John Beverley’s latest book, Latin Americanism After 9/11, emerges at what appears to be a pivotal moment in the development and current trajectory of thinking on Latin America. Written by arguably one of the more influential and widely read Latin Americanist critics in the last twenty years whose previous works include Against Literature (1993) and Subalternity and Representation (1999), Beverley in this new book advances yet another bold critique of current paradigms in the field and aims to identify the [End Page 343] terms and grounds of cultural debate in Latin America for the next several years.
The book is comprised of seven chapters and an introduction. Chapter One, “Latin Americanism after 9/11,” opens the discussion of theory and “politics” in contemporary Latin American studies. Chapter Two, “The Persistence of the Nation (Against Empire),” revisits the concepts of the hegemony, the “people” and the “multitude.” Chapter Three, “Deconstruction and Latin Americanism,” takes up an extended, and long overdue, discussion of Alberto Moreiras’ book The Exhaustion of Difference (2002) and the “crisis” of Latinamericanism. Chapter Four, “Between Ariel and Caliban,” reengages the question of intellectual solidarity and politics of “locational” thinking. Chapter 5, “Beyond the Paradigm of Disillusion,” offers a historico-cultural reevaluation of the history of armed struggle on the continent. Lastly Chapter 6, “The Subaltern and the State,” advances a conceptual elaboration (and rehabilitation) of a hegemonic popular-subaltern state form for contemporary times.
While on the surface Latinamericanism After 9/11 reads as a reevaluation of certain recent trends in Latin American studies, Beverley’s more central premise is very precise: cultural studies as a whole is no longer able to provide proper political analysis of contemporary popular struggles throughout the continent due to its excessive reliance on theoretical discourse. Indeed, Latinamericanism After 9/11 asserts a marked shift in the Latin American political field––specifically the emergence of a cluster left-leaning governments throughout the continent that have become known as la marea rosada (“the pink tide”)––that has dramatically changed the nature and demand of cultural analysis in the area. One such effect, he argues, has been the revealing of theoretical discourse’s limitations as well as its waning critical influence within cultural analysis, in particular, deconstruction and subaltern studies, which Beverley identifies specifically as the theoretical discourses under question. Asserting that Latin America has now entered a “postsubalternist” phase, Beverley is seen throughout offering several, often surprising, remarks on what he sees as the end of theory, and the end of deconstruction and subalternity in particular, in the production of thought on or about Latin America: “I have become aware that this identification of subalternism, leftism, and deconstruction has become problematic for me. My sense is that deconstruction is yielding diminishing and politically ambiguous returns…”(9). Needless to say, the reader of this book will determine for him/herself the degree to which Beverley’s central claim constitutes a timely and relevant perspective on Latin American studies, or if it represents instead an active refusal to seriously grapple with the critical (and theoretical) deadlock that has come to define Latinamericanism over the last decade.