Category Archives: Race book

Silvia Tandeciarz

I am not sure how easy it will be to get another copy of T’s important article on Spivak but I am recycling it because I simply must get a clearer desk, and clearer shelves.

She says that it is not so much that Spivak puts French feminism in an international frame but that she finds an international frame for French feminism. Spivak’s article is to read in France among the French but does not really speak to an international audience.

Said spoke of a conspiracy of theory, theorists all affirm each other and come up with a kind of orthodoxy. Is it ever possible to ensure the nonimperialist use and application of seemingly “politically correct” theoretical frameworks?

The Said article is in Foster, The Anti-Aesthetic. Said, in almost his exact words: In systems evidence gets homogenized very easily. Criticism as such is crowded out and disallowed from the start; hence, it is impossible. In the end one learns to manipulate bits of the system like so many parts of a machine. The universal system does not in fact take in a great deal: it screens out what it cannot directly absorb and repetitively churns out the same answers.

I think this is what happens to Anzaldúa and work on her. She says she is radical and of color and a fluctuating subject and then everyone else says so are they, and so are their objects of study, and a certain theoretical model of the subject is affirmed. It seems not to matter that the way she formulates this is by the same strategies elite Latin American subjects form themselves as allegedly oppositional to Europe–appropriating certain indigenous cultural material to do so.

 

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Recycling colonial Brazil, or, Colonial identity in the Atlantic world . . . and Ferreira da Silva, again

I went to this NEH institute almost 20 years ago where I was a bad student. I was partly there because I needed the scholarship money to survive the summer. And as it turned out we were to stay in these depressing dorms, and the NEH was broke that summer so the coolest speakers could not come . . . and the director had told the speakers we did have that we would “know nothing,” so they were speaking as if for tourists, and were surprised to find out we were professors.

It was when faculty now famous were younger, still trying to get married, still trying to have children, having unwise romantic drama with each other, so things were tense like high school or graduate school. (College had not been like that because people did not seem to see it as the end.)

It was the summer JSTOR was new. I was stifled in my job and alienated. A friend even more alienated was there. I think we were right in our analysis, but it was not a charitable one. In any case I remember the malaise. I did write a paper.

In any case, I am recycling some materials from it, and taking note of a few things in it — namely on formations of national identity in late-colonial Brazil and Spanish America (Stuart Schwartz, Anthony Pagden). Pagden — and I quite like his essay, and am not doing it justice — says that by 1650 or so the criollo elites of Mexico and Peru no longer considered themselves, nor their culture, Spanish. Because of early policies about marrying Indians and considering mestizo offspring Spaniards, by the early 18th century few criollo families were not actually mestizo.

The early racial fluidity undermined the criollo sense of being a closed, white elite and as a result of this, the project of figuring out how to extol the indigenous past while excluding present Indians was born; it was already clear by the middle of the 16th century that this was the model. Mestizos were also despised by now–not the bearers of a new, mixed culture.

Meanwhile, people like Siguenza y Góngora (1645-1700) were trying to figure out how to create a history and identity that used the past glory/present subjection of Indians as a basis of Mexican history. (He constructs Pre-Columbian Mexico as Mexico’s classical heritage, and so on.) It is worth reading, rereading this, and getting the actual book, too, which is inexpensive now.

Other things in this binder include some classic essays on the independence of Brazil, and Karl Kohut’s 2000 volume on the formation of viceregal culture, which has three volumes.

Axé.

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Mi libro – race and vision

In 1998 Jerome Branche published an article on Sab in the Afro-Hispanic Review in which he complained about the then-current spate of articles that called it a liberationist novel. He pointed out that it was not seen that way in its time, and sees the late 20th century interpretations of it as “fixing the meaning” (Hall), setting limits on the reader’s vision.

How valid are these readings of the text as feminist and abolitionist? He says not very, and will in this essay examine the power and gender relations in the text.

  1. The actual enslaved, and free Black people, are typically considered minor actors in abolition. This marginalization is important to note, although at the same time we must see that there were a lot of economic and political considerations pushing governments to end slavery, and many white Abolitionist societies.
  2. This article is called “Ennobling savagery? Sentimentalism and the subaltern in Sab and I like it. I have to find the rest of it and reread it (actually, I’ve found the rest of my printout now, and I’ve downloaded it).
  3. There is no evidence for Gómez de A.’s abolitionism in real life, nor for Domingo del Monte’s’; Haberly points out that Brazilian abolitionist literature is “both anti-slavery and anti-slave”; this could fit for Cuba as well. It’s interesting in the context of the current push for prestige for abolitionist writers, and in terms of the mythification of race relations in the Americas.
  4. Sab the character is committed to slavery: why do critics see him as a symbol of freedom? If the novel is feminist, why is there so little in it about Black women?
  5. And there is much more, and overall: SAB is about faithfulness of slaves, not the opposite; and as stand-in for the slaves, Sab obscures them. (I always like Jerome’s work.)

I think I can use this for my Ferreira paper, the scene of engulfment, decolonizing readings, left readings. I am glad I found this piece again.

Axé.

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Fleur de lys

What is francophonie and what was/is the relationship of former colonies to France? How does this differ from Spain/England? Francophonie seems the most Franceocentric, or Mothercountryocentric. This is something which must really be figured out. Is the métis conciliatory or contestatory? A challenge to “purity” (or something like that) or a support for it? French colonies did not have the longstanding mestizo colonial classes, or the mestizo-criollo alliances of the Spanish ones, or did they?

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The coloniality of power

Here we have a copy of that Mignolo journal issue/book our library does not have. There’s an article by Sanjinés on the nation and it explains why the B. Anderson model does not work. And an article by J.D. Saldívar on Anzaldúa that thinks, as I have claimed to do, that what she does with language is one of the most effective aspects of her project in Borderlands/La Frontera. And there is more. I’d like to be reading the paper book, but this is nice to have.

Decoloniality is thinking from the other side. But not from a romanticized other side. This book thinks about some of the things I do.

The mestizo is a colonial formation and that is why the mixture with the colonizer is the one that counts–and why you get the mestizo-criollo class. Does this mean that the mestizo, ultimately, cannot be subaltern? That the povo, even if also mixed, is not mestizo? Somebody must have worked this out. Who?

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Más y más mestizos

From March 2017:

“…mestizo and mestizaje…are doubly hybrid. On the one hand they house an empirical hybridity, built upon eighteenth and nineteenth century racial taxonomies and according to which ‘mestizos’ are non-indigenous individuals, the result of biological or cultural mixtures. Yet, mestizos’ genealogy starts earlier, when ‘mixture’ denoted transgression of the rule of faith, and its statutes of purity. Within this taxonomic regime mestizos could be, at the same time, indigenous. Apparently dominant, racial theories sustained by scientific knowledge mixed with, (rather than cancel) previous faith based racial taxonomies. ‘Mestizo’ thus houses a conceptual hybridity – the mixture of two classificatory regimes – which reveals subordinate alternatives for mestizo subject positions, including forms of indigeneity.”
—de la Cadena 2005

Y sí, and that is what the talk the other day did not address, and it is key for my piece on Isaacs: there is racial and religious mestizaje that stand in for each other. THIS is a good insight, I do think. (About mestizaje itself, the other way in which the word or concept “means in two accents” is that it is deployed in both oppressive and utopian or liberating ways.)

Also: Kraniauskas, hybridity and traces of capital, and that article on comparative hybridities.

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More mestizos and more Cecilia

The inner life of mestizo nationalism (Tarica) is another book to get, probably key. Joshua Lund’s later book is in dialogue with it, too. And look at page 80 of Lund: I’m right, it is a question of articulating nation and state. And: Asturias uses the stylized indígenas to come up with a more inclusive nation, but Castellanos stages that same culture to problematize that politics of inclusion / the mestizo state.

I was rereading Joanna O’Connell’s now old book on Rosario Castellanos and noted the reference to women characters like Dido (in the Aeneid, but also in Castellanos), Judith and Salomé who are threats to the foundation of nation. Daughters’ sexuality is an issue of racial and national loyalties. How does Cecilia fit into this?

I can see a next paper, on Mercier (St. Ybars), Cecilia and Emily Clark, centering on the placée. How Yankee travel writing + [what was the story that came from Haiti?] generates the terms in which Cuba and Louisiana see themselves. These mulatas are transgressive according to Glissant [recheck, it’s in Poétique de la relation] because they upset categories, but is this also something about preventing the foundation of nation?

What about Sab?

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Cecilia again

Glissant in Poétique de la relation talks about the mestizo as the one who confounds categories, disturbs whiteness. That’s not how they’re constructed in Spanish America, they’re a nation-building category. But it does seem to be how Cecilia works in Cecilia Valdés. Is this further evidence of that novel being written in the United States and furthermore, under a French-Caribbean influence? Did Villaverde read Mercier, L’Habitation Saint-Ybars, or were these two novels co-generated in some way?

The things of the Atlantic keep reappearing, like the repeating island; I’ve called them cane cultures. There is so much to think about.

Axé.

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Discerning darkness

Inspired by a Nation article on Toni Morrison: white literature is sprinkled with racial eruptions, that we are not supposed to see. But they are there to remind us that we are not the ones who will suffer from capitalism / colonialism / slavery. As noted, we are trained not to see them, but if we don’t look away, they are very revealing.

Should this be a title of or in my book? That discerning eye refers to the eye of the criollo who must notice the presence of the racial other so as to ward it off, keep it in its place, before it infiltrates and establishes equality. So you want to see them coming, but then look away from what their presence really means. It seems that in white literature the goal is not to see in the first place, but those others are so much closer in Latin America, or so much harder to distinguish from oneself, that one must actually look and watch out, and take preventive measures against power, but not tell anyone you have done this, so that it can appear you did not see / did not need to see. I have to work this out, but it is very interesting.

In news of Reeducation, I have this strange sensation that the spell has lifted. It is amazing–magical.

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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?

+ For instance: 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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