Un jour de congé

Friday is my day off. I woke up with aching muscles, not of the kind one gets from exercise but the kind one gets from not having enough exercise or sleep. With a bad mattress or anything else bad going on I would have felt like knives were cutting into me. Espresso is a good remedy for this and I wanted a massage but really got a microdemabrasion facial which is a good thing to do and which you, too, can afford occasionally if you don’t spend a lot of other money on things like this.

Then I went to get groceries and paint, and then I looked at e-mail, paper mail and telephone messages. After lunch my assistant arrived and we removed mildew from the fence, primed it, and painted a lot of it, working until dark. I made dinner and considered working but was still too tired, read academic blogs which to an extent is like doing work, moved things around in my text but without pushing it a step forward, and now, feeling slightly rested, I am continuing to decipher an article.

It is not very well written to say the least, but there is good research in it if you can find it. By the time I figure it out I will have digested and transformed it like a cannibal. Here are some random points from it.

♦ On the instability, the slipperiness of race: because of the upward mobility and also whitening of the mixed class, caste distinctions keep having to be reformulated to retain white hegemony. (Question: so it is not criollo and mestizo against cholo or indio, as in the Andes, but Spaniard and criollo against mulato and negro?) And this is one of the things these texts are engaged with: the problems that give rise to these renegotiations, and that the renegotiations cause in their turn.

♦ Mestizaje is a central metaphor for the national identity the letrados form, but this idea of common blood and roots is really a tension between urban modernization and the plantation world. That means among other things sexual decadence and incest.

♦The material reality of mestizaje was between European men and women of color from the beginning, and this was the “whitening” model later on as well. The fear of both pro- and antislavery groups was the inversion of this paradigm, such that men of color entered positions of power.

♦Important is how engreído the mestizaje/whitening ideal was: as Balibar reminds us, the hierarchy was perceived as natural, and people wanted to move up within it rather than abolish it. This is why it is “racist” according to some to notice anybody is not white; everyone is more properly a potential white, or a white in the making.

♦Every program of integration and also every step up the ladder destabilizes the hierarchy and thus requires new ways of marking difference if the white patriarch is to remain in power. In this way, the progress of a slave owning country toward nationhood and the progress of individuals toward freedom ARE DIRECTLY CONTRADICTORY TO ONE ANOTHER.

It is like the academic world and job market. The white patriarchs are in charge and everyone else is trying to join them in the place of autonomy and power. Negros and mulatos of various shades would appear to have common interests and are all allegedly able to join, but actually they have to compete among each other for places at the table. This keeps the caste system in place, even though the pot shakes and boils as everyone jostles each other in their attempts to jump caste. This applies as well to those still enslaved since they had ways to negotiate or buy freedom.

Tomorrow we will do more.

Axé.

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