Category Archives: Race book

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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For this article

I am going to go through a long, very old, hand written notebook, take a few notes here from it, and then recycle it. One must rid oneself of things if one is to think.

1/ Republic should mean equality, but modernity is exclusionist: this is a problem.

2/ An article worth reading, on manners that show class and race, and an 1890s magazine: El Chispazo y el proyecto modernizador. Un acercamiento a «En los trenes», de Juan de Arona, Néstor Saavedra Muñoz.

3/ Who said, and in relation to what, that: Meléndez y Pelayo just repeated whatever Palma told him? What could Basadre not find, that Monguió had found? All of this too place at a conference on the beginning of cultural journalism in the Peruvian Republic, at the Riva Agüero, and there was an estudioso, Alberto Varillas, whose work interested me.

4/ In the meantime I was reading Jerry Dávila. He quoted Hassenbalg: how to legitimate cultural diversity and also ensure equal social integration of ethnic and racial groups? But Brazil found ways to enforce racist practices while denying racism [EVOKE AND ELIDE]. Guimarães calls racial democracy and incomplete project; Sansone is very concerned to say Brazil is not US, because Brazil has a racial continuum and inclusivity whereas US has no continuum and exclusivity (I say that is very superficial). I said: Hollinger has been criticized, and there is better work than Sansone’s, but their points of view are still the “common-sense” ones. And both cite the exceptions as proof that racism is over. The post-ethnicity enthusiasts seem not to be aware of formation theory, CR theory, heterogeneity theory. There is hybridity without heterogeneity and without equality; is it possible to be non-heterogeneous and have equality?

5/ This Varillas person talked about the origins of the literary essay and cultural journalism. In the period he discused, literature was considered to be where you saw all all knowledge — all “ciencia” — all of life. The crónica was the precursor of literary journalism, and 19th century literature defined and produced culture / nation and was seen as a fountain of knowledge (see the Mercurio Peruano for instance). [This we all know of course because of Anderson and Sommer; they are not wrong]. What Latin America can teach the US, I said, is that multiculturalist projects and assimilationist projets started early on; the 90s multicuturalists seem not fullyi aware of this, I felt when I wrote this notebook, and it’s a point I might still make in the renovated Anzaldúa essay.
VARILLAS HAS A BOOK on periodismo in the history of Peru to 1850. (I kept talking about Hollinger, how looking at Lat. Am. work on race/ethnicity would belie his claims. I kept saying Sansone was wrong that criticism of Brazilian racism was all motivated by U.S. projection of itself into Brazil.)

6/ I was fascinated by John D. French, Nepantla 4.2 2003 and elsewhere, and wanted to get work by João José Reis and Rita Segato. French was defending Michael Hanchard. Bourdieu/Wacquant in that famous article echo Freyre and are actually behind current scholarship, seem unaware of it. Me: just because a particular racist practice cannot be analogized to US does not mean it is not a racist practice. Racism in Brazil is culturally distinct (see Sheriff).

7/ Da Silva: Winant’s notion of formation is socially and historically bounded: he thinks racial difference is real like sexual difference; he and Hanchard expect Afro-Brazilians to identify as black, as they do in the US, but blackness is not a single community in Brazil.  French: Bourdieu and Wacquant do NOT respect Brazilian scholarship on this matter, and they distort US scholarship — and in the name of anti-imperialist solidarity they align themselves with conservative positions in Brazil.

8/ More from French: black activists in B are not separatists but anti-discriminationists, and MNU did take symbols from the US and South Africa, but did not do so passively. Me: Sansone thinks whites can and should police what the MNU does. French: Bourdieu and Wacquant’s model is motivated by anxieties and subjectivities from France. Their characterization of Brazil and Brazilian intellectuals is false.

9/ Healy: Winant sees race as a universal category and this is the problem with him. The problem with Bourdieu and Wacquant is that they think attempts to give race primacy as an analytical category are necessarily an imposition of US categories. There’s also Lott, “Boomer liberalism” (Transition 78: 24-44): race and gender are some of the ways class is lived, and race may not be real but it is an effecdtive way of mobilizing.

10/ Me: Hollinger just believes in the melting pot, no matter how he dresses this up. Lott, “The new cosmopolitanism”: postethnicity is for people put off by the group solidarities of multiculturalism. Hollinger likes polyethnic identities so long as they can be transcended by cultural cohesion; postethnicity is liberal common sense; the idea of black selves as open-ended is NOT ENGAGÉ.

11/ Lott: The preference for the obviously biracial forgets that the BIG AJIACO IS AFRICAN AMERICA. AFRICAN AMERICA IS ALREADY HYBRID. Hollinger wants enlightened hybridism (113, 114); he wants to separate culture from politics; he, like Sansone, is more upset with the politicized identities the ethnoracial paradigm creates than the ugly history it seeks to come back. SOLLORS HAS A BOOK CALLED BEYOND ETHNICITY. And Walter Benn Michaels has one called OUR AMERICA! Transition 69 and 72 had articles I was interested in.






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Ferreira da Silva

In my own work I have argued that, rather than marking a rejection (as the hegemonic writers of the nation advocated) or the denial (as their critics insist) of race (i.e. racial difference), miscegenation institutes a mode of racial subjection predicated upon the necessary obliteration of the racial subaltern subject.” (ca. 2005)

That sentence is important to me because when I had my first intuitions for this project I was disconcerted by the inability of conservative thinkers to think of difference and equality at once. This would be rejection of difference … and then, in the literary works I read, I kept seeing an obsession with racial categorization and hierarchization, and a simultaneous denial of this (I called it “denial of difference”).

I feel I saw what F. da S. sees but I need to make sure it is in fact the same thing.



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Republican and economic modernity

These are two different things and they don’t go together. That is important to note. I was going to write a blog post on that, as applied to the university.

1/ Where are we now? My university is one of the most neoliberalized (I think) although it mixes that with a certain homespun quality. We are not good at shared governance.

2/ Common wisdom is that people who are not active in shared governance are too demoralized, too busy, or too disengaged / self-absorbed. Many use the excuse that the world to which it corresponds is over now. Is that an excuse, or is it true?

3/ Colleague: our university was founded in 1999 as a corporation, and sought an identity. This is why old traditions had to be stopped and new ones brought in. Student: university since 1999 makes it clear to all that it wants students’ money first. Education is a secondary concern. This is impersonal, and disconcerting.

4/ The ideals of the 18th century revolutions: we would be democratic republicans, citizens of nations. My questions: is that possible if the nation state is ending, and must nations be culturally or racially homogeneous?


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La rentrée

1/ Martha Washington is related to the Fitzhughs my grandfather is related to, and one of these famously had children with slaves (I am assuming all the Washingtons did, but this was more famous/verified). See…/George-Washington-s-African-Ame…
2/ Now even the NYT has a 1619 Project and is talking about the plantation as the foundation of the country and of capitalism, although of this last I started thinking when I read Jack Weatherford in the 80s and I am sure he was not the first to say it. See…/14/magaz…/slavery-capitalism.html…
3/ My whole project has to do with the half-failed attempts to ignore this biracial and multiracial reality, the effort to create white / Europe-oriented nations yet call them inclusive.
4/ 2019 is the 400th anniversary of US slavery but 2018 is the 500th of the Spanish decree justifying…


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