University of Pittsburgh Press

Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas

John Beverley and Sarah Castro-Klaren, Editors

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

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Afterlives of Confinement

Spatial Transitions in Post-Dictatorship Latin America

Susana Draper

During the age of dictatorships, Latin American prisons became a symbol for the vanquishing of political opponents, many of whom were never seen again. In the post-dictatorship era of the 1990s, a number of these prisons were repurposed into shopping malls, museums, and memorials. Susana Draper uses the phenomenon of the “opening” of prisons and detention centers to begin a dialog on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Draper examines key works in architecture, film, and literature to peel away the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures. The afterlife of prisons became an important tool in the “forgetting” of past politics, while also serving as a reminder to citizens of the liberties they now enjoyed. In Draper’s analysis, these symbols led the populace to believe they had attained freedom, although they had only witnessed the veneer of democracy—in the ability to vote and consume. In selected literary works by Roberto Bolaño, Eleuterio Fernández Huidoboro, and Diamela Eltit and films by Alejandro Agresti and Marco Bechis, Draper finds further evidence of the emptiness and melancholy of underachieved goals in the afterlife of dictatorships. The social changes that did not occur, the inability to effectively mourn the losses of a now-hidden past, the homogenizing effects of market economies, and a yearning for the promises of true freedom are thematic currents underlying much of these texts. Draper’s study of the manipulation of culture and consumerism under the guise of democracy will have powerful implications not only for Latin Americanists but also for those studying neoliberal transformations globally.

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The Andes Imagined

Indigenismo, Society, and Modernity

Jorge Coronado

Jorge Coronado not only examines but also recasts the indigenismo movement of the early 1900s. He departs from the common critical conception of ndigenismo as rooted in novels and short stories, and instead analyzes an expansive range of work in poetry, essays, letters, newspaper writing, and photography. He uses this evidence to show how the movement's artists and intellectuals mobilize the figure of the Indian to address larger questions about becoming modern, and he focuses on the contradictions at the heart of indigenismo as a cultural, social, and political movement. By breaking down these different perspectives, Coronado reveals an underlying current in which intellectuals and artists frequently deployed their indigenous subject in order to imagine new forms of political inclusion. He suggests that these deployments rendered particular variants of modernity and make indigenismo's representational practices a privileged site for the examination of the region's cultural negotiation of modernization. His analysis reveals a paradox whereby the un-modern indio becomes the symbol for the modern itself. The Andes Imagined offers an original and broadly based engagement with indigenismo and its intellectual contributions, both in relation to early twentieth-century Andean thought and to larger questions of theorizing modernity.

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Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History

Susan Buck-Morss

In this path-breaking work, Susan Buck-Morss draws new connections between history, inequality, social conflict, and human emancipation. She offers a fundamental reinterpretation of Hegel's master-slave dialectic and points to a way forward to free critical theoretical practice from the prison-house of its own debates. Historicizing the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the actions taken in the Haitian Revolution, Buck-Morss examines the startling connections between the two and challenges us to widen the boundaries of our historical imagination. She finds that it is in the discontinuities of historical flow, the edges of human experience, and the unexpected linkages between cultures that the possibility to transcend limits is discovered. It is these flashes of clarity that open the potential for understanding in spite of cultural differences. What Buck-Morss proposes amounts to a “new humanism,” one that goes beyond the usual ideological implications of such a phrase to embrace a radical neutrality that insists on the permeability of the space between opposing sides and as it reaches for a common humanity.

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Inca Garcilaso and Contemporary World-Making

Edited by Sara Castro-Klarén and Christian Fernández

This edited volume offers new perspectives from leading scholars on the important work of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539–1616), one of the first Latin American writers to present an intellectual analysis of pre-Columbian history and culture and the ensuing colonial period. To the contributors, Inca Garcilaso’s Royal Commentaries of the Incas presented an early counter-hegemonic discourse and a reframing of the history of native non-alphabetic cultures that undermined the colonial rhetoric of his time and the geopolitical divisions it purported. Through his research in both Andean and Renaissance archives, Inca Garcilaso sought to connect these divergent cultures into one world. This collection offers five classical studies of Royal Commentaries previously unavailable in English, along with seven new essays that cover topics including Andean memory, historiography, translation, philosophy, trauma, and ethnic identity. This cross-disciplinary volume will be of interest to students and scholars of Latin American history, culture, comparative literature, subaltern studies, and works in translation.

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Liberalism at Its Limits

Crime and Terror in the Latin American Cultural Text

Ileana Rodriguez

Ileana Rodríguez considers several Latin American nations that govern under the name of liberalism yet display a shocking range of nondemocratic features. In her political, cultural, and philosophical analysis, she examines these environments in which liberalism seems to have reached its limits, as the universalizing project gives way to rampant nonstate violence, gross inequality, and neocolonialism. Focusing on Guatemala, Colombia, and Mexico, Rodríguez shows how standard liberal models fail to account for new forms of violence and exploitation, which in fact follow from specific clashes between liberal ideology and local practice. Looking at these tensions within the ostensibly well-ordered state, Rodríguez exposes how the misunderstanding and misuse of liberal principles are behind realities of political turmoil, and questions whether liberalism is in fact an ideology sufficient to empower populations and transition nation-states into democratic roles in the global order. In this way, Liberalism at Its Limits offers a critical examination of the forced fitting of liberal models to Latin American nations and reasserts cross-cultural communication as crucial to grasping the true link between varying systems of value and politics.

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Narrating Narcos

Culiacán and Medellín

by Gabriela Polit Dueñas

Critical examination of cultural works as windows into the symbolic dimensions and representations of the narcotics world in Culiacán, Mexico, and Medellín, Colombia, two of the most notorious drug-producing areas of the Americas. Through text analyses, ethnographic fieldwork, and archival research, Polit Dueñas examines the impact and representation of new codes of ethics and morals associated with the drug trade. The analysis is a comparative view of the emerging forms in which fiction writers and artists represent violence and the culture of violence associated with narcotrafficking (both within and across class, racial, ethnic, gender, and generational lines) in both cities.

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Rethinking Community from Peru

The Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas

by Irina Alexandra Feldman

Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist José María Arguedas (1911–1969) was a highly conflicted figure. As a mestizo, both European and Quechua blood ran through his veins and into his cosmology and writing. Arguedas’s Marxist influences and ethnographic work placed him in direct contact with the subalterns he would champion in his stories. His exposés of the conflicts between Indians and creoles, and workers and elites were severely criticized by his contemporaries, who sought homogeneity in the nation-building project of Peru. In Rethinking Community from Peru, Irina Alexandra Feldman examines the deep political connotations and current relevance of Arguedas’s fiction to the Andean region. Looking principally to his most ambitious and controversial work, All the Bloods, Feldman analyzes Arguedas’s conceptions of community, political subjectivity, sovereignty, juridical norm, popular actions, and revolutionary change. She deconstructs his particular use of language, a mix of Quechua and Spanish, as a vehicle to express the political dualities in the Andes. As Feldman shows, Arguedas’s characters become ideological speakers and the narrator’s voice is often absent, allowing for multiple viewpoints and a powerful realism. Feldman examines Arguedas’s other novels to augment her theorizations, and grounds her analysis in a dialogue with political philosophers Walter Benjamin, Jean-Luc Nancy, Carl Schmitt, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, and Álvaro García-Linera, among others. In the current political climate, Feldman views the promise of Arguedas’s vision in light of Evo Morales’s election and the Bolivian plurality project recognizing indigenous autonomy. She juxtaposes the Bolivian situation with that of Peru, where comparatively limited progress has been made towards constitutional recognition of the indigenous groups. As Feldman demonstrates, the prophetic relevance of Arguedas’s constructs lie in their recognition of the sovereignty of all ethnic groups and their coexistence in the modern democratic nation-state, in a system of heterogeneity through autonomy—not homogeneity through suppression. Tragically for Arguedas, it was a philosophy he could not reconcile with the politics of his day, or from his position within Peruvian society.

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Sentencing Canudos

Subalternity in the Backlands of Brazil

Adriana Michele Campos Johnson

In the late nineteenth century, the Brazilian army staged several campaigns against the settlement of Canudos in northeastern Brazil. The colony’s residents followed a man known as Antonio Conselheiro (“the Counselor”), who promoted a communal existence free of taxes and oppression. To the fledgling republic of Brazil, the settlement represented a threat to its system of government. Estimates of the death toll range from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand. Sentencing Canudos presents an original perspective on the hegemonic intellectual discourse surrounding this monumental event in Brazilian history. Adriana Michele Campos Johnson offers a close examination of nation building and the silencing of other voices through the reinvisioning of history. Looking primarily to Euclides da Cunha’s Os Sertões, which has become the defining—and nearly exclusive—account of the conflict, she maintains that the events and people of Canudos have been sentenced to history by this work. Johnson investigates other accounts of Canudos such as local oral histories, letters, newspaper articles, and the writings of Cunha’s contemporaries in order to strip away political agendas.

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Speculative Fictions

Chilean Culture, Economics, and the Neoliberal Transition

Alessandro Fornazzari,

Fornazzari analyzes the reconfiguration of the aesthetic and the economic spheres in the context of the Chilean neoliberal transition (1973 to the present) and argues that one of the dominant legacies of that transition is the economization of all spheres of life. This logic is explored through a series of emergent figures in contemporary Chilean cultural and economic production. Fornazzari examines the relation between the aesthetic and the economic in the context of the Chilean transition, and the texts under analysis comprise a varied selection from different fields including literature, film, economic texts, the visual arts, cultural critique, and political theory. One of the author’s ambitions is to move beyond a culturalistic approach, so he explores the logic of neoliberalism proper by engaging with the economic theory produced by some of the major Chicago School thinkers and their reception by the Chilean economic discourse. Through an analysis of these figures Fornazzari develops a critical materialist approach to culture and the economy in a neoliberal context.

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Transition Cinema

Political Filmmaking and the Argentine Left since 1968

Transition Cinema documents the critical role filmmakers, the film industry, and state regulators played in Argentina’s volatile and unfinished transition from dictatorship to democracy. Jessia Stites Mor shows how, during periods of both military repression and civilian rule, the state moved to control political film production and its content, distribution, and exhibition. She also reveals the strategies that the industry, independent filmmakers, and film activists employed to comply with or circumvent these regulations.

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