The Americas 61.2 (2004) 276-277
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There are three outstanding aspects in the text. First, this book is originated, on one hand, in the innovative previous researches by the Uruguayan cultural and literary critic Abril Trigo, and on the other hand, in the ethnographic research by the author in the Uruguayan migrant community resident in Fitchburg, Massachussets. Second, from there the text proposes a historical and cultural revision about the diaspora, migrations and configuration of social memories in Uruguayan society, both inside and outside the country, in different historical moments. Third, at the same time this book participates in contemporary theoretical debates, in dialogue with Latin American studies in the North American Academy and with the cultural criticism developed in the Latin American countries, mainly Uruguay. These three aspects are decisive for a critical evaluation of the book; they also show us the logic of the text and its provocative proposals.
The arrival of Uruguayan migrants to Fitchburg has been continuous since the 1960s. Arriving in different historical moments, each migrant wave had diverse characteristics. For instance, the first migrants left Uruguay during and after the important political and economic crisis in the decades of 1950s-1970s. For them, exile was a traumatic experience and many of them returned afterwards; others continued living in the United States. Subsequent waves were more diverse: along with political exile, there were those who left for desperate labor reasons; others for both. For Trigo, the Fitchburg's community is a micro-world of migrants. This allows him to explore the diaspora and the exiles, with its tragic conflict between memories of home (Uruguay) and the migrant's present. From here, Trigo reviews the history of Uruguay, since its controversial period of independence to the later, paradoxical and incomplete process of modernization during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His analysis reveals the dimension of the Uruguayan diaspora as a result and a necessity of the conflicting modernizations of the Uruguayan nation, state and society.
From this material, Trigo revises diverse theoretical notions. His frame of analysis is interdisciplinary: ethnography, anthropology, cultural theory, history and historiography, sociology, psychoanalysis, and political theory are implicated here. But in this intersection of fields of knowledge his position is, in epistemological terms, radical. For example, if the concept of the "subaltern" is important in the current cultural studies, Trigo chooses to analyze the range of that notion by considering first the subject's place of enunciation. His criticism, in this sense, is directed towards the abstract use of theory as a presupposition for a strict theoretical practice. So, contrary to some avant-garde, elitist and maybe idealistic conception about the "exile" (Trigo criticizes this position in Edward Said), he asks about daily life, the failures and successes of the migrants. His observations about the ab/use of notions such as "deterritorialization" (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari) and "metahistory" (Hayden White), which often fail to think through real problems of [End Page 276] exile, migration and the crisis of individual and social identities, go in a similar direction. Of course, Trigo deeply values such theoretical contributions but he proposes to use them according to specific contexts. Thus Trigo poses an alternative way to rethink the constitution of history: from social life, from the record of voices of migrants (the book is organized as a montage where the essays dialogue with those voices), and simultaneously interrogating the ethnographic and socio-cultural conformation of the communities—both real and imaginary communities. To this end, the interdisciplinary frame used by Trigo is reconsidered from the ontological (and theoretical) practiced of everyday life and its remembrances.
College Park, Maryland