restricted access 1. Sensing Otherwise
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1 Sensing Otherwise The colonized intellectual, however, who strives for cultural authenticity, must recognize that national truth is first and foremost the national reality. He must press on until he reaches that place of bubbling trepidation from which knowledge will emerge. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth 161 Marginalia of a given epoque doesn’t simply become its memorabilia; it might contain the kernels of the future. Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia 31 Sensing and thinking about the past can easily fall prey to the power of nostalgia. It is in this light that Boym’s words become a critical invitation to rethink how we treat cultural texts from the past and the place we assign them within our cultural canon today. By drawing attention to “our cultural canon,” the intention here is not to rekindle or rehearse debates about which texts edify a shared laundry list of cultural artifacts closely linked to ideas of mastery or an immanent quality of perfection, whether in the spheres of the literary, music, painting, or other arts.1 Instead, in Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts, the interest lies in the exploration of two interrelated concerns, namely, locating the place of specific texts of antipoetry, nueva canción, and New Latin American Cinema, and proposing a framework through which we might sense otherwise (in other ways) artworks constituted as marginalia to Latin America ’s cultural canon and Western traditions. To define the marginality of an artwork is to be conscious of one’s position in relation to it in temporal , ideological, affective, and aesthetic terms. For someone interested in championing the aesthetic values of artworks as canonical objects, the x 20 · Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics in Latin American Arts poetry of Roque Dalton or the music of Violeta Parra, to give two examples , were deemed as marginal in their own time, since they appealed to popular sectors of Salvadorian and Chilean populations or those aligned with the political left under the influence of Marxism. Today, they are seen as mere products of their historical and political contexts and thus assigned a place as side-notes to Latin America’s larger historical and cultural narrative or regarded as minor artworks. Even if some might argue that these artists have become canonical, one might ask how often Violeta Parra’s Décimas: autobiografía en verso (1970) or Dalton’s Taberna y otros lugares (1969) appear as mandatory readings for doctoral exams or in poetry courses. Despite their somewhat disputable canonicity, I would argue that they are examined with a certain nostalgia, to echo Boym, for the unfulfilled promises of the 1960s. To invert Boym’s phrase, the artworks that serve as the foundation for Sensing Decolonial Aesthetics became memorabilia due to their relative status as marginalia in their epoch and today. I am interested, however, in following the critical invitation inherent in Boym’s phrase, which is to revisit artworks labeled as marginalia or memorabilia with a critical look toward the past, as a way to open new critical possibilities in the present and future.2 It is precisely this way of thinking about the role of the present in the making of the future that links Boym’s words to Frantz Fanon’s radical thinking. In the epigraph above, Fanon presents a challenge to the intellectual who intervenes in processes of cultural production in the aftermath of independence and who must ground his art by questioning the modes of artistic expression available to his craft. The artist as intellectual must be aware of the failures that await if he does not realize “he is using techniques and language borrowed from the occupier” (Fanon 160). Fanon’s strategy is to establish a marked distinction between two types of colonized intellectuals. On the one hand, there is the artist as intellectual who merely succumbs to unearthing a nation’s traditions without realizing that social and political struggles alter the meanings of such traditions, along with the significance of the nation’s past. Here, for instance, we can think about indigenista or social realist authors in the first half of the twentieth century in Latin America. This same artist forgets that “modes of thought, diet, modern techniques of communication, language, and dress have dialectically reorganized the mind of people” and that such modalities of culture undergo “enormous radical transformations” (Fanon 161). Sensing Otherwise · 21 Foreign and local cultural products shape people’s forms of knowledge and their ways of sensing through a dialectical relationship...


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