upper class, white Colombian woman, and therefore a proper mother for the nation, and a Jew. However, her treatment in the novel and her fate point out the problems that can result from programs of mestizaje. Rather than highlight the potential future of the nation through homogenization, [the character] exemplifies the dead end that is the erasure of difference. In this way, as a foundational fiction, [the novel] suggests that future productivity depends upon allowing for the possibility of multiple national identities rather than limiting them to one homogenized model.”

Emphasis added. This emphasized phrase is what my paper, that I should have published, said. Well, then, at least someone sees it.


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Cecilia Valdés [need title]

(Yes, this is a rehash of earlier abstracts but the thing is that all the things I promised to develop in the said abstracts, did not get developed.)

Undermining the nation? Displacement and dystopia in 19th century Latin American narrative
Fractured families and dystopian romance in 19th century Latin American narrative
Fictional foundations: anti-national non-romance (or anti-national fantasy, colonial rhapsody)

Celui n’est pas mon père
… something along these lines. I would be saying that these novels (Sommer’s novels) point not to national unity but to its impossibility, and look at María and C.V. (and maybe more) as novels of emptying, not plenitude (consider Sab, O Mulato). Reviews like this one remind us that for Sommer “unsuccessful or tragic versions of these romances point toward the problems that need to be solved in order to attain an ideal future” but I say not.

Villaverde’s father-in-law was Inocencio Casanova.

Antonyms for found(ed): gone(p), lost, straying, stray, misplaced, mislaid, missing, wasted, squandered

I will keep working on this.


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