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Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Author(s): John Beverley
Source: Dispositio, Vol. 25, No. 52 (2005), pp. 63-79
Published by: Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Michigan,
Ann Arbor
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Dispositio/n 52, vol XXV 63-80
2005 Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan



John Beverley
University of Pittsburg

coincidence between the terms of David Stoll's much publicized

/want attack coincidence
attack ontoRigoberta
start between by noting
Mench1 and the variousMench1
critiques the what terms and seems of David the at various first Stoll's sight much a paradoxical publicized Latin
by Latin
American intellectuals identified with the left of the pertinence of postcolo-
nial and subaltern studies to the field of Latin American studies that have

appeared in the last several years.2

As those familiar with his book can attest, Stoll's argument is not
only or perhaps even mainly with Mench, or about whether several key
details of her narrative are factually true, but rather is directed against what
he perceives as the hegemony of the discourses of postmodernism and mul-
ticulturalism in the North American academy, which he feels consciously
or unconsciously colluded to perpetuate international support for armed
struggle in Guatemala by promoting I, Rigoberta Mench and making
Mench into an icon of political correctness.3
The connection between multiculturalism and postmodernism that
bothers Stoll is predicated on the fact the multiculturalism carries with it
what, in a well-known essay, Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls a
"presumption of equal worth."4 That presumption implies a demand for
epistemological relativism that coincides with the postmodernist critique of
the Enlightenment paradigm of modernity - what Habermas would call
communicative rationality. If there is no one universal standard for truth,
then claims about truth are contextual: they have to do with how people
construct different understandings of the world and historical memory from

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the same set of facts in situations of gender, ethnic, and class inequality,
exploitation, and repression. The truth claims for a narrative like 1,
Rigoberto Mench depend on conferring on testimonio a special kind of
epistemological authority as embodying subaltern experience and "voice."
But, for Stoll - who is arguing also against the emergence of a "postmod-
ernist" anthropology - this amounts to an idealization of the quotidian real-
ities of peasant life to favor the prejudices of a metropolitan academic
audience in the interest of a solidarity politics that (in his view) did more
harm than good. Against the authority of testimonial voice, Stoll wants to
affirm the authority of the fact-gathering procedures of traditional anthro-
pology or journalism, in which accounts like Mench's will be treated sim-
ply as raw material that must be processed by more objective techniques of
assessment. The argument "desde latinoamerica" - to borrow a phrase from
Nelly Richard - against what I will call in a kind of short hand "studies"
(postcolonial, subaltern, cultural, women's, africana, gay, latino, and so on)
as a discourse "sobre Latinoamerica" seems to have three major compo-
nents (I am aware that I am conflating distinct and perhaps incompatible
positions here):
1) "Studies" represent a North American problematic about identity poli-
tics and multiculturalism, and/or a historically recent British Com-
monwealth problematic about decolonization, that have been
displaced onto Latin America, at the expense of misrepresenting its
diverse histories and social-cultural formations, which are not eas-
ily reducible to either multiculturalism or postcoloniality.5
2) The prestige of "studies" as a discourse formation emanating from and
sustained by the resources of the Euro-North American academy
occludes the prior engagement by Latin American intellectuals -
"on native grounds," so to speak, - with the very questions of his-
torical and cultural representation they are concerned with. That
prestige portends, therefore, an overt or tacit negation of the status
and authority of Latin American intellectuals, a willful forgetting
of what Hugo Achugar calls "el pensamiento latinoamericano."
The new hegemony of metropolitan theoretical models amounts in
Latin America to a kind of cultural neo-colonialism, concerned
with the brokering by the North American academy of knowledge
both from and about Latin America. In this transaction, the Latin
American intellectual is relegated to the status of an object of the-
ory (as subaltern, postcolonial, calibanesque, etc.) rather than its
subject (Antonio Cornejo Polar, in particular, was concerned in his

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valedictory essay with the fact that the language of Latinam

ist theory had become English rather than Spanish).
3) By foregrounding the theme of the incommensurability of su
marginalized social subjects and the nation-state, postcolon
subaltern studies contribute to incapacitating Latin Ameri
ity to implement its own projects of national or regional
and development. Beyond an appeal to the agency of an abje
capitalist or pre-modern Other that remains outside of (an
ble) hegemonic representation, "studies" lacks a sense of the
cal as grounded in the continuity of the nation, a more or le
and politically informed citizenry, a Habermasian public s
local memory, and projects that seek to affirm the interests
individual Latin American nation-states and Latin America as a
whole in a differential, even antagonistic, relation to globalization.6

Beatriz Sarlo's contribution to the debate takes the more specific

form of a resistance to what Sarlo calls the "media neopopulism" of cultural
studies, and amounts to a kind of Latin American version of Frankfurt
school critical theory. Her claim is that the postmodernist celebration of
mass or popular culture in the context of globalization and the "soft author-
itarianism " of neoliberal hegemony undermines the authority of high mod-
ernist aesthetic culture, and it is only from the possibility of negation of the
dominant reality principle of the instrumental rationality of capitalist soci-
ety that is contained in that culture that resistance to neoliberal consumer
society is possible.7
Both Stoll and the Latin American critics of "studies" coincide in
seeing the discourses of US multiculturalism and postmodernist relativism
as the culprits. They are also both, in some ways, attempts to "police" their
respective disciplinary fields (anthropology and literary criticism) to pre-
vent their destabilization by the intrusion of the negativity of a subaltern
subject that academic knowledge and aesthetics are in part implicated in
constructing in the first place. As such, they both represent forms of what
has come to be called in the United States "left conservatism," which I
would define (inadequately) as the combination of social-democratic or
"Third Way" politics with positivist epistemology and/or modernist aes-

What complicates the identification of Stoll and the Latin American

critics of "studies," however, is the fact that Stoll is a North American writ-
ing critically about an indigenous Latin American organic intellectual -

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Rigoberto Mench - whereas the Latin Americans are criticizing what they
see as essentially a new North American critical fashion - "el boom del
subalterno," as Mabel Moraa puts it. Whether he meant it to or not (and I
take his claim that he did not at face value), Stoll's critique of Mench has
served the interests of the right in both the United States and Guatemala by
partially de-legitimizing Mench. But Arturo Arias points out that there are
Guatemalan intellectuals of the right who have attacked Stoll precisely as a
North American denigrating a Guatemalan national figure.8
Here a different kind of cutting edge comes into play, an edge that
separates and places in antagonism what on the surface might seem like a
shared critique of postmodernist relativism and multiculturalism. That cut-
ting edge takes us back to the Ariel-Caliban question, except that now
Rigoberta Mench - that is, almost literally Caliban, "the deformed slave,"
in Shakespeare's characterization - is in the place of Ariel, facing the power
and vulgarity of the Colossus of the North, represented by Stoll.
This seems to be the appropriate moment to recall the famous pas-
sage in The Philosophy of History where Hegel envisions the future of the
United States. Hegel writes:

North America will be comparable with Europe only after the

immeasurable space which that country presents to its inhabitants
shall have been occupied, and its civil society will be pressed back
on itself.... America is therefore the land of the future, where, in
the times that lie before us, a world historical significance will
reveal itself - perhaps in a conflict between North and South

Hegel is intimating here what would be called the "end of frontier"

thesis in US historiography, which is quite farseeing considering that the
lectures which make up the work date from 1830-31. What is more interest-
ing for our purposes here, however, is the notion that a conflict between
North and South America will be necessary for the United States to attain
world historical significance. Today perhaps the opposite could be said:
that Latin America's attainment of world historical significance in "the
times that lie before us" might entail a conflict with the United States.
That prospect suggests Samuel Huntington's idea of "the clash of
civilizations": the notion that new forms of conflict in the post-cold war
world will no longer be based on the bi-polar East/West model, but will
crystallize along heterogeneous "fault lines" of ethnic-cultural-linguistic-

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religious differentiation: the Anglo-US axis, Europe (and the

divided into "Western" and Orthodox Christian or "Eastern"
"Confucian" East Asia, "Hindu" South Asia, the Islamic world, etc
this vision portends for the coming period, Huntington suggest
kind of bipolarity which, borrowing a phrase from Kissghore M
he calls "the West versus the Rest."
In Huntington's taxonomy, Latin American states are "torn coun-
tries," split between the West and the Rest.11 Will they define their future in
a symbiotic and dependent relationship with North American cultural and
economic hegemony, or will they develop, singly or a in new kind of "criti-
cal regionalism," as Alberto Moreiras would have it, their own projects in
antagonism with North American hegemony?
The nature of these questions provides the occasion for me to intro-
duce my national allegory. It is Richard Harding Davis's novel Soldiers of
Fortune, which at the time of its publication in 1 897 became something of a
best seller and fed public enthusiasm for American intervention in Cuba.
Because of its coincidence with the centennial of the 1898 war, it has
attracted quite a lot of attention in American studies in the recent past. Sol-
diers of Fortune (which bears an obvious, albeit unacknowledged, debt to
Conrad's Nostromo), is set in the fictional Latin American republic of Olan-
cho, recognizably Venezuela (where, as it happens, I was born). The hero,
Robert Clay, is a civil engineer who is hired by Langham, the owner of
Valencia Mining Company, to manage the latter 's iron mines in Olancho.
Langham's concession depends on a contract negotiated with the president
of Olancho, Seor Alvarez, which provides the Olanchan government with
a ten percent share of production. The nationalist opposition to Alvarez in
the Olanchan senate, led by General Mendoza, objects to the concession,
and introduces legislation to obtain a larger share of the mine's production.
In a kind of Machiavellian double cross, Clay meets secretly with Mendoza
and offers him a huge bribe to block this legislation, which Mendoza
accepts. Clay then reneges on the bribe, threatening at the same time to
make public Mendoza's acquiescence in his plot. Mendoza responds by pre-
paring a coup d'etat to overthrow Alvarez and nationalize the mines. He
puts into circulation the rumor that president Alvarez is a dupe of foreign
interests: namely the Valencia Mining Company, Alvarez's wife (who is
Spanish, and who Mendoza claims is plotting to restore the Spanish monar-
chy in Olancho), and Alvarez's chief of security, Stuart, who is a British
subject. Mendoza also enlists in his plot a shadowy figure called Captain

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Burke, a gringo arms smuggler and filibustero, on the model of William

Walker (Burke anticipates in some ways the character of Mr. Danger in
Rmulo Gallegos's Doa Brbara).
Clay and Stuart get wind of Mendoza's plans and discover that Burke
has smuggled in a shipment of weapons for the plotters. Clay, who has won
the loyalty of the Olanchan mine workers, organizes them into a kind of
contra army avant la letre. They locate the smuggled arms and capture
them. This precipitates Mendoza's coup, initially successful as Mendoza
captures the Presidential Palace and imprisons Alvarez. A sector of the
army, however, remains loyal to Alvarez's vice president, Rojas. They put
themselves under the command of Clay, whom they designate, in Bolivaran
style, the Liberator of Olancho. Mendoza's coup collapses and he is eventu-
ally shot to death in combat. The United States Marines arrive just in time
and Clay directs them to preserve order until Rojas can be installed as the
new president of Olancho. Rojas, it goes without saying, pledges to recog-
nize the virtues of free trade and protect the security of the Valencia Mining
At the beginning of the novel, Clay is engaged to Langham's older
daughter Alice. Alice and her younger sister Hope come to visit Olancho on
the eve of Mendoza's coup. Alice is the archetypal North American upper
class genteel woman: elegant, refined, ultra-feminine, and educated accord-
ing to European models. She seems an ideal match for Clay, who is clearly
the man who will inherit the place of her father. In Olancho, however, the
two come to regard each other differently. Escaping an ambush by Men-
doza's forces, Alice sees Clay working with his hands to try to repair a ship
engine. The experience convinces her that he cannot be the man of her
dreams, as he represents an epistemological framework fundamentally at
odds with her own. Like the nationalist opposition in the Olanchan senate,
her values are anachronistic: they represent an older North American bour-
geois culture that is being displaced by the dynamic new forces of corporate
imperialism. In contrast, her younger sister Hope, only eighteen, and not
yet come out into society, epitomizes these new forces. In a manner remi-
niscent of Henry James' Daisy Miller , her very youth and navet permit her
to be open to new ideas, since she is as yet uncorrupted by the worldly wis-
dom of inherited privilege and arranged marriages, represented on the one
hand by her sheltered upbringing in New York, on the other by the oligar-
chy in Olancho, whose carefully coded distinctions of status she ignores.
She is a more suitable match for Clay than Alice because her values are,

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like his, democratic, egalitarian, and pragmatic. She is a figure o

nity, the New Woman or Gibson Girl, energetic, self-motivated, p
active, and, unlike her sister, curiously androgenous or masculiniz
novel's own words, "like a boy."
Hope, like the Rojas and the Olanchan mine workers - and i
nificant that it is the workers and not the elite who choose to side
against Mendoza - symbolize the advantages of an alliance with t
ing forms of American imperial power, involving a remappin
national and regional loyalties and values, a remapping which is
raison d'etre , and which requires the displacement of the traditio
in both the United States and Latin America.
To put another way, the libidinal economy allegorized in the Clay-
Alice-Hope relationship serves as a "foundational fiction" (in Doris Som-
mer sense), not so much for the nation as for the emerging supra-national
territoriality of corporate imperialism which follows the close of the West-
ern frontier in the United States. It goes without saying that although this
territoriality is supra-national, the values that govern its identity remain in
some significant sense North American: the triumph of those values, which
the plot of the novel enacts, symbolizes the hegemonization of the Latin
American imaginary by US culture and values.
I want to use Soldiers of Fortune to reflect on the resistance to "stud-
ies" "desde America Latina." I propose to read Clay-Hope, and their alli-
ance with a new Latin American subject represented by Rojas and the
miners, as a figure for "studies." "Studies," like Clay-Hope, speaks the lan-
guage of democracy, anti-elitism, the popular, the subaltern, the new; but
(in the eyes of many Latin American intellectuals) it remains at the service
of US global and regional hegemony. By the same token, the resistance to
"studies" "desde America Latina" must be figured as Mendoza and the
nationalist opposition, that is, as a reactionary (or, perhaps more gener-
ously, a reactive) position.
Let me be clear, because the possibilities for misinterpretation or
willful misunderstanding are rife here, that there can be no question that the
main enemy of democracy in Latin America has been US hegemony (time
and again democratically elected regimes have been overthrown with US
support or connivance). But the obstacles to democracy and social equality
are also internal to Latin American nation states; it is often those internal
barriers - usually tied to forms of upper class and middle class privilege -

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that US policy has used historically to destabilize the left and democratic
I believe that what divides "studies" from its Latin American critics
may be less important in the long run than the concerns we share. I am sen-
sitive in particular to the concern with the prestige and power of the North
American academy in an era in which Latin American universities and
intellectual life are being decimated by neoliberal policies connected in
great measure to US hegemony at all levels of the global system, but partic-
ularly in Latin America. Nevertheless, if in fact globalization entails a dis-
placement of the authority of Latin American intellectuals, then the
resistance to studies is itself symptomatic of the unequal position of Latin
American culture, states, economies, and intellectual work in the current
world system.
Paul de Man memorably described the resistance to theory as itself a
kind of theory. If I were to characterize the theory implicit in the resistance
to "studies," I would say that it amounts to a kind of neo-Arielism: a reas-
sertion of the authority of the literature, literary criticism, and literary intel-
lectuals as the bearers of Latin America's cultural memory and possibility
against forms of thought and theoretical practice identified with the United
States. But Arielism almost by definition is an ideologeme of what Jos
Joaqun Brunner usefully calls the "'cultured' vision of culture": that is, the
vision that identifies culture essentially with high culture. For it is not only
"in theory" (subalternist, postcolonial, marxist and postmarxist, feminist,
"queer," or the like), or from the metropolitan academy that the authority of
the Latin America "lettered city" is being challenged. This is also a conse-
quence of the effects of globalization and the new social movements inside
Latin America itself. Subaltern studies shares with cultural studies a sense
that cultural democratization implies a shift of hermeneutic authority from
the philological-critical activity of the "lettered city" to popular reception, a
shift which entails a corresponding displacement of the authority of what
Gramsci called the traditional intellectual (and literary intellectuals are,
along with priests or clergy, almost paradigmatically traditional intellectu-
The problem is, of course, that the displacement of the Latin Ameri-
can intellectual occurs not only "from below" but also "from the right," so
to speak, as neoliberal policies restructure the Latin American university
and secondary education system, and revalorize significant academic or
professional credentials in a way that devalues literary or humanistic

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knowledge. One can understand neo-Arielism in these terms as a

ressentiment of the authority of US culture and the pernicious eff
hegemony on Latin American intellectual and cultural life, just a
Ariel was a model of resistance to Anglo-American values at the t
century. But by rejecting explicitly or implicitly the validity of
socio-cultural difference and antagonism based on subaltern posi
Latin America the argument against "studies" may also entail
unconscious blanqueamiento a la Sarmiento, which misrepresents
tory and demographic heterogeneity of even those countries its
speak for.
By challenging subaltern studies with the authority of a pr
American literary-intellectual tradition, and by identifying tha
with the affirmation of national or regional identity against a for
the resistance to "studies" undercuts, in a way, its own argument.
defend the unity and integrity of individual Latin American nat
of Latin America itself - against their re-subordination in the eme
bal system, the critics are forced to occlude some of the relations
sion and inclusion, subordination and domination that operate w
frame of those nations and what counts as their "national" culture
questions posed by these relations - beginning with the fact tha
important social groups that the concept of the subaltern design
women and indigenous groups, that is, over half the population
America in terms of the former and, in some Latin American co
anywhere from a quarter to a half of the population in terms of the l
are crucial in rethinking and reformulating the political project o
America left in conditions of globalization.12
We arrive in this fashion at the following impasse. The new
theory emanating from the mainstream US academy - that is, w
calling "studies" - may find allies in Latin America, but, as in th
Clay in Soldiers of Fortune, only at the expense of destabilizing
haps more to the point, being accused of destabilizing) a prior p
nationalist Latin American tradition of critical thought. "Studies
risk in this sense of constituting, unwillingly, perhaps, but eff
new kind of pan-Americanism in which metropolitan knowledge
work out their problem in "knowing" and representing Latin Am
the point of "studies" in the first place was not to contribute to
US hegemony over Latin America but rather to open up a new un

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ing and possibility of solidarity with forms of popular agency and resis-
tance in Latin America.
The prior Latin American tradition displaced in the name of egalitar-
ianism by "studies" may reassert or reinvent itself against the influence of
"studies," but it does so at the expense of reaffirming exclusions and hierar-
chies of value and privilege that are internal to Latin America and that rep-
resent "survivals" into modernity of colonial and postcolonial forms of
racial, caste and gender discrimination. In this sense, the resistance to
"studies," although it is undertaken in the name of the project of the Latin
American left, creates a barrier to fulfilling one of the key goals of that very
project, which is the democratization of the Latin American subject and
field of culture.13
That is because what is at stake in this project, as Angel Rama began
to intimate in his last book, is inverting the hierarchical relation between a
cultural-political elite, constituted as such in part by its possession of the
power of writing and literature, and the "people," constituted as such in part
by illiteracy or partial literacy or otherwise limited access to the forms of
bourgeois high culture.
In a fascinating study called "Acadmicos y gringos malos" on five
novels by Latin Americans about their experiences in North American uni-
versities, Fernando Reati and Gilberto Gmez Ocampo register the articula-
tion of what they also call a neoarielist position. They see that position as
entailing a kind of premature foreclosure based on an anxiety about the loss
of identity, rather than an opening out to the future:

En todos los [cinco] casos, el choque inicial con la cultura

norteamericana afirma de modo casi instantneo la identidad
latinoamericana de los protagonistas, y salir - huir - de los
Estados Unidos para retornar a America Latina se impone como
condicin para ganar una perspectiva critica que les permita
producir una imagen opuesta a los cliches y estereotipos contras
cuales reaccionan. No es de sorprender entonces que varias
novelas coincidan en finales que enfatizan un sentido de cierre
mas que de apertura hacia lo nuevo.14

US Latino critical thought might seem to point to a way beyond this

impasse, since it is located "in between" the Latin American and the North
American. But, it is currently dominated by a version of the same problem-
atic: if it seeks a genealogy in a prior tradition of progressive Latin America

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cultural thought, as Jose David Saldivar tried to do in his Dialectics o

America, then, like the neo-arielistas, it reinscribes the authority of t
tered city and its characteristic high culture ideologemes: mundonov
mestizaje, transculturacin narrativa, neo-barroco, and now hybridity
gestures too much at assimilating the values of popular and mass cultu
Saldivar has attempted in his new book or Gustavo Prez Firmat in L
the Hyphen, it risks becoming an essentially affirmative discourse o
"exceptionalism" with little relevance to Latin America (in fact, some
the critics of "studies" - I am thinking of Hugo Achugar, in particul
also argue that despite the fact that the United States may become b
middle of this century the second largest Spanish speaking nation in
Americas after Mexico, US Latino cultures are not part of Latin Ame
culture; they respond rather to the urgencies of US culture and to the
of Latin American immigrants to naturalize themselves as US subject
What is at issue here is not the "correctness" of arguments on o
side or the other of the debate, but the existence of a polarization bet
North America and South America and the charged affective fields t
sets up. Recalling a point made by Marx in his preface to A Contribut
the Critique of Political Economy, this polarization is an objective fo
"independent of our wills." It is not subject to aigument or dialog
other words, and that is why the debate has been signally unproductiv
The most promising road out of the impasse would be the devel
ment of a subalternist and multiculturalist critical and political prac
"desde America Latina," one sometimes in resonance with US ba
projects like the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group, at other ti
originating in grass roots local and regional problematics. I would
here, for example, to Nestor Garcia Canclini's project (for all my dif
ences with him), Jesus Martin Barbero's work on popular culture in C
bia as a mode of what Walter Benjamin called "the experience of the p
Victor Gaviria's attempt to create a new kind of neo-realist testimonial
Xavier Albo, Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, and the always exemplary work
filmmaker Jorge Sanjines in Bolivia, Marcos and the Zapatistas in Ch
Antonio Cornejo Polar's "Una heterogeneidad no dialctica," the new d
course of pan-Mayan identity politics in Guatemala (opened, in pa
Rigoberta Mench's prestige), the ongoing genealogical studies by Bea
Gonzalez, among others, of the formation of Latin American elite cu
and Ricardo Salvatore's historigraophic reconstruction of the format
the Argentine working class in the nineteenth century.

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I think these projects - and many others like them at all levels of
Latin American society and knowledge production - represent the most
promising line of Latin American social thought today. However, the ques-
tion remains: Is it still possible to do cultural criticism from the US acad-
emy "sobre Latinoamerica" which is in solidarity with the cause of Latin
America? In other words, is a progressive form of Latin American studies
still possible? Like Latino criticism, progressive US Latin Americanism
also seems to be caught in a bind: To the extent that it is something like an
academic version of the preferential option for the poor of Liberation The-
ology, the political and epistemological implications of "studies" are to
destabilize the field of area studies, including Latin American studies, as
such. "Studies" are concerned with a postmodernist "convergence of tem-
poralities" (I borrow this term from Ranajit Guha - for example, between
the histroical dynamics of South Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan
Africa - that cannot be expressed adequately within the framework of area
studies or by the signifier of regional or national identity). As in the case of
Clay and the Olanchan mine workers, there is a possibility of solidarity
between "studies" and the Latin American subaltern, but it is at the expense
of solidarity with the Latin American resistance of US domination. On the
other hand, the possibility of solidarity with Latin American intellectuals
and with the agendas of Latin American regional and national interests -
which are, in the last instance, of course, largely the agendas of the ruling
classes of Latin America - precludes the possibility of solidarity with the
Latin American subaltern: that is, the workers, peasants, women, indians,
blacks, subproletarians, street children, prostitutes, descamisados, rotos,
who are subaltern in part precisely because they are not adequately repre-
sented by the values and agendas of the "lettered city" of the intellectuals.
Does the identification with a Latin American subaltern or popular
subject preclude then the possibility of solidarity with Latin American
intellectuals? We should not be in too much of a hurry to say no, of course,
it doesn't. Because, as Ileana Rodrguez puts it, "our choice as intellectuals
is to make a declaration either in support of statism (the nation-state and
party politics) or on behalf of the subaltern. We chose the subaltern."15
Speaking for myself, that is, from the position of a "gringo bueno"
who saw his critical work as being linked to solidarity politics, what all this
means is that the terrain of Latin American studies, as a discourse forma-
tion "sobre latinoamerica," has become slippery and ambiguous. During the
Cold War, one could say that the terrain of Latin American studies was con-

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tested, but it was - or at least seemed - solid. To the extent that it w

than an ethical impulse, the possibility of solidarity rested on the re
tion of a synergy between the fortunes of the Euro-North American
the Latin American left, a sense that the fates of both were, for be
worse, connected. To deny the possibility or the desirability of sol
which is the point of coincidence between Stoll and neoarielism, am
to saying that this is no longer the case, if, indeed, it was anythin
than an ideological illusion in the first place (what Nicaraguans call
I am beginning to think that the "gringo bueno" is a bit of a fool, like
don Quijote (remembering as I write this Foucault's remark about the
embarrassment of speaking for others). I conclude that the time has come
for me to distance myself from Latin American studies, a distance that
would be marked, as my national allegory suggests, by a reinvestment in
my always problematic and always deferred identification with the United

I had thought of this as a taking leave, an adis, hence the title of this
essay. But I was persuaded by friends that things could not be as simple as
that. And that is so in part because of the very logic of wanting to move into
a US frame, for if one wants to speak of the political and cultural future of
the United States, which now has the fifth largest population of the His-
panic world (after Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Argentina) then it is clear
that Latin America has become, in a sense, the "internal front" or Fifth Col-
umn of that future. What would it mean to pose the question of the United
States "desde Latinoamerica" - that is, from my own investment in Latin
America and Latin American radical politics and criticism - instead of, as I
have been doing for so many years, posing the question of Latin America
from the United States?16
Perhaps, though, what I define here as an impasse in Latin American
criticism and in my own work is peculiar to my own generation: the gener-
ation of the sixties in Latin America, the United States and Europe. The
experience of that generation, it goes without saying, was framed by the
rise and defeat of a very ambitious revolutionary project - a project that, in
one way or another, we were connected to; and it is the name of that project
that we argue (as I do here) on one side or another of the current debate.
The nature of the impasse our own work has, in some ways, produced, plus
the clear signs of a mid-life crisis in our discourse, produce a kind of mel-
ancholy or desengao which is not necessarily shared by our younger col-

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leagues who bring new energies, new experiences, and new imaginaries to
the field. Perhaps the time has come for them to take the banner from our
hands and to find some way of changing the terms of the debate.


1 David Stoll, Rigoberto Mench and the Story of All Poor Guatem
(Boulder: Westview, 1998).
2 See, for example: Antonio Cornejo Polar, "Mestizaje e hibrid
riesgos de las metforas," Revista Iberoamericana 180 (1997): 341-3
Achugar, "Leones, cazadores e historiadores: a propsito de las polti
memoria y el conocimiento," Revista Iberoamericana 180 (1997): 379
sana Barragn and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, "Introduccin," Debates p
niales : Una introduccin a los Estudios de la Subalternidad (La Paz,
Rotterdam, Holanda: Historias; SEPHIS ; Aruwiyiri, 1997); Nelly Rich
iferias culturales y descentramientos posmodemos (marginalidad latinoam
y recompaginacin de los mrgenes)," Punto de Vista XIV, 40 (1991): 5-6;
Sarlo, "Los estudios culturales y la critica literaria en la encrucijada valor
Revista de crtica cultural 15 (1997): 32-38; Mabel Moraa, "El boom
terno," Revista de crtica cultural 15 (1997): 48- 53. Many of these e
anthologizaed in Santiago Castro Gomez and Eduardo Mendieta. Teoras si
plina , Latinoamericanismo , poscolonialidad y globalizacin en debate
City; San Francisco, CA: Porra; University of San Francisco, 1998).
3 Thus, for example: "[i]t was in the name of multiculturalism
Rigoberta Mench entered the university reading lists" (Stoll, 243). Or, "w
modern critiques of representation and authority, many scholars are te
abandon the task of verification, especially when they construe the nar
victim worthy of their support" (274).
4 Charles Taylor, "The Politics of Recognition," in Multiculturalism
Gutman ed. (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994).
5 Expressing a similar concern, J. Jorge Klor de Alva has argued th
conditions of coloniality were radically different in Latin America than i
Africa - so much so as to challenge the viability of the very concepts of
nial and postcoloniality for Latin America: "The Postcolonization of t

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American Experience: A Reconsideration of 'Colonialism, 'Postcolon

'Mestizaje.' in After Colonialism. Imperial Histories and Postcolon
ments . ed. Gyan Prakash. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1995). 241-75.
6 It is interesting to note in this respect that the aversion to U
forms of "studies" is not matched by the Latin American critics with
rejection of Western European - and particularly German and French
witness, for example, the extraordinary - and to me inexplicable -
Habermas in contemporary Latin American social thought. Sarlo herself
to differentiate British cultural studies - Raymond Williams and S
from the "bad" US kind; see, e.g., "Raymond Williams: una relectura,"
perspectivas sobre/desde Amrica Latina: El dasafio de los estudios
Mabel Moraa ed. (Santiago de Chile: Ed. Cuarto Propio/IILI, 2000):
7 Achugar writes, for example: "[L]a construccin que se pr
Amrica Latina, dentro del marco terico de los llamados estudios post
parecera apuntar a que el lugar desde donde se habla no es o no deber
nacin sino el del pasado colonial.... [El] lugar desde donde se lee Am
parece ser, por un lado, el de la experiencia histrica del Commonw
otro... el de la agenda de la academia norteamericana que est localizada
ria de su sociedad civil" ("Leones y cazadores" 381). Achugar echo
apparently being aware of a previous critique of US-based Latin Amer
studies as a kind of neo-Orientalism by Gareth Williams, "Fantasies of
Exchange in Latin American Subaltern Studies," in Georg Gugelber
Real Thing. Testimonial Discourse in Latin America (Durham: Duke
Press, 1996): 225-253.
8 In remarks at the LASA panel on Rigoberta Mench at the 19
meeting in Miami, Florida.
9 The Philosophy of History (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 190
10 Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations?' Foreign Af
(Summer, 1993): 22-49.
11 Huntington recounts the following anecdote: "In 1991 a top
President Carlos Salinas de Gotari described at length to me all the ch
Salinas government was making. When he finished, I remarked, 'T
impressive. It seems to me that basically you want to change Mexico f
American country into a North American country.' He looked at me wi
and exclaimed: 'Exactly! That's precisely what we are trying to do, bu
we could never say so publicly'" (Huntington, 51).
12 Moreover, what complicates the assumption that one can spe

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latinoamerica" unproblematically is the fact that Latin America's knowledge about

itself now passes through the North American and European academy, because of
the massive diaspora provoked first by the military dictatorships of the 60s and
70s, and then the effects of neoliberal economic policies on the professional middle
class in the 80s. This mediation is not only a question of geographic location: even
a nominally oppositional project like that of Richard and her colleagues at the Uni-
versidad Areis in Santiago, for example, is funded partly by the Rockefeller Foun-
dation, whose strategic connection relation to corporate imperialism is a matter of

13 Michael Aronna's argument that Rodo's anti-egalitarian construction of

the Ariel/Caliban binary involves not only the opposition to the United States, but
also both class anxiety and "homosexual panic," seems pertinent in this respect.

...Rod retained the sexually degenerate characterization of Caliban,

which is inextricably tied into the gendered, biological denigration of the
indigenous populations.... The suggestion of Caliban's ethnic and sexual
enervation is also indicated by intimations of sexual deviancy within
democracy.... Rod refers to egalitarian democracy as a "zoocracia"....
Rod's vision of Caliban also borrows from Ernest Renan's reactionary
and racist version of The Tempest, Caliban, suite de La Tempete (1878).
In this work Renan condemns the Commune of 1870 as the product of a
congenitally and sexually degenerate working class which Rod calls the
"entronizacin de Calibn".... The concept of an uncontrollable and unjust
national uprising led by supposedly "inferior" elements of society, the
Calibans and their "barbarie vencedora," clearly reproduces the nine-
teenth-century Latin American discourse of civilization versus barbar-
ism.... Rod links his proposal for pan-American regeneration to
sensually charged yet rigidly chaste masculine enclave of learning and
introspection... Yet the therapeutic program proposed in Ariel is plagued
by anxiety concerning the potential for excessive self-absorption and
homosexuality within Rodo's idealized and repressed vision of male

Michael Aronna, 'Pueblos Enfermos': "The Discourse of Illness in the Turn-of-the-

Century Spanish and Latin American Essay" (Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies
in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 1999), 1 17-1 18, 134.
14 The paradox is that in very same journal - I refer to Nelly Richard's
Revista de Critica Cultural - in which someone like Alberto Moreiras evokes the
idea of "critical regionalism" as a modality of Latin American cultural agency in
globalization, subaltern studies and US-style cultural studies are faulted for reduc-
ing the Latin American subject to the status of the exotic or the marginal. But that
criticism of subaltern studies and cultural studies is itself, of course, a symptom of

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the very critical regionalism Moreiras is talking about.

15 Reati and Gmez 606: Fernando Reati and Gilberto Gmez
"Acadmicos y gringos maios: La universidad norteamericana y la b
tural en la novela latinoamericana reciente" Revista Iberoamericana 64.184-185

(1998 July-Dec): 587-609.

16 15. Ileana Rodrguez, "Reading Subalterns Across Texts, Disciplines
and Theories: From Representation to Recognition" The Latin American Subaltern
Studies Reader Ed. Ileana Rodrguez . Durham and London: Duke UP, 2001. 1-32.
(Quoted from manuscript).
17 It is the signal virtue of Eve Cherniavsky's "Subaltern Studies in a U.S.
Frame," boundary 2 23/2 (1996): 85-110, to transfer the problematic of the subal-
tern to US history, which Cherniavasky represents as essentially a postcolonial one.

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