Sold by: Amazon. Skip to main content Gustavo Verdesio. Something went wrong. Please try your request again later. Are you an author? Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography.
|Published (Last):||14 December 2010|
|PDF File Size:||10.21 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||12.50 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
However, in a recent article, Ricardo Kaliman has questioned the utility of the notion of colonial legacies for an understanding of the present. In this way, historical processes can be reconstructed and traces of our shared past recovered, with the purpose of understanding the colonial legacies that continue to inform our present. The strategy of studying colonial legacies is not, in my opinion, another way of justifying mere analo- gies, but a tool for understanding the genesis of current situations of social in- justice.
By genesis I mean, in this context, the beginning of a process that led, throughout the centuries, to these social situations. The way in which colonial legacies are understood in this book has, then, much more to do with the relations between the beginning and the current stage of a historical process than with mere structural analogies between past and present. This project can be better understood if one views the research being pro- duced in the field of Latin American colonial studies from a broader perspec- tive: that of its position in the framework of Latin American literary and cultural studies.
That is why it is convenient, first, to establish what kind of as- sumptions we, the practitioners of the discipline, bring to bear on the colonial texts and situations that are the object of our studies. Second, it is also neces- sary to trace a map of the academic and theoretical contexts within which we carry on those practices. As regards the first issue, it is obvious that the overwhelming majority of those of us who study colonial texts come from social strata and ethnic groups that have nothing or very little to do with some of the historical agents of the colonial period.
What I mean is that the victims of colonialism, the wretched of the earth, are not well represented in the ranks of those who study the past from an academic perspective. On the contrary, their numbers are very low. Al- most nonexistant. As a consequence, the vast majority of those of us who write about the colonial period are either of criollo origin or mestizos totally inte- grated into the occidentalized society that predominates in most Latin Amer- ican republics, or scholars from Europe or the United States.
The representation of historical subjects and agents such as the Amerindians or the African slaves, then, is in the hands, most of the time, of subjects who do not belong to those ethnic groups. However, it is clear in the current academic situation that the present-day subaltern has not been able, yet, to write colonial historiography. The present-day subaltern has not been able, either, to have access to a discursive practice in the area of colonial literary studies.
Those of us who produce knowledge in the field must assume the re- sponsibility with which we are faced: to make sense of the universe of discourse of an era. However, this is not the only responsibility we have.
There is another one, albeit a less evident one, that consists in studying the literary texts as a product of a situation of injustice that is the historical foundation of the social injustices suffered by many inhabitants of the continent in the present. The majority of the articles included in this volume study, precisely, social situations of the past understood as the origin, or the antecedent, of present social situations.
The rest focuses on some of the readings of those colonial situations produced by present-day scholars and writers. These investigations are motivated by the need to offer academic alternatives to predominant disciplinary practices. Although Walter Mignolo and Rolena Adorno stated, a few years ago, that the area of colonial studies was undergoing a paradigm shift an expression that deserves to be discussed , it is my opinion that this is not true from a statistical perspective.
The same coexistence of these two modes of understanding the discipline can be found in other collective publications in the area of Latin American colonial studies see the volumes edited by Jara and Spadaccini, Cevallos et al. In a significant number of the articles they contain, the colonial situations that originated the texts cele- brated as cultural monuments belonging to the national patrimony of the mod- ern Latin American nation-states are absent from the analysis.
On the other hand, scholars who could qualify as practitioners in the framework of the new paradigm, have such different research agendas that it is very difficult, sometimes, to imagine them as being part of the same group. This brief list of authors may give the reader an idea of the diversity that exists among the scholars who could be considered as part of the new paradigm.
I make reference to this methodological and theoretical diversity in order to present the reader with a portrait of the discipline as one where little con- sensus exists with regard to intellectual production. What I mean is that, in order to be able to talk about paradigm shifts, it is necessary that a consensus about the principles that regulate the discipline, about how knowledge is validated, etc.
The state of affairs of colonial studies, as we have seen, does not allow us to talk about such thing as a new paradigm. I propose, in- stead, to understand the practices Mignolo considers as symptoms of a para- digm shift, as academic practices that propose a new mode of intellectual production in the area.
In this way, we can view that group of academic works as representative of an emergent mode of production, but not as the statisti- cally dominant one in the discipline. The articles in this book can be viewed, if not as a part of that new mode of production, at least as ones that follow the paths opened by it. They represent a good sample, I believe, of the state of af- fairs of this field of studies, exhibiting both the most significant advances in the discipline as well as some of the theoretical and disciplinary problems we still encounter in our practice.
Although there are still many needed improve- ments in the practice of Latin American colonial studies, the articles included in this book are important steps towards a decolonization of the production in that field. The endorsement of this kind of disciplinary and ethical mode of pro- duction is necessary because, in general, what we—the majority of the scholars in the area, regardless of cultural or ethnic background—, bring to the study of the texts are centuries of Occidental education, an education that taught us to forget the oppressed ethnic groups of the continent when the task at stake is to produce a national narrative.
Our perspective, then even in the case of the best intentioned among us , is still a European one—a perspective that, far from showing any signs of change, seems to become more and more alien to the interests and views of the socially marginalized groups in Latin America. One of the reasons the distance between the critic and the subaltern subject is increasing can be found in the academic context of knowledge production.
As is well known, postcolonial theory is one of the most prestigious theo- retical frameworks in the American academic milieu. As a consequence, its propagation to the Third World has been fast and efficient. It is not unusual to see some Latin American critics resorting to Homi K. It is under- standable. The importance and value of this theoretical paradigm are undeniable and a dialogue with it should find a place in the agenda of scholars in the field of Latin American studies.
To begin with, postcolonial theory deals with situations that arose from capitalist nineteenth-century colonial situa- tions. Experts on Latin American Colonial Studies, for their part, have to study social situations wherein the economic and political organizational prin- ciples were closer to mercantilism than to the kind of capitalism developed by the British Empire in the nineteenth century Klor de Alva , Besides, the subaltern subjects defined as colonial subjects in India differ dramatically from the ones we, Latin Americanists, understand as such.
The colonial sub- ject of India is an Indian who had to tolerate not only the presence of an in- vader but also one who dominated the territory and the politico-economical system. In Latin America, the definition of the colonial subject is quite differ- ent. Many of the former were able to successfully participate in the rules that organized so- cial life in the continent, whereas the latter remained in an abject oppression that continues in the present. It is in the ranks of the latter that we can find the Latin American colonial subject, then Klor de Alva , —47, Among the many differences that could be found between the situations described by postcolonial theory and the ones studied by experts on colonial Latin American studies, perhaps the most interesting one is the language in which they are usually written.
Although it is true that scholarly work on colo- nial studies is written in several languages, among them English, it is also true that, in the case of postcolonial theory, the vast majority of the fundamental texts are produced in English by Third World diasporic intellectuals.
This is not a trivial datum, as Antonio Cornejo Polar warned us in his last work, be- cause in the hierarchies of languages in the global world, English is the privi- leged one. Latin America, like any other dependent culture, reads with much atten- tion the intellectual production originated in the First World. As a conse- quence, the theoretical ideas produced in English by migrant Third World intellectuals working in American universities have an impact on the academic work produced from, and by, Latin America.
The con- sequence of the linguistic hierarchy that dominates the circulation of ideas in this globalized world is the erasure of a series of critical traditions of Latin American origin that already proposed, before the heyday of postcolonial the- ory, a decolonizing agenda. This situation was denounced by Mignolo several years ago in when he responded to a article by Patricia Seed that celebrated the adoption of postcolonial ideas and concepts by some scholars specializing in the colonial period.
Seed praised, among others, the seminal book by Beatriz Pastor which, by the way, had been published in Spanish al- most ten years earlier. Mignolo, for his part, pointed out that in Latin Amer- ica there was already a significant corpus of criticism of colonial legacies before the irruption of postcolonial theory. A good example of this is the unforgivable delay in the publi- cation of an English version of La ciudad letrada, by Angel Rama a book pub- lished in the early-eighties whose long overdue translation appeared in the mid-nineties.
This lack of reciprocity, this lack of equality in the intellectual exchange at a global scale, is another element that characterizes the context in which we, scholars on the colonial Latin American period, produce knowledge nowadays.
I would also like to call attention to the lack of academic prestige of Spanish nowadays. As Mignolo has pointed out in his monumental The Darker Side of the Renais- sance: Writing in Spanish means, at this time, to remain at the margin of contemporary theoretical discussions. Some of the few colonial studies produced in the framework provided by the new mode of production proposed and defended by Mignolo and Adorno, among others, find their theoretical inspiration in another critical branch of postcolonial de- scent: Subaltern studies.
As the founding statement of the Latin American Subaltern Studies group explains, this is a theoretical practice that emerges at a moment when progressive intellectuals are disappointed in Marx- ism, a disappointment caused by the failure of the experiences in the countries of so-called socialismo real—real socialism , 1. It emerges, too, amidst the globalization period.
In a historical moment when everything is marketable and tends to the homogeneization of differences, we should be cautious as re- gards our own intellectual practices.
Whether one sub- scribes to her assessment of subaltern studies or not, it is reasonable to say that those who have Latin America as its object of study, should refrain from using such theoretical frameworks without subjecting them, first, to a careful scrutiny.
In his opinion, the corpus of criticism produced by Latin Americanists—primarily in the United States, but also in the rest of the world—is mostly based on a branch of poststructuralism: deconstruction , vii. Moreover, such a representation fails to account for the influential work of more recent critics like the recently deceased Antonio Cornejo Polar—who could hardly qualify as a practitioner of deconstruction.
Moreover, it is my contention that it is so because of the preconceived ideas he brings to the analysis. The object of study, in this way, takes shape as a consequence of the excessive importance de la Campa assigns to certain First World theories.
That is why, as scholars of Latin American colonial studies, we should focus without denying the possible usefulness of theoretical frameworks produced in the First World on the study of the specific social sit- uations that are the foundation and beginnings of our present. And we should do it with the tools that best serve that goal—be they postcolonial theory, sub- altern studies, or any other theoretical tradition—, yet without forgetting the specificity of the colonial situations we are trying to make sense of.
The founding statement clearly calls for a theoretical practice that requires from the critic a stronger sense of social and political responsibility as well as a solidarity with subaltern subjects. In other words, what this book offers is a study of Latin American roots that lays bare the domination strategies used by the criollo national project.
Finally, the reader should not get the impression that I am advocating a Latin Americanism produced by Latin American subjects who live in Latin America.
A passport does not give one privileged access to the right tools to account for a given object of study. On the contrary, some of the theoretical frameworks produced today in Latin America by Latin American scholars can also be subject to criticism from the disciplinary perspective of the new mode of intellectual production in the field of Latin American colonial studies.
Two examples will suffice to illustrate the point. For example, the way in which he seems to marvel at—and, often, celebrate—the hybrid practices of the subaltern, seems to leave in the shadows—as Neil Larsen has pointed out—the constitutive vi- olence that lies at the origin of the social situation that serves as the framework for the aforementioned hybrid practices.
That violence started, as is well known, with the cultural clash that some call, euphemistically, the colonial en- counter. Such a critical project which entails an utter rejection of cultural studies—a theoretical en- deavor that Sarlo now considers as very detrimental to Latin American stud- ies , is definitely unacceptable to those of us in the area of colonial studies who adhere to a project like this book, because—among other reasons—it proposes to limit our research only to, precisely, the cultural production that erased the subaltern or oppressed subjects from the universe of meaning created by offi- cial national narratives.
The idea behind their respective agendas is to understand the present through the study of the stories that have been erased by the official Argentinean national narrative.
As can be seen, the location in which theory is produced neither guaran- tees nor precludes its explanatory value. I am stating this truism because of a certain fictional dialogue authored by Alberto Moreiras in one of his most re- cent interventions: Take your average non-Latin American Latinamericanist: he sic must hear, as a constant background murmuring, that his sic efforts to think Latin America from his sic location in the cosmopolitan university have, as a damning condition of possibility, his sic all too comfortable installation in the methodological trends and fashions of world-hegemonic university discourse.
But then location was precisely what always already delegitimized his sic out- siding other. How can location function simultaneously as a source of legitimation and as its opposite? This staged dialogue is the platform from which Moreiras ad- vances his very well-founded argument against locational thinking.
However, I think his argument leaves the ground on which some critical strategies stand— those that put emphasis on the issue of the situation of enunciation—un- touched.
Similar authors to follow
Gustavo was one of my favorite profs I've had at Michigan. He is brilliant and so funny, and though the topic of this class wasn't all that interesting to me, he made it interesting and just has a lot of insight on life. Easy to get him off task to extremely compelling conversations, and tells hilarious stories. Amazing professor. Gustavo Verdesio. Professor in the Spanish department at University of Michigan. I'm Professor Verdesio Submit a Correction.