Category Archives: Race book

A 2009 article on the Turk

“Jefferson’s universalistic vision of human rights challenged the Anglo-American principle that freedoms flowed from a specific group’s identity (Britons never will be slaves). Jefferson did not believe that Americans were free because they were Americans or Protestant Christians. He could not credibly claim that the values he promoted were truly universal unless he showed that they applied to Muslims as well as to all other men. For Jefferson, deconstructing Orientalist constructs was a precondition for the success of liberty in the United States. . . . ”

Yes, Jefferson had slaves, but the article is talking about how the idea that Europeans should NOT be slaves developed in the context of fascination and also much interaction with things Ottoman, including being enslaved by the Turk, and then how, under the influence of Islam (Jefferson was under the influence of Islam) they started to believe rights were universal. THERE ARE SO MANY TWISTS AND TURNS TO ALL THE LOGIC ABOUT ALL OF THIS THINGS, IT IS FASCINATING AND STRANGE.

Earlier in Europe, the line “Britons never shall be slaves” referred to hopes of not being captured by Muslim seamen and enslaved by the Turk. (The idea was growing that Europeans should not be slaves, and that freedom was based on identity; interestingly Jefferson the slaveholder is the one who worked on the theory of universal and not identity-based rights.)


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Aisha Finch, Forging race and nation

Forward by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, with essays by Reynaldo Ortiz and Matt Pettway, among others.


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Cecilia Simulacrum

Cecilia simulacrum
evoke and elide
appropriate and evade [or bury]

The machine to produce similarities: slavery, contact and mimesis in the Cuban novel Cecilia Valdés … Rev. Ib. XXXIV: 262 (ene.-mar. 2018): 221-233.

[What I found in my notes was completely different: being treated “as a servant” is what irritates me the most — I seem to define this as bald-faced attempts to manipulate; note how it involves not wanting to say no (to someone else) or yes (to what I want), staying on some kind of threshold.]

Kafka story: ape who has to imitate men to survive. He has to suppress own identity (his difference) to be like the Other. This is mimesis and it has to do with the master-slave relation as well as with insanity (seeing oneself as other, being aliené).

DARWIN emphasized difference between savage and civilized man, and the savage’s talent for mimicry. And Adorno-Horkheimer say that the modern subject is created when autonomy is imagined and imitation / mimicry left behind.

P. 224: If mimesis menaces the fixity of identities and differences, defying the classifying eye, we can understand the mixture of terror and fascination it could provoke in the lettered Latin American city (Rama), preoccupied with the rationalization of social space, the identification of deviants, and the meticulous discrimination among races, classes, and types in general; so narratives are about making the encounter with alterity palpable.

*This is what I have always noticed: fear of difference / denial of difference.


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Vanguard of the Atlantic World

I have the book and have read a lot of it; this is the article and I am going to recycle the paper copy, but not after saying, or recalling, a bit about it.

How did Mexicans and Colombians envision and emplot modernity in the 19th century? The author posits an “American republican modernity” that lost out after about 1875, as more conservative notions of modernity (technological innovation, industrialization, state power) became dominant.

* 1868 orator in Mexico, announcing that (Latin) American democracy will spread to Europe, emancipating it: this was said in the context of the victory over Maximiliano and the restoration of a Republic in Mexico. It went against the prevailing notion of the day, that modernity had started in Europe and the U.S. and would spread from there to the so-called peripheries.

1. Most professional scholars of modernity, beginning with Hegel, think the opposite. Giddens says so, too. Sanders: modernity is not an analytical category, but a discursive force. It is not measurable; it is only a normative and judgmental comparison.

2. Many 19th century political thinkers would have agreed with these scholars. Sarmiento and Alberdi, for instance. And many current scholars have accepted Sarmiento’s vision as representative. BUT if you read newspapers, not these elite people, you see that “American republican modernity” was actually quite widespread in the mid 19th century.

3. And this period of Latin America’s claim to modernity was short-lived. It lost out to other versions of modernity, but not before profoundly challenging the political, intellectual and social history of the Atlantic world.

* On p. 111, see the marvelous quotation from the writer in Cali. Europe is backward, Latin America is modern. Also,  it was believed that economic prosperity would follow if political modernity were created. There is another beautiful quotation on 113, about slavery; then Sanders points out that Europe was now “embarking on a SECOND great wave of imperial conquest, creating a colonialism that would define dominant visions of modernity until this day … [and that] Mexicans proposed a countermodernity that rejected the right of power and equations of civilization with violence.” That is to say that they did not accept the modernity that is the other side of coloniality but proposed another. And the constitutions of that period showed it.

* Emphasized were universal fraternity (116), antiracism (117), the identity of citizen (117) … and note how important all of this was when the state was still weak to nonexistent and nations undefined (119).

+ BUT: economic liberalism meant that the demands of capital became more important than democracy or the demands of the subaltern by the last quarter of the century. It was more and more believed that to achieve economic modernity one would have to sacrifice democratic and republican political modernity, which meant the poor lost rights and the subaltern were excluded.

* Mexico and Colombia thus no longer saw themselves as standing at the vanguard of the Atlantic world, but as the opposite; and they dropped the democratic values that earlier on they had espoused.


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Les notes du jour

For my essay on the market university: California is the worst state in terms of education vs prison investment: they spend $11K per student and $64K per prisoner each year.

In news of my other essay:

+ in the early 19th century, “whitening”was not yet a wish. And people did not want to admit that free women of color could be married or respectable. Plaçage is a white myth, a U.S. literary trope, based actually in fear of black men, although it is apparently true that some of those who came to N.O. from Haiti after the revolution had to take recourse in prostitution.

+ Clark: fear of the mulata displaced fear of Haitians

+ look again at the end of El Zarco, and at Amalia and Martín Rivas. Note how Sommer’s “foundational fictions” fail to found. And find out who used the term, “incest ex machina.”

+ novels permeated with the idea of possession, ownership; identities that are layered

+ novels that lend themselves to readings that support both liberating projects and repressive ones; these projects and readings don’t seem to enter into dialogue with each other but to cancel each other out, stifle each other, so we get this confused discourse.



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Those notes

I need to organize my notes. And files. As we know, and in a better way than making these blog posts. But for today: we will start here, anyhow, any way.

Cecilia Valdés the novel is anti-colonialist, pro-elite, pro-white and pro-patriarchy (and check Doris Sommer on this; I am in the whole project arguing against Sommer’s conciliatory view on things). That discerning eye is the eye that knows how to distinguish color, and thus protect hierarchies (I think).

Villaverde is a U.S. Hispanic writer, and Cecilia Valdés is an international novel. Related is Cane River. It’s the national novel of Cuba but also a New Orleans novel, and its kernel is the plaçage myth.

There is a book by one Beaumont, L’esclavage aux Etats-Unis. This author accompanied Tocqueville on his voyage. There is also Mathew Guterl, American Mediterranean and Coolies and Cane; he also has a book about seeing race. Louisiana looked to Cuba, for instance, for models of how to deal with the Chinese.


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I ordered Through a Lens Darkly, the DVD, and I should see again: Ethnic Notions and Color Adjustment. These are all about race and representation.

Rey talked about the militarization of plantation slavery in Cuba and penal servitude in Puerto Rico; plantation slavery resembled penal servitude.

We’ll continue.


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