- The Fatality of (My) SubalternismA Response to John Beverley
To Teresa, for all the reasons she knows
And a man should never take lightly anything that happens.—(Sophocles 2010, 381)
I. Ego Latinamericanism
Recently, I decided to watch some old Western classics as part of my preparation for a graduate seminar on narcotráfico. My idea was that we could learn from those films about the pathological subject, in the Kantian sense, and that the Western genre might therefore be apropos to studying narcotráfico, hence perhaps its future. And one of the films I purchased was Fred Zinneman’s High Noon (1952). By the time Will Kane says, “The judge has left town, Harvey’s quitted, I’m having trouble getting deputies,” I was [End Page 217] thoroughly alarmed. People are indeed telling Kane to leave town, as “it is all for nothing,” and nobody wants to see him get killed. Was it all for nothing? When, at the end of the film, Kane throws the tin star on the ground with a gesture of contempt, everything seemed to have been set right—or so I had thought as a kid, as it came back to me. My alarm came from the realization, this time around, that the worldly judge who leaves Hadleyville before the train arrives (“I have been a judge many times in many towns and I hope to be a judge again”) was probably laughing, with good reason. Kane was a fool, and it is not like he wasn’t told. And what was he going to do now? Yes, he rides off into the sunset with the gal, Amy. But what about tomorrow, when his gesture wears off and his contempt comes back to exact a price?
A few years ago Jon Beasley-Murray jokingly defined John Beverley as “the Latinamericanist unconscious.” It happened after a Latin American Studies Association panel where Beverley had been arguing in favor of Brazilian nuclear rearmament for the sake of the constitution of a Latin American “great space” or hegemonic block against the North American one. It was a high compliment in the context, I thought, but perhaps a little undeserved. Not that John Beverley does not deserve high compliments; rather, that particular one was not totally deserved. Beverley has never spoken, on professional grounds, from the position of the subject of the unconscious, as his politics will not allow him to do so. Beverley is very much an ego Latinamericanist, or if you want, an American ego Latinamericanist, as the structure of his recent book, Latinamericanism After 9/11, once again confirms. As one would surmise, there are plenty of ego Latinamericanists around, and that is perhaps the secret of Beasley-Murray’s remarks: “John Beverley hits the nail on the head for all ego Latinamericanists, he represents their collective preconscious better than anybody else.” I think I could go along with that. It is indeed a compliment, but, hey, for us old closet Lacanians, within limits. It is precisely those limits that are at stake in the discussion I think we must have in the wake of Beverley’s book.
Or I can come out of the closet and make a premature and impossible proposal for a change, which in this context is a counterproposal: in his seminar of 1954–55, Jacques Lacan undertook a critique of American ego psychology as a travesty of Freud’s heritage. His intention to “return to Freud” [End Page 218] by painstakingly reading Freud’s evolution from his early work to the meta-psychological texts, in particular Beyond the Pleasure Principle, led him to the discovery of the subject of the unconscious, a nemo which is not the ego, and which holds the possibility of what the Lacan of those years understood as psychoanalysis proper. Mutatis mutandis, I would like to suggest the possibility of a Latinamericanism beyond the pleasure principle, which is also a Latinamericanism beyond culturalism and ego psychology, beyond the humanism of the subject, beyond the pieties of speculative identity and mimetic difference, beyond narcissism and imaginary projections. Within this essay, which is meant to be a personal response to John Beverley’s book...