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The new outline


1. The national novels are disturbing for what they do with incest, race, death [originary violence, romance of origins]
2. They’ve become nat. novels and also, under influence of Jameson & then Sommer, been read as nat. allegories
3. At that point the 1920s/30s national projects, which reflect some letrado discourse from further back (e.g. Bolívar), get projected back into the said novels
4. But these happy readings, about progress, don’t fit with actual policy — nor with the texts themselves
5. The texts aren’t always about forjando patria, but are diasporic, fragmented, fragmenting, exhibiting fissures, intimating failure
6. A novel like C.V. is about the impossibility of foundational discourse, or at least a foundational discourse based on mestizaje, progress, liberal principles
7. In fact such novels – Sab, María, C.V., others – may be about the prevention of solutions and the preservation or reinstallation of hierarchies
8. Indeed, this fits historically, because the earlier 19th century was the era of republican modernity, and in the second half things get much more conservative
9. This ambivalence is what the novels embody and manifest.

II [This needs development]

1. One of the key ways in which they embody and manifest this ambivalence is via “evoke and elide” – do we want to acknowledge and address the race problem, or not? F. da Silva can help us think about this, because

a/ she has a sophisticated way of talking about production of the L.A. subject
[showing why it NEEDS to be racially unstable/ambivalent]
b/ it explains why what I am calling “evoke and elide” keeps happening — shows that it actually is important, central, the formation of discourse on race in L.A.

*note: her theory of the L.A. subject isn’t just the criollo or the entre-lugar, it is more precise
*note: for her, mestizaje is real but is not a solution
*note: what is interesting about her is that she is looking at a global theory of race, so is not looking to claim L.A. or BR exceptionalism, but is looking at specificity
*note: as we know, she says race is a constituent element in modernity/coloniality & as such is not going away [this is going to have to be explained, but how much will I have to summarize and justify, is the question]
*[what was I saying, in the café, about overdetermination?]

***VERY important note: because modernity is coloniality and depends on race, we don’t get to iron race out of modernity: so when we look at things from her paradigm, we can see what is really happening without asking ourselves to see progress or a linear/single/facile narrative***

I have to keep working on this, there is so much to it. KEY: these texts are not talking about mestizo nation but transnational racial state — diasporic, regional, all of it at the same time. Historians are thinking this way about the continent and we should consider whether the literature is doing the same thing, in its way of engaging/producing national discourse / civic space / identity / etc.


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The BRASA deadline is extended to September 1, Gott sei Dank, and I have to double-check the situation with LASA. I’d like to go to both just to see papers, and maybe I should even if I don’t get in or don’t make the submission deadlines. In the meantime, here are some of my old notes on race; I have not worked consistently enough since my disaster and that is why I have all these fragments I am trying to sew together.

From an ERIP conversation: there are intra-regional processes of racialization and they are becoming more and not less severe (se están agudizando); lo racial sí importa para la desigualdad, y se articula en otros procesos. Es efecto de las reformas neoliberales, que SON colonización. Y no ‘sicológico’ – sino técnica de poder.

The mestizo project of the 20s and 30s was also anti-Chinese! They were coming in and needed to be defined out of national character! Blackness in Mexico is invisible, or invisibilized as well, and the mestizaje project was about official inclusion and actual exclusion. It is ALSO about modernización e igualación social.

Also: mestizaje might be anticolonial, but it isn’t antiracist! Review Gamio, Forjando patria, his ideas of mestizaje. Also Moisés Saenz 1919, his idea of “ethno-races,” and El proceso de aculturación, Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán 1957. And it was under the influence of FRANZ BOAS that “se dejó de hablar de raza en México.”

PROCESSES OF RACIALIZATION (that is key for F. da Silva). And: difference does not create inequality. You create race by recoding culture as biology. Racialization is NOT residuo colonial (and it is getting stronger now with neoliberalization). It is part of the structure of the CURRENT COLONIAL SITUATION, or a structuring part of it.

Racialization manipulates stereotypes, but to speak of race involves much more than classifying phenotypes. DA SILVA is talking about how race is produced. RACE is a concequence of RACIALIZATION, and not the opposite. El racismo surge de la política, y es herramienta.

Race as concept is preserved by the refusal to discuss racism.


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“This thing of darkness” (more for Ferreira da Silva)

I have been working on this whole thing for so long that it is disheartening, but I have to make PROGRESS this time. I am finding so many notes, so many half-done things.

Anyway, I am digging it all out.  I will remember that article on Schwarz, the phrase “the most specific feature of Brazilian society (and, by extension, its culture) is to be permanently maladjusted with respect to itself, precisely because of its peripheral-capitalistic character.” [To say that you have to explain dependency theory, though.]

Caliban: “This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine,” said Prospero, who had exiled Sycorax. (Note: she was from Algiers, whence she had arrived already pregnant with Caliban.)

In one very old series of notes I am *also* talking about Telles and Lim (Demography 1998) – it seems this article was seminal for me. Telles was a good support of counter-argument on Sansone. Degler’s “mulatto escape hatch” doesn’t exist in Brazil, for instance, but does in the U.S. Wade: mestizo, in Lat. Am., is included in white; Indian and black, and to a large extent mulatto, is nonwhite [so it IS still a binary system, as long as you don’t take “white” literally]. I am also talking about Pontocorvo and Portocarrero in these notes / this paper. Here I also have notes on Burdick (black movements) and the brilliant John D. French paper — on how so many are still hostage to the Freyrean Brazil / U.S. contrast.

Schwarz, and work elaborating on him, can help counter Brazilian exceptionalism, because of the “misplaced ideas.” Ferreira da Silva, in an early piece and others say Winant has ethocentric universality, projects the U.S. case (as though there were only one U.S. case) on everyone, but does he? F. da S., Sheriff, and so many keep saying blackness is different in Brazil, and racism is different, but it is as though they were saying this to stop the discussion, not to explain how those differences work, I feel.
(I’ve recycled the Sansone notes and I am calling that progress — I will have to reread him if I need him; the thing about him is that he wants to get rid of “ethnicity,” I think he means get rid of the possibility of “seeing race” and I don’t think that is possible.)

And then: I took notes on Jorge Domínguez’ old essay and must look up his work. Key: the racial order of the Spanish empire was less extreme in some ways, than the Latin American one. In Venezuela, for instance, royalist troops were integrated, but insurgent ones were not; Bolívar, in the earlier years of the war, made amazingly racist statements.

Was “Independence” independence, or rather a series of civil and international wars? The unrest of the 1810-1860 period had long-term consequences that are a legacy of these processes. Another legacy is the problem of identity: the question is how to make patriots out of the royalists? A third legacy is the RESTORATION of a racial order. Many had called themselves patriots, yet defended slavery or segregation, and the white elites manage to reestablish Gramscian hegemony in matters of race. That is what I think these novels are about.

*Remember Toussaint and the limits of modernity*

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Ahora bien

Here is what I am generally addressing [Schwarz’ perception]: “the most specific feature of Brazilian [and Spanish American?] society (and, by extension, its culture) is to be permanently maladjusted with respect to itself, precisely because of its peripheral-capitalistic character.”

My question: evoke-and-elide. This is something Sommer has solved as projection into the future but what if this é assim mesmo?

That article which updates Schwarz suggests the situation isn’t resolvable, healable, and this is what I think is going on as well, why the books are so strange. These narratives of healing are ambivalent. Is it just that they are the stories of a criollo class, [a “síntoma criollo”] … or is it something else?

Da Silva would say that it is because racism (colonialism) are inevitable, and she has a theory of the Lat Am subject that shows why evoke-and-elide is necessary. It is more interesting than the answer that these texts are of the Creole class and merely reflect their interests, or other explanations, because it speaks to the broader context.

Key in da Silva is the idea of GLOBAL, which goes to coloniality/modernity . . .

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Putting my head on

I’ve had a headache all day. It has to do with allowing myself to be colonized by fear, and not wanting to recognize that yes you do have to fight back. I will have to find a way to resist these things and perhaps also strengthen my back. And in case we wondered, slavery IS essential to capitalism.

I could start one of these papers with Toussaint / CLR James: that is when we found out modernity only applied to white people / Europe.

Questions of the day: dependency theory, is it really outmoded? Does it apply to Africa? I think it still applies to Latin America. I may need to consider this; it seems 22 African presidents have been assassinated by France since 1963 and I think that is enough to say Africa is colonial.

Slavery/modernity: not a contradiction but a requirement. Think: Mignolo, da Silva, Schwarz, Habermas, but also everyone Dussel quotes, Sommer. The short-circuits. The uneasiness. The uncomfortable rubbing. The submerged contradictions.

The romantic-national line of thinking and Doris Sommer: is she just discussing it, or is she participating it? Also, is her salvation-through-miscegenation thesis an “idea out of place“? Or is she just quoting Bolívar?

And: Roberto Schwarz’ ideas are a lot more complex than I had comprehended before, that is, their context and implications are. This Palti article is really smart although I do not have time to understand it all. What of use can I understand now — it really puts a lot of important things together?

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Roberto Schwarz

universality, or the idea of it, masks class antagonisms and this became evident after the 1848 revolutions.

Brazilian liberal pamphlet from the time of Machado: modernity and science are modern, but in Brazil slavery dominates (so Brazil opposes science). Etc. Various people in 19C point out that Brazil does NOT incarnate liberal European values. Europe APPEARS to do so (although it masks the exploitation of labor); Brazil does not.

Liberal ideas and slavery coexist, and liberal ideas are more capitalistic in some aspects (e.g., you can have a “flexible” labor force).

The FAVOR (that free men needed to function) is also an anti-liberal institution. But it could be justified, covered over with liberal ideas, presented as their result. This false pairing has many consequences for literature and life. It creates labyrinths of reality/appearance that Machado is adept at analyzing (cf. Quincas Borba).

The Russian comparison. Does the US have “ideas out of place”? I need to study more. In any case coloniality and modernity must go together, like racism and modernity — one does not cure these ills with modernity, they came with it; at the same time, though, liberal ideas do NOT go with slavery [or would Shwarz now say this contradiction is part of coloniality-modernity?]. I must think about these things; the general idea is that these novels are as odd as they are because they are working with this material.

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Andrew Jackson and the modern subject

Is racism a necessary part of the modern gestalt? Yes, say Mignolo, Denise da Silva, and my friend Nicky, each in their own way, and now Greg Grandin.

Writing in the Nation, he argues that racism is at the center of American individualism: individual rights were defined by racial domination. Andrew Jackson is his key example. NOTE that Jackson defended “small government” along with slavery, saw them as going together.

Grandin: the individual rights people are so opposed to social rights that a history of the country could be written in terms of that tension; this explains why racism is such an intractable problem (since the individual rights people base these partly on race). The individual rights people have waged a total war to keep social rights at bay, and this has become a cultural identity (so losing any ground individual rights feels like getting killed).

Individual rights absolutism got entrenched in white political culture during the age of Jackson, Grandin says. (Is “freedom” actually code for white men enjoying impunity and getting stuff?) The Freedmen’s Bureau was a antidote to that, but note that in Europe, the response to 19th century wars and struggles was to actually get some form of welfare/health; note also that Montesquieu’s rights weren’t all property rights.



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