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160  6 Whose Hispanism? Cultural Trauma, Disciplined Memory, and Symbolic Dominance Joan Ramon Resina The Cant of Universality A crucial function of the humanistic disciplines is to foster and preserve cultural memory. The memory thus preserved depends not only on each discipline’s criteria of relevance but also on the force exerted by the discipline itself—through its investments, tradition, and incorporated assumptions—on the selected materials , that is, on its record. Before anything else, disciplines are competitive spaces for the definition of social memory: they decide what will be transmitted as legitimate knowledge, and in the process they determine the value of symbolic assets according to the position of the latter in the disciplinary field. That is why disciplines are also fields of struggle for their own definition. The more redundant the definition, the more easily it will be accepted, although that does not mean it will necessarily impose itself. Hispanism, for example, can be defined without much disagreement—although without great consequence—as the academic game that sets the rules and arbitrates the practices that endow with value the cultural memory of and about Hispania.1 This definition, however , merely displaces the field of struggles to the scholastic entity Hispania, a fallacious universal which in turn begs definition. The abstraction and intel- *MoranaFinalPages.indd 160 12/1/04 7:13:24 PM WHOSE HISPANISM? 161 lectualizing drift of the term removes it from the sphere of everyday forces and values, which alone endow with meaning the events that come to pass within an institutional field of knowledge. In practice, though, Hispanism operates as if “the Hispanic World” represented a somewhat variegated but strictly monolingual territory on the modern, i.e., institutionally relevant, cultural cartography . By adopting such a spurious universal—a practice that, with regard to the Anglo-American academy, George Mariscal has dated in the nineteen thirties (9)—the discipline contributed to naturalize a cultural monopoly. It appropriated the cultural law of a successful particularity, one that attained its hegemony through the negation (and, in some cases, the annihilation) of other cultural norms. Subalternity, although cast as part of the eternal order of things, was the flip side of the cultural law that Hispanism furthers. Historically, Hispanism has been an expansive idea. There is reason to think that it exists solely for this idea. From Nebrija’s understanding of language as an instrument of subjection, to Miguel de Unamuno’s “evangelio hispánico” (Spanish gospel) (Castro 1948, 640), to contemporary state-funded efforts to add Brazil and the United States to the roster of Spanish-speaking countries, Hispanism has always conceived itself as a proselytizing enterprise. Swinging ambiguously, like Christianity, between a redemptive role as “el rumor de los desheredados” (the murmur of the disinherited ones) and a dogmatic civilizing project, it has never been free from ulterior motives. As a consequence, it has never been able to found an autonomous scholastic field. An emanation of empire, Hispanism is the earliest instance of a postcolonial ideology engaged in promoting hegemonic ambitions by cultural means. The paramount role assigned to the Spanish language in this ideology has turned the field into a prime site for symbolic struggles: struggles against neighboring fields for academic space,2 internecine struggles that reproduce the conflicted yet complicit self-assertion of former metropolis and former colonies,3 and the looming struggles between Hispanism as a whole and the suppressed multiculturalism represented by the other indigenous languages of Spain and Latin America. It is convenient, at the outset, to dispel an ambiguity from which Hispanism still profits. I refer to the discipline’s claim to an universal and, so to speak, utopian point of view, a claim it puts forth while repressing the memory of its origin. Hispanism operates as if it were the natural outcome of a civilization process coalescing around a language deemed superior to the ones it came into contact with and thus foreordained to replace them on its ascension to Peninsular, continental, and some day cosmic preeminence.4 “Castilla,” wrote the illustrious philologist and President of the Real Academia de la Lengua, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, in 1950, “muestra un gusto acústico más certero, escogiendo desde muy temprano, *MoranaFinalPages.indd 161 12/1/04 7:13:24 PM 162 JOAN RAMON RESINA y con más decidida iniciativa, las formas más eufónicas de estos sonidos vocálicos ” (Castile evinces a finer acoustic taste, choosing from early on...


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