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Title: Latin American postcolonial theories., By: Castro-Gomez, Santiago, Peace Review, 10402659, Mar98, Vol. 10, Issue 1 Database: Academic Search Premier
LATIN AMERICAN POSTCOLONIAL THEORIES
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During the late 1970s a new field of investigation called "postcolonial studies" began to consolidate itself in Western universities, especially those in Britain RECOMMENDED and the United States. The discourses emerged from influential university READINGS chairs held by refugees or sons and daughters of foreigners and immigrants. These individuals were socialized in two worlds differing in language, religion, traditions, and socio-political organization. They were acquainted with both the world of colonized nations, which they or their parents abandoned for some reason or another, and the world of industrialized countries in which they live and work today as intellectuals or academics. At a time when postmodern, structuralist, and feminist theory enjoyed a privileged position in the intellectual AngloSaxon world, these people considered themselves to be "Third World intellectuals of the First World," thus defining the form in which they began to reflect on problems relating to colonialism.
Departing from institutionally accepted studies such as anthropology, literary criticism, ethnology, and historiography, postcolonial theorists articulated a critique of colonialism which substantially differs from anticolonial narratives of the 1960s and 1970s. During that period academic circles popularized a type of discourse which emphasized the revolutionary rupture from the capitalist system of colonial domination. Working within the geopolitical spaces opened by the Cold War, as well as the environments created by Asian and African independence movements, this discourse focused on the fortification of national identities of colonized countries and the construction of a society free from class antagonism. The critique of colonialism was understood as a rupture from the structures of oppression which had impeded the "Third World" from realizing the European project of modernity. However, anticolonialist narratives never pondered the epistemological status of their own discourse. Such criticism arose from methodologies pertaining to the social sciences, the humanities, and philosophy-fields of study that had been developed by European modernism since the 19th century. Economic dependence, the destruction of cultural identity, the growing poverty of the majority of the population, and the discrimination of minorities were all phenomena considered to be "deviations" from modernity. All of these maladies, it was thought, could be rectified through revolution and the popular sector's seizure of power. These popular sectors, not the bourgeoisie, would be the true "subjects of history," those who would carry out the project of "humanizing humanity," which in turn would be realized within colonized nations themselves. What postcolonial theorists began to realize is that the very language of modernity, with which anticolonialists expressed themselves, is essentially located within the totalizing practices of European colonialism. Third World critiques of colonialism, narratives theoretically based on sociology, economics, and the political sciences, could not leave behind the space in which these disciplines reiterated the hegemonic language of modernity in colonized countries. Following the thesis of Jacques Derrida, the Indian philosopher Gayatri Spivak affirms that no socially diagnostic discourse can transcend the homogenizing structures of modern rationality. This means that no sociological theory
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can "represent" objects found outside the totality of signs that configure the institutionality of knowledge in modern societies. It is always anticipated that scientific knowledge is codified within the interior of a fabric of signs that regulate the production of "meaning," such as in the creation of objects and subjects of knowledge. It is from a certain "politics of interpretation," then, (actualized in universities, publishing houses, centers of investigation, etc.) that a theory's "effects of truth" are produced. Furthermore, the politics of interpretation define the frontiers that separate one scientific discipline from another and assign determined parcels of knowledge. Anticolonialist narratives discursively generated a "marginalized," "exteriorized" space which agreed with the reconfiguration of intellectual strongholds experienced by institutions responsible for creating new knowledge. In many metropolitan universities "marginality," "alterity," and "Third Worldism" were even converted into new fields of academic investigation capable of mobilizing a considerable amount of financial assistance. The institutional implementation of these new objects of knowledge/investigation demanded the importation of "practical examples" from the "Third World," such as magical realism, liberation theology, and any other subjects that could be classified within the space of "otherness." From this point of view, the emphasis of anticolonial narratives on opposition, such as the divisions between the oppressors and the oppressed, the powerful and the meek, center and periphery, civilization and barbarism, succeeded in strengthening the binary system of classification inherent to metropolitan apparatuses that produce knowledge. The Indian philosopher Homi Bhabha, another central figure in postcolonial discourse, also criticized the institutional mechanisms that produced representations of the "other" and projected it as an entity easily obscured by modernity's ethnological, anthropological, geographic, historiographic, and linguistic discourses. In order to legitimate itself, the European project of colonial expansion needed to create the metaphysical self-image of conqueror: that of "Man" as god, maker of the world, owner and master of his own historic destiny. The once sacred space of the world, considered to be vestigia Dei, is replaced by vestigia hominis, in reality objects of and subject to technical manipulation. It is perhaps Edward Said who has had the most impact in postcolonial discourse. In studying the diverse textual formats with which Europe produces and codifies knowledge about the "Orient," Said emphasizes the connections between imperialism and the human sciences, thereby following the line of thought delineated in the 1970s by European theorists like Michel Foucault. This French philosopher had studied the rules that outlined the truth of a discourse, showing where truth was constructed and how it circulated and was administered by determined instances of power. Said elaborates on this and explores the way in which European colonialist societies discursively constructed an image of nonmetropolitan cultures, especially those found under their territorial control. The limitless power European imperialist forces exercised upon every aspect of a locality, from its territorial boundaries to its traditional culture, warranted the production of a series of historical, archaeological, sociological, and ethnological discourses about the "other." During the early 1980s a group of Indian intellectuals, identified with the historian Ranajid Guha, noticed Said's critical study. The works of this group, later compiled under the name "subaltern studies," critiqued the anticolonial, nationalist discourse of the Indian political class and the official historiography of the independence movement. Ranajid Guha, Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and other authors considered such narratives to be colonialist constructions projected on to the Indian people by social scientists, historians, and political elites. India's fight for independence amidst the threat of British domination was presented in the narratives as a process rooted in the "universal ethic" fleeced by the colonizers, but efficaciously recuperated by Gandhi, Nehru, and other nationalist leaders. According to the subalternists, this reliance on a supposed "moral exteriority" contained the Christian rhetoric of victimization, which made the masses, by dint of their oppression, morally superior to the colonizers. One may then conclude that the narration of the independence movement mirrored the Christian-humanist project of universal redemption. In other words, the movement used the exact same discursive figures that had succeeded in legitimating European overseas colonialism. The demystification of anticolonialist nationalism also includes a harsh critique of the imperial rhetoric of English Marxism, which employed distant examples of anti-imperialist struggles of the "Third World" in order to politically legitimate itself"at home." Rural insurrections, such as demonstrations, written agendas, and well advised programs of political action, were understood as manifestations of a recently acquired (social and moral) "consciousness." Since the Indian masses lacked the sociohistorical literacy in which to base their politically subversive activities, the homogenizing schemes of
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sociological and historiographic discourses ignored and subsequently left their protagonist position unwritten. According to Guha, all humanistic studies, including literature and historiography, functioned as strategies of subalternization in the hands of the educated elites of India. They are, as Spivak would say, essentialist narratives still subject to colonial epistemologies which obscure cultural hybridizations, varied spaces, and contrasting identities. The postcolonial criticism of Said, Guha, Bhabha, and Spivak stresses the persistence of colonial legacies within modern systems, as evidenced by representations of the "other" generated by the social sciences which bureaucratic rationality politically administers. In the early 1990s, thinkers in the United States like Walter Mignolo, John Beverley, Alberto Moreiras, Ileana Rodriguez, and Norma Alarcon began to reflect upon the political function of Latin American studies in the North American university and society. They adopted Indian criticism and established a postcolonial restoration aptly named "Latin American Studies." According to the aforementioned authors, "Area Studies," and "Latin American Studies" in particular, have traditionally functioned as discourses inscribed in a bureaucraticacademic rationality that homogenizes the social, economic, political, and sexual differences of Latin American societies. Latin Americanism, that is, the consolidation of theoretical representations of Latin America produced from the human and social sciences, is identified as a disciplinary mechanism in accord with the imperialist interests of North America's foreign policy. The emergence of the United States as the triumphant power during the Second World War, the financial aid programs for the modernization of the "Third World," the postmodern globalization of the American way of life during the phase called "late capitalism," the political struggle against the expansion of communism in the southern part of South America--all of these factors must have acted as empirico-transcendental conditions of possibility for Latin Americanist discourse in North American universities. Similarly to the misrepresentation of India, the United States' "official historiography" of Latin America, presented as a series of literary, philosophical, and sociological representations, structurally conceals difference. In fact, humanist epistemologies, with their emphasis on the centrality of intellectuals and erudition, find themselves symbiotically incorporated in literature programs present in almost all universities. They seek to formulate a critique of modernity's epistemological strategies of subalternization in hopes of moving toward the locus enuntiationis (the site of enunciation) from which subaltern subjects may articulate their own representations. In the following pages I would like to examine closely the specific premises of two members of the group: John Beverley and Walter Mignolo. Beverley's criticisms are mainly directed toward the type of literary and humanistic discourse which predominates in Latin American literature departments in the U.S. Following Foucault's thesis, Beverley argues that structures of the university apparatus offer professors and students material that is already reified, "packaged," into rigid canonical schemata that have defined Latin American literature. Beverley reveals that the institutional organization of such literature programs follows the hegemonic ideology of imperialism. Thus, Spanish, English, and French literature departments exist because Spain, England, and France had important empires. Polish and Romanian literatures, on the other hand, are not given whole departments. In many universities Latin American literature exists as a subdivision of the "Romance languages," while at the same time literatures from Romania and Poland are studied within the context of"Slavic Languages." Like Guha, Viswanathan, and other Indian authors, Beverley posits that literature was an example of the elites' humanistic training, the same elites who, since the 19th century, encouraged the neocolonialist project of the nation state. Latin American nationalism emerged from a disciplinary logic that "subalternized" a series of social subjects: women, the insane, Indians, blacks, homosexuals, peasants, etc. Literature and all other humanistic fields of study appeared to be structurally inscribed within exclusive hegemonic systems. Intellectuals like Bello, Sarmiento, and Marti, to name a few canonical examples, acted from a privileged position secured by literature and the humanities. Authorized by their privilege, the authors exercised a "politics of representation." The humanities were converted into the space from which the subaltern is discursively "produced," from which his/her interests are represented. The subaltern is thus assigned a place in the temporal succession of history, and is shown the "correct" path from which he/she should base his/her political revindications. John Beverley seeks to break from the humanistic view concerning intellectuals in order to arrive at post-representational forms of theory. In Literature and Politics (1990) he advanced that literary theory is not a mere superstructural reflection of the economic sphere, but rather a discourse involved in
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social formation through its presence within the educational apparatus. Later, in Against Literature (1993), he presents the university as an institution in which almost all hegemonic and counterhegemonic societal struggles occur. Beverley understands struggle as a deconstruction of the humanistic discourses that formed the patriarchal subject and the modern bourgeois. The struggle signals another type of extra-academic, non-literary practice that resists representation in the "critical discourse" of intellectuals. These are differentiated voices capable of representing themselves, as is the case with Rigoberta Menchu and the Zapatista Army of Liberation. Beverley considers criticism of humanistic discourses that deal with Latin America as liberating therapy, a "psychoanalysis of literature," which should raise the intellectual's consciousness regarding what Spivak calls the "epistemic violence" attached to his/her heroic fantasies. Liberated from his/her "will of representation," the literary critic may be capable of efficaciously acting within the boundaries that Michel de Certau calls a "micropolitics of the mundane," the site where social conflicts more closely affect his/her own life, the university. Walter Mignolo also comments on the authority of the canon in North American universities, which defines the true territories of knowledge about "Latin America." Some members of the Latin American Group of Subaltern Studies adopt the Indian model of theorization and use it to assess Latin American colonial situations. Mignolo, however, thinks that this model corresponds to a very specific locus rooted in India's British colonial legacy. Instead of converting Indian postcolonial theory into a model exportable to other peripheral zones, Mignolo tries to investigate the "local sensitivities" that accommodated the emergence of postcolonial theories in Latin America. When Mignolo talks about "postcolonial theories" he refers to, like Bhabha and Spivak, a critique of the epistemological legacies of colonialism, as they are reproduced by North American academia. The critique of the "teaching machine" is politically relevant because it annuls the legitimacy of modernity's universalizing paradigms. The paradigms rendered European colonialist practices as irrelevant in modern processes responsible for organizing knowledge. Basing his assertions on the theory developed by Carl Pletsch concerning the geopolitical division within intellectual projects, Mignolo advances that between 1950 and 1975 (the "third phase of capitalism's global expansion") the enunciation and production of theoretical discourses were localized within the "First World," in technologically and economically developed countries. "Third World" countries were recognized only as receptors of such scientific knowledge. Mignolo wishes to investigate fully the relationship between imperialism and knowledge, how it manifests itself in the scientific practices of imperialist countries. In his magnificent book The Darker Side of the Renaissance, this Argentine thinker proposed to demonstrate that during the 16th century, historiographical, linguistic, and geographical knowledge was directly linked to the beginning of European expansion. In this work, as well as in previous writings, Mignolo reveals that modern science produces objects of knowledge, like "America," "The West Indies," "Latin America," or "the Third World," which functioned as colonialist strategies of subalternization. These strategies cannot be interpreted as mere "pathologies," but rather as palpable proof that modernity was an intrinsically colonialist and genocidal project. In fact, modern science has been accomplice to what Mignolo, after Dussel, calls the "three big genocides of modernity:" the destruction of Amerindian cultures, the slavery of blacks from Africa, and the massacre of Jews in Europe. But, what occurs once the old European colonialist agenda is dissolved and the balance of the world order established during the Cold War falters? Mignolo posits that three types of theory stemming from different loci of enunciation will emerge and epistemologically exceed the colonial legacies of modernity. They are: postmodernity, postcolonialism, and postoccidentalism. While postmodern theories express the crisis of modernity's project within Europe (Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida) and the United States (Jameson), postcolonial theories deal with the crisis from the colonial perspective of countries that had attained their independence after the Second World War, like India (Guha, Bhabha, Spivak) and the Middle East (Said). Latin America, with its long tradition of failed modernizing projects, is "naturally" the origin of postoccidental theories. What these three theoretical constructions have in common is their dissatisfaction with the globalization of new technological developments after 1945 and their profound skepticism about what Habermas calls "the unfinished project of modernity." According to Mignolo's research, postoccidental theories began to emerge in Latin America after 1918, the time when Europe began to lose hegemony over global power. Theorists like Jose Carlos Mariategui, Edmundo O'Gormann, Fernando Ortiz, Leopoldo Zea, Rodolfo Kusch, Enrique Dussel,
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Raul Prebisch, Darcy Ribeiro, and Roberto Fernandez Retamar succeeded in epistemologically dismantling the colonialist and hegemonic discourse of modernity, which in turn motivated Latin America to move toward a technologically modernized society. The theoretical knowledge of these authors is "postoccidental" because they expressed a critical response to whet Jameson refers to as the social and scientific project of modernity in its new stage of imperialist globalization. Latin America had already produced theories that, ipso facto, broke with the privileges of colonial discourse long before Guha established his Indian Group of subaltern studies and before Europe and United States began to discuss postmodernism. Naturally, the following question may be posed: What guarantees that the epistemologies of Latin American social science and philosophy (treated by the aforementioned authors) did not also play a subversive/subalternizing role, like those from the United States and Europe? Mignolo wonders if an interpretation of texts produced in pluricultural spaces, involved in colonialist relations of power, is possible. Hermeneutics is an exercise that facilitates the comprehension of colonial situations or legacies, for the subject who interprets, as well as for the texts that are interpreted. When the social scientist (or philosopher) biographically or ethnically identifies himself/herself with a determinate excluded community, then what Gadamer called a "fusion of horizons" is produced: the interpreter does not approach his/her object as a disinterested observer, rather he/she brings along all the prejudices (ethical, theoretical, political) that bind him/her to his/her own lifestyle, in this case, to a lifestyle underpinned by the experience of colonial marginalization. Colonialism functions as a globally identified pre-philosophical space, a "cultural tradition" from which an interpretation of Latin American perspectives is possible. In contrast to events in Europe and the U.S., Mignolo posits that a major part of social science and philosophy in Latin America has manifested itself as a "pluritopic hermeneutics" which breaks away from the objectifying epistemologies of colonial science. I think it is unquestionable that subaltern studies have discovered important aspects of the ways in which colonial legacies of modernity continue to be reproduced in First World academic settings. However, [ am not very convinced by the way in which postcolonial theorists relate the sociological knowledge of experts (in the human and social sciences) with the rationality of abstract systems (capitalist economy and the bureaucratic-administrative apparatus). It appears that knowledge has a purely instrumental function, being directly tied to the homogenizing imperatives of the technical, as Max Weber demonstrates. Imperialism's politico-economic interests permeate the social sciences, and their institutional role is reduced to the subalternization of the "other." Yet, if this were so, it remains unclear how Mignolo's hermeneutics escapes the straitjacket imposed by colonial epistemologies to mysteriously become reflexive knowledges. Subaltern studies appear to read globalization, modernity, and the development of expertise systems in a mystifying form. Subaltern studies treat these processes as if they were agents invested in an omnipresent "imperial reason." This amounts to removing the social foundation upon which the critique of the system is based. It is for this reason that the weakest point of subaltern studies, much to its chagrin, is its incapacity to represent its own locus enuntiationis. RECOMMENDED READINGS Beverley, 3. 1996. "(* This character cannot be converted in ASCII text) Posliteratura? Sujeto subalterno e impasse de las humanidades." in B. Gonzalez Stephan (ed.), Cultural y Tercer Mundo. Caracas: Editorial Nueva Sociedad. Beverley, J. 1993. Against Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press. Bhabha, H. 1994. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge. Guha, R. 1988. "On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India." in R. Guhan and G. Spivak (ed.), Selected Subaltern Studies. New York: Oxford University Press. Mignolo, W. 1995. The Darker Side of the Renaissance. Literacy, Territoriality and Colonization. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Mignolo, W. 1996. "Posoccidentalismo: las epistemologies fronterizas y el dilema de los estudios (latinoamericanos) de area." in M. Morana (ed.), Critica Cultural y Teoria Literaria Latinoamericana. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh.
http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.unimelb.edu.au/ehost/detai…76b9c-320a-49e1-8e44-bd1079f8a571%40sessionmgr9#AN0000459827-2 Page 5 of 6
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Said, E. 1978. Orientalism. Western Conceptions of the Orient. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Spivak, G. Ch. 1994. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" in P. Williams and L. Chrisman (eds.), Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. New York: Columbia University Press.
By Santiago Castro-Gomez Translated by Christina Lloyd Santiago Castro-Gomez teaches at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. He recently published a book entitled Critica de la Razon Latinoamericana. Correspondence: Stoecklestrasse 22A, 72070 Tuebingen, Germany.
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