Category Archives: Bibliography

Sarmiento du jour

Ricardo Piglia once pointed out that the apocryphal quotation at the beginning of Domingo Sarmiento’s Facundo (1845) — the French sentence “on ne tue point les idées,” written by Sarmiento on a wall after being attacked by a federalist gang — can be taken as an emblem of Argentine literature in its foundational moment. Not simply in its banal content, but primarily in its form and in the discursive economy that presides over its historical inscription. By relating how Rosas’s dictatorship, “after sending a committee in charge of deciphering the hieroglyph,” (Sarmiento 5) must have wondered what in the world it could mean, Sarmiento draws the line between civilization and barbarism with a mere epigraph: barbarians are, of course, those unable to read the sentence. More than in the utopian vision it voices, “the sentence’s political content resides in the use of the French language” (Piglia 15). A voracious student of foreign languages, Sarmiento located in the transculturation of European sources a sine qua non condition for the construction of a modern civilized Argentine nation. Transculturation is, however, always already torn apart by aporias, not the least of which plagues the authorship of Sarmiento’s epigraph. Sarmiento attributes it to Fortoul, but Groussac later argued that it was in fact taken from Volney, only to be contradicted by Verdevoye, who noted that it does not appear either in Fortoul or Volney, but in Diderot. The exercise in tracking down sources naturally does not matter in itself, but as an emblem of the predicament of an entire national literature. Designed to found a nation by alienating, domesticating, and eventually transculturating that nation’s originary barbarism, the letrado’s civilizing gesture is from the beginning contaminated by a savage, barbaric relationship with its sources, emblematized in recurrent erroneous and second-hand attributions. (– I. A.)

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“A writer’s work is the product of laziness”

J. L. Borges on writing.

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Carlos Alonso on curriculum

Here are some of his 2013 thoughts. Watch the video and tell me what you think. What is the value of the humanities education, the Ph.D., and the life of the mind generally?

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Books on imperial Spain, and other books

I have so many books to read but I always want others. If there were bookstores I would walk to them and browse, and if the libraries had budgets I could peruse new acquisitions.

The desired books of the day are Hugh Thomas, World without end: Spain, Philip II, and the first global empire and Spain: the centre of the world, 1519-1682, to begin with; also, a fascinating book on William Pitt’s suppression of English intellectual life in the 1790s — a vigorous activity whose effects are felt clearly today.

What I am actually trying to read is a book by Agamben and I am bored. I should need the ideas in it as it is about slavery and ontology, but I do not like philosophy. I like theory and poetics, but not philosophy. I lack patience for philosophy, am I alone?

Other reviews I have read today (while avoiding Agamben and other, more pressing things) include a fascinating essay on biographies of Charlie Parker. Is he another of these innovative modernists, like Vallejo and Lorca, that died young in a disorderly way and got mythologized?

I learned that Perry Anderson is Benedict Anderson’s brother, in a beautiful review of Benedict Anderson’s memoir. “Shine always!” I thought of Michael Ratner, with whom I had hoped to work one day, and who is dead too.

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Vallejo and Badiou

To read on El tungsteno, one of Vallejo’s underrated works.

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Imaginaires du néoliberalisme

L’imaginaire néolibéral se révèle comme un dispositif de production de peur et de généralisation de l’impuissance, voué à corseter les imaginaires au prétexte de l’absence d’alternative. On y observe une métamorphose de la violence du régime d’accumulation, présentée comme inévitable, absolue, et dépolitisée. Il s’appuie sur une spacialisation et une culturalisation des rapports sociaux. Qu’il s’agisse de la domination sociale, des affects ordinaires, des modes de gestion du salarié et de la personne ou des subjectivités littéraires, il s’agit de tenter d’identifier, à chaque fois, les logiques à l’oeuvre dans l’entreprise contemporaine de reconfiguration néolibérale et les façons dont elles affectent les sujets et la représentation qu’ils se font d’eux-mêmes et du monde. Les contributions sont regroupées en quatre grandes sections qui explorent cet imaginaire sous l’angle, successivement, du rapport de pouvoir, du lien social, de la nouvelle raison managériale, et, pour finir, de ce que peuvent encore y être l’écriture et la littérature.

Le livre.

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Mais, find this article or book

Scholars of Latin American and Caribbean history have recently given a great deal of thought to both “race-making” and “nation-building.” [End Page 331] Many embrace the premise that race is a historical construct—a product of interactions among state policy, individual actions, and local politics—and elaborate compelling analyses of the racial dynamics on that basis. At the same time, others have used Anderson’s notion of “imagined communities” to describe the processes by which nineteenth- century (or in the case of Cuba, twentieth-century) elites and subalterns struggled over the terms of inclusion in the context of newly independent states. The authors in this volume undertake analyses of these as intertwined processes. The understanding that “race” and “nation” are mutually constituted is one of their common arguments.

In several essays, attention to region and its relationship to nation adds a layer of complexity. Barbara Weinstein, for instance, focuses on how intellectuals, journalists, and politicians in São Paulo asserted their “whiteness” during the rebellion of 1932, during which they resisted the unifying efforts of Getulio Vargas’ populist regime. In defiance of Vargas’ efforts to create a nationalist “myth of racial democracy,” in which all races were equally valuable contributors, a discourse emerged claiming Paulista superiority based on both its modernity and its racial purity in contrast to the rest of Brazil, depicted as backward and “other,” “African” or “mulatto.” Rather than taking a separatist view, however, this discourse, argues Weinstein, “was . . . the very opposite of separatism—it conflated the Brazilian nation as a whole with São Paulo identity” (243). Thus, even as she interrogates the categories, Weinstein demonstrates the salience of race and nation.

Other innovations include attention to sources often neglected in the study of racial dynamics. Sarah Chambers cross-references records of landholding and tribute payments with marriage registries, concluding that inhabitants of Arequipa who might otherwise identify as mestizo found it much more advantageous, in public settings, to claim either Indian or Spanish identity. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the label of “mestizo” was not inherently preferable, contrary to received notions of colonial society, in which Indians were thought to claim mestizo identity whenever possible.

Indeed, challenges to entrenched historiographical notions constitute the most appealing aspect of this volume. Among them are Weinstein’s critique of a hegemonic acceptance of the “myth of racial democracy,” Chambers findings about the weak appeal of public mestizo identity, and James Sanders’ simple but significant observations that indigenous people in Colombia formed alliances not just with Liberals but with Conservatives as well.

As in other postcolonial societies, many Latin American regimes confronted the problem of integrating previously marginalized populations into freshly anointed democratic regimes, which in many cases meant incorporating persons of both African and indigenous descent. Historians of the Americas have traditionally treated these efforts at integration as separate problems. However, following the insistence of Peter Wade, whose thoughtful afterword concludes the volume, the editors [End Page 332] have aimed to bring them together. Further work along these lines will enrich and expand our understandings of how race is made.

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