Tag Archives: Anzaldúa


The thing about Anzaldúa’s book is that it is not just about any borderlands, it is about a specific region. Yes, I know she extrapolates a great deal from there, but it is STILL into largely US based theory (gone global). But it is from a region and the writing voice does have an identity, even if not a flat one.


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La bibliothèque

I have to get the things I said I would, and López Velarde, and the Anzaldúa book I don’t have, and that’s there. I ordered the other one, and might donate it to the library. I’ll see about the Thomas Ward article (Gloria Anzaldúa y la lucha fronteriza).

I’m keeping in mind this manifesto on G.A. and healing and also the books that seem to have ended up in my Amazon carrito and not on a library list. I’ll keep the Saldívar-Hull introduction to the 1999 Borderlands in mind — the border subject is anyone, it says almost literally. I’m keeping in mind Kraniauskas on hybridity, and his references.

There is also the Crítica de la razón andina AND the critiques of postcolonial and ALSO of decolonial reason.  And there are the books I have hiding in my nascent electronic bookshelves, in Apple and Google.

And those e-shelves are probably where I should put the books I keep on Amazon wishlists. And it does not seem I will ever really use Jabrefs  or Zotero, although I know they are cool — these things remain to be seen.

I need Unzueta’s book, and I need to check out, for teaching, the anthology Spanish American Thought and Culture ed. by Jorge Aguilar Mora, Josefa Salmón, y Barbara C. Ewell.


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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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Ideologies of Hispanism (more notes to frame Cecilia and plaçage) … these 13 points are a fairly good blocking out

FACE YOUR FEARS [I am transcribing these notes to avoid doing that, but it isn’t a bad form of procrastination as it is helping me get something else necessary done].

ALSO REMEMBER: Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro II was a Confederate ally who had sheltered and supplied Southern ships during the Civil War. Then he offered land to the Confederados for as little as 22 cents an acre, subsidized their transport to Brazil, provided temporary lodging, promised quick citizenship and sometimes greeted them in person as they disembarked.

AND: Passing is subversive because you are not staying “in your place;” authenticity meant what exactly? having a knowable, “legitimate,” revealable class/race/family?

1/ I am interested in state policies and national myths.

2/ CV is a quadroon story that deploys the plaçage myth, which is a Haitian trope.

3. Focus on plaçage: it is deployed so as to claim that interracial relationships only take place in N.O., which will contain them (this is Emily Clark’s suggestion); so as to deflect attention from the actual fear which is of Haitian men (Clark).

4. CV is, or is said to be, the Cuban national novel. People identify with Cecilia, who is mixed, confused, and is also a girl who should be white. But the topic of the novel is actually the fear of Cecilia and its project is to contain her. It is anticolonial but also white supremacist and patriarchal.

5. As R. Lazo poits out, it’s also a product of New York. But as we note, it is also a product of Haitian and N.O. myths of the quadroon. So what is Cuban / U.S. / Latin American literature? None of it actually refers to nations, but to regions; all of it is transnational.

6. It is a counter-discourse to 19th century racial republicanism: the state is unable to produce a nation!

7. I need to look up Werner Sollors and Sibilla Fisher, still, on incest and miscegenation. Mulataje means NO OFFSPRING and yet Cecilia produces a baby (more or less).

8. Villaverde himself had to get a certificate of whiteness to be able to study, which is a good lead-in always; the entire society was so concerned to preserve certain venues for the truly white that this was necessary.

9. Novels to look for: Petronio y Rosalía; La cuarterona; Si haces mal, no esperes bien.

10. Lazo: CV is a hemispheric text and IS aware of its genre. Note that there were other hemispheric novels produced in Philadelphia. It was also written as the nation-state model was coming into crisis: these are counter discourses to previous foundational novels such as those by Mármol and Blest Gana that did not deal with race

11. Contra Doris Sommer, who talks about mestizaje and nation (the letrado discourse), I am interested in race and state. (Marilyn thinks this distinction does not hold up but I think it does.)

12. What do mestizos do: (a) confound racial discourse and be dangerous for that reason, or (b) join with blancos against indios? Is mestizaje a strategy of inclusion, or containment, or both? I think Sommer, con su elogio del mestizaje y de la nación, simplifies everything: her book is about why nations cannot be founded. And I think Anzaldúa, writing more or less in the same period as Sommer and in the same country, falls into the same error; I am not convinced by “hybridity” OR “decoloniality” as a solution

13. Also: in the period in which these ANTI mestizaje novels were written, Afro-descendants were making scary political strides. So: CV, the novel, is declaring earlier models for alliances unviable. At this point these narratives are raising more questions than they answer, and are talking about the failure of Independence (civil war, international war) societies and not the optimism of newborn, forward looking nations.


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That postmodern subject of PASSING

This is an old article I had kept to think about subjectivity in Anzaldúa and also Vallejo. It’s outmoded now, but some of the points are still valid, on the precariousness of identity and subject positions. Having no secure position to which to return distinguishes “passing” from “passing as,” she says. “Passing” is like Morrison’s “becoming” — entering what one is estranged from, reconsidering the self one has long thought one’s own. We want to NOT resurrect the humanist subject. If we do, we all have to be either confessional – “authentic”, or fraudulent. Instead, we should keep the provisional nature of every “I” firmly in mind … because the humanist subject is NOT the solution to the cultural problematic that places us all in the position of having to pass.

There is something suggestive here, too, about Cecilia Valdés: you cannot pass as a mother.


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De l’or

Very well. First, Robert Irwin 2001 on Anzaldúa — why had I not found this before? (Well, I had, but I had forgotten).

He implies exactly what I think: Chicano Studies is US-centric and needs a view from the South (if it is really going to help do Border Studies in a non colonizing way).

OK so: Mignolo (modernity/coloniality) also, with border gnosis, wants to bring what was suppressed by modernity into view [LIKE FERREIRA DA SILVA]. Note also prestige of knowledge: what is produced at a US R1 has more power than what is produced in the Frontera Norte, for example. The field of border studies needs this approach; Mexican perspectives need to be brought in.

Mignolo likes Anzaldúa, claiming she creates another locus of enunciation. BUT she and other US scholars actually perpetuate and reinforce barriers that prevent both dialogue with Mexican scholars and the study of Mexican texts that speak to border issues.

[Good phrasing by Irwin: Sommer’s *influential* reading of literary romance as national allegory (513).] And I am SO glad someone besides me sees how imprecise J. D. Saldívar’s work is. See p. 513 on his use of Sommer, though; does this indicate problems with him or with Sommer? BOTH: he’s writing out the Mexican and the Indian [more or less] and she makes a similar gesture.]

Interesting: Anzaldúa seems to resonate with transnational 3d world feminism in some ways but also at the same time it, and the scholarship on it, acts “colonizing” to Mexico (and I, because Anglo, was accused of colonizing for pointing this out, in blind peer review . . . but Irwin has gotten away with it, so now I can cite him).

There is interesting material on California in this article, and on Saldívar’s Border Matters. So much of Chicano Studies ignores or makes a distorted use of Mexican material, and does not listen to what Mexican writers and scholars say even if they are also from the borderlands.

Look up SOCORRO TABUENCA on Anzaldúa. She points out that A’s border cuture is narrated from the first world. Anzaldúa’s borderlands are the product of transculturation of central Mexican culture to the US: her indigenous references are Nahuatl and she cites Aztec myths; she quotes La raza cósmica and not Vasconcelos’ borderlands memoirs in Ulises criollo; this bias remains in American Studies.

ONE MUST SEE how much this piece has been cited and also how much Socorro Tabuenca is. (Anzaldúa wants to accomplish a “massive uprooting of dualistic thinking” and this is a laudable goal). [This is the article in which Irwin discusses J. Murrieta, by the way.]

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