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Infrapolitics and the (Non)Subject: On Ethics, Politics, and Radical Alterity

From: CR: The New Centennial Review
Volume 13, Number 2, Fall 2013
pp. 179-201 | 10.1353/ncr.2013.0025

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In his recent book, Latinamericanism after 9/11, John Beverley offers a pointed assessment of Alberto Moreiras’s contributions to Latin American cultural studies over the last decade. Beverley orients his commentary on Moreiras’s recent work by examining it as “both a critique but also a new form of Latinamericanism” that operates primarily as a critical practice bearing a strong resemblance to deconstruction (2011, 43). Beverley identifies Moreiras as part of a loosely-connected group of contemporary scholars who have come to represent a deconstructive tendency or intervention into Latin American cultural theory, and he makes a number of objections to the way in which this collective theoretical intervention has presented its various critical projects (which, for Beverley, are related primarily through their shared debt to deconstruction) as sympathetic to a generalized Leftist or emancipatory political position. Acting as a force for immanent critique within Leftist political thought, such deconstructive interventions in Latin American cultural studies have concentrated their critical force on “certain forms of literary and literary-critical discourse associated with the nationalist or populist left in Latin America, or with positions of ‘solidarity’ with Latin America from abroad” (Beverley 2011, 44). This has resulted in a generalized suspicion of regional or national political forms like those that make up the recent “turn to the left” of several Latin American populist governments that some have called the marea rosada. According to Beverley, the misgivings deconstructive Latin Americanism has about this political shift to the left—and what he sees as an imperfect yet promising movement in Latin American politics—contradicts Moreiras’s “claim that the work of deconstruction prepares the ground for a ‘transformative’ politics” (Beverley 2011, 51). In other words, Beverley views this critical tendency as counterproductive to the development of the transformative politics for which Moreiras seems to indicate his support. For Beverley, it is precisely because of its melancholic attachment to the historical failures of emancipatory political projects in Latin America that deconstructive tendencies in Latin Americanist theory (like Moreiras’s recent work in particular) are unable to make good on the promise of adequately preparing the ground for political transformation. Rather, in its emphasis on “maintaining what Moreiras calls the ‘irruptive’ force of thought, as against the possibility of its commodification or reification,” the work of Moreiras and his fellow travelers in Latin Americanist deconstruction cannot shake off a nagging attachment to political failure, thus preventing these theorists from recognizing contemporary efforts to rebuild transformative political movements in Latin America (Beverly 2011, 53). While it was, once upon a time, the case that deconstruction performed the useful function of freeing Leftist political thought from the chains of the type of anachronistic theoretical frameworks that lead to catastrophe and defeat, nowadays, especially in the wake of the marea rosada, deconstruction itself seems out-of-date in its refusal to abandon a rigorous program of critique of the Left’s shortcomings. Beverley explains:

To the extent that the defeat of the Left was due to the inadequate or outmoded character of its discourse—and in particular the inadequacy of that discourse in the face of globalization and the collapse of communism—then deconstruction could (and did) serve as a place for revitalization. And to the extent that deconstruction is by definition a project of radical dedifferentiation, it could be said to be both in its theory and practice “anticipatory” in some sense of an egalitarian society. But with the resurgence of an actual political Left in Latin America, whatever its limitations might be, deconstruction can no longer command the strategic role it claimed for itself in the articulation of Latinamericanism, even as a critique of those limitations.

(2011, 55)

For Beverley, this inability to maintain itself as a prefigurative or anticipatory form of transformative politics means Moreiras’s deconstructive Latin Americanist theory has become primarily “a critique of political-cultural articulation as such,” and its immanent political orientation is something along the lines of a “procedural liberalism or ‘republicanism’ (with a lowercase r) in the mode of Hannah Arendt” (2011, 56). And, while Beverley stops short of accusing Moreiras of having abandoned the desire for some sort of transformative politics, readers of Latinamericanism after 9/11...

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