Tag Archives: Book

Deborah Root and the concept of my book

I must find that Julio Ortega book, and I must teach something by Ortega y Gasset in that class on raza. On Spain, we will read things by Branche, Goode, Piedra, and Ortega y Gasset. We will also study Vasconcelos and Aztlán: espíritu, raza, palabra.


Deborah Root’s 1988 review of Todorov’s La conquête de l’Amérique points out that Todorov actually replicates Sepúlveda’s construction of the Indians-as-other. He views Indians racially, and reproduces an essentialist discourse of “Indian” nature. (217)

Imperialist discourse kills the subjected body and dons the flayed skin; animates it; impersonates the absent body and makes it speak. (219) Todorov’s Aztecs are like that: he has Aztecs speak as “natives” to voice European concerns, and he confuses Spanish representations of “Indians” with what these peoples may have actually been.

Absent in Todorov’s work is a recognition of the way in which categories of the (colonized) “Other” may be produced and proliferated within specific economies of imperial power. Literal, political violence underlies “recognition” of and dialogue with what the West perceives as its “Other.” (219)

Imperial power remains “under the skin,” replacing the dead or absent bodies of the “Other” with the discourse of sovereignty. (219) Despite Todorov’s claim to have entered into dialogue with the Other, accepted difference, and recognized equality, in fact in his book the voice of the Other is evoked only to be silenced. (219)

This is the move I am interested in. It is made again in criollo discourse, and it, pace Marilyn Miller, is what mestizaje is for. Actual Others are invoked, but then engulfed (da Silva) or elided; their effigies made to speak in the master’s voice, while actual Otherness is driven underground. So the discussion of racism is disabled, Others are driven underground and the voice of the Other is silenced.

Criollo discourse is designed to assert exceptionalism in two ways: we are mestizo and different, and we are also non racist. But, I argue, this exceptionalism is precisely not exceptional. That is what this paper, and then this book, have to unravel and explain. 

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♦Freedom as death struggle (Hegel); “death or liberty.” Haitian independence slogan, apparently: Vive la mort! (But it is also a mercenary slogan.)

♦THE VIOLENCE AT THE ORIGIN, ORIGINARY VIOLENCE. Which must then be forgotten. Sommer says these “foundational” texts are intended to heal originary violence but do they really work that way?

♦Should I call the first chapter of my book “Fictional Foundations of Latin American Culture” (playing on Foundational Fictions)? Or, would it be better to just use that phrase in the text (and explain it)? A key part of my mission, it seems, is to engage and respond to that Sommer book. I think I am writing about race but perhaps this is the real center of the thing.

♦These “foundational fictions” do not found, but un-found, because they unravel (cf. María) as much as they posit or remain solid. They found fictionally, but not really, and what goes on in terms of policy and practice does not necessarily match what the letrados say.

♦Classic 19th century texts declare certain projects, but they also put much historical reality under some sort of erasure. They may function best as ways to form horizons of interpretation that become hard to see beyond … such that certain analyses are reproduced and others are interdicted.

♦Those are some rudimentary ideas AND they will help with the article I must finish NOW.

♦I should use, somehow, somewhere, the “Fundación mítica de Buenos Aires” and its idea of an illusory, shared past.

♦Also, Baldwin: “The American idea of racial progress is measured by how fast I become white.”Blanqueamiento is not just a Latin American thing.


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Also: is “decolonial” the new “mestizo”?

Is it?

I like this old article on exceptionalism by Lund.

“The most implacable Latin American appropriation of Euro- centrism is a center/periphery discourse known as civilization and barbarism (civilización y barbarie).”


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Cien años de soledad

I have a title for my current book but I may need another book on the 19th century, or to 1826-1926 or so. I could call it One Hundred Years of Solitude, referring to the not-well-enough-understood century, that I am convinced I must understand to understand Vallejo.

This idea has been inspired by Joshua Lund, who says:

With or without intentions, however, the feeling of exclusion is there, representing what we might call the negative side of Latin American exceptionalism, what García Márquez has so rigorously and eloquently theorized as the solitude of Latin America, or what Schwarz calls a critical malaise.

–in Cultural Critique 47 (2001) 54-90, “Barbarian Theorizing and the Limits of Latin American Exceptionalism.”



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