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269  10 Xenophobia and Diasporic Latin Americanism: Mapping Antagonisms around the “Foreign” Idelber Avelar (translated by Ignacio Sánchez-Prado) The “Foreign” among Us The set of problems to be framed in this essay—discursive battles taking place within and around the category of the “foreign” as well as the status of Latin Americanism in them—does not start on September 11, 2001 but is the result of a contradictory historical process. These questions have been, however, formulated differently in the wake of the attacks and the ensuing war, the limitless war that lacks a concrete, identifiable, visible enemy but not countless victims. In this context, literary and cultural studies in Spanish cannot be absent from the conversations and negotiations on what gets defined as “foreign” within and outside the university. Spanish here again deserves specificity as the language, amongst the ones studied as “foreign” in the United States, most obviously in contradiction with that pedagogical status. In a previous piece, I argued that the demographic importance of the Spanish language in this country is of a centrality impossible to explain if one holds on to the ideology (dominant both in Hispanism and in Anglophone studies) that affirms, or at least silently assumes, a belated arrival of Spanish to an already constituted American identity and, *MoranaFinalPages.indd 269 12/1/04 7:13:51 PM 270 IDELBER AVELAR parallel to that assumption, that of an organic and essential relationship between Spanish and the territory geopolitically designated as “Latin America” (“Clandestine ”). That text was an attempt to think the current state of literary/cultural studies in Spanish through this double determination: a domestic language that gets studied as a foreign language, while its literary and cultural components inhabit an indeterminate zone in programs of comparative literature and theory, between the post-romantic Western canon and postcolonial literatures. Latin Americanism in the United States operates in this “in-between” space, one that cannot, however, be satisfactorily thought out within Latin American Studies, due to this interdisciplinary field’s endemic, proverbial lack of self-reflexive theorization.1 But in-between academic spaces do not remain unaffected by wars, especially by a war like this, with invisible, virtual, presumed or yet-to-become actual enemies, accompanied by an unprecedented mobilization of state, media, and intelligence apparatuses as well as orchestrated restrictions to immigration and civil liberties of non-American citizens, with repressive measures directed specifically to the student body. If anybody still conducted debates within the university recurring to the derogatory label “ivory tower” (which supposedly protected the academic subject, and according to a commonly heard argument, disqualified entire discourses by the alleged security enjoyed by those within the university against the harassment of the “real world”), the events of the past few months in the U.S. have made visible the anachronism and naiveté of such binarism. As the market value of trustworthy translators from Arabic rises, so does the demand for classes that could introduce the young elite to the understanding of a world globalized not only by capital but also by terrorism. Vis-à-vis the in-between space occupied by Latin America and Latin American studies, situated in the interval that separates the West from its other, the suspicion remains: Are they with us or with them? The various stories of Mexicans recently being objects of hostile attacks in the U.S.—by being or not confused with Middle Easterners—are emblematic: not white enough, the Latin American mestizo is subject to the xenophobic attack by evoking the image of the feared other, the dark, the impenetrable, the Eastern. The darker other today takes the place of the necessarily excluded, that outside without which the subject—the Subject of American bellicose patriotism —could not constitute itself. This is a particularly eloquent instance both of what Ernesto Laclau has called “constitutive outside” and what Judith Butler has theorized as the unspeakable, the nonhuman, never to be confused with a hidden substance, but rather understood as the abjected whose exclu- *MoranaFinalPages.indd 270 12/1/04 7:13:51 PM XENOPHOBIA AND DIASPORIC LATIN AMERICANISM 271 sion sustains the field of the possible (the readable, the speakable)—a field that ceaselessly remakes itself by abjecting other bodies and reappropriating bodies previously abjected.2 The politics of social abjection today revolves around skin color, hair texture, facial traits, garments, all of them signs that must be read beforehand, as a foundation for the action to be taken...


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