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  • The Vitality of Discourse:Shifting Approaches in Latin American Cultural Studies
  • Sarah Booker and Christine Martinez

Throughout the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st, Latin American nations have witnessed staggering change across social, political, and economic spheres. Significant trends include the widespread shift from authoritarian to democratic regimes, the urbanization and reconcentration of populations and the regional emergence onto a global marketplace. With changes in such force come associated dilemmas and shifts in thought: the reevaluation of past histories, the recentering and reaffirmations of national identities and the conceptual construction of models for future progress. The articles gathered in this section of Hispanófila analyze texts and cultural phenomena that span this period of time and discuss elements that are integral to current debates on literature, identity and the role of the intellectual in present-day Latin America.

The contemporary conversations on history, literature, identity and progress in Latin America move beyond the conventional dichotomies of First World/Third World, “Same” and “Other,” or inclusion/exclusion that have dominated Latin American theoretical and cultural discourse. These are debates that emerge after the disappearance of cold-war mappings and as theories that once centered around such binaries lose their currency. The articles included in this volume should be considered in the context of such evolving approaches to literary and cultural discussion.

As several of the articles evidence, the “Other” has been displaced or recentered. Rather than engaging in discourses that reflect the influence of an external or foreign “Other,” we are confronted with the encounters of discourses generated within nations. Such a critical approach that allows for the consideration of relations of power between multiple people groups and social strata within cities like Medellín or nations like Nicaragua, can be as seen in Luis Cano’s discussion of Jorge Franco Ramos’ novel Rosario Tijeras (1999) and José María Mantero’s discussion [End Page 137] of the memoir writings of Ernesto Cardenal. Cano explores the struggle by male characters to possess Rosario, Franco’s female protagonist, who, by extension, represents the struggle between various layers of society for appropriation of the city of Medellín. In Cano’s exploration of the feminization of violence in the novel, various types of violence embroil the figure of Rosario. The critic problematizes previous interpretations of Rosario as a feminine incarnation of power and agency by underlying a more insidious form of violence represented in the novel and embodied in her experience, a violence described as “the silence to which those dispossessed of the official language are condemned” (John B. Thompson qtd. in Cano).

In mentioning the “official languages” controlled by hegemonic groups, a discussion about the recentering and re-formation of cultural hegemony also arises, as evidenced in Mantero’s study of the memoir writings of Ernesto Cardenal. Mantero evaluates the poet’s efforts as Minister of Culture under the Sandinista regime to redefine and redistribute culture among “el pueblo.” Referencing cultural theory from Alberto Moreiras’ Tercer espacio, Mantero describes Cardenal’s conception of “el pueblo” as a “third space” where the leadership of the Sandinistas and the subaltern of the pueblo could coincide. Mantero explores the complexities of Cardenal’s social and humanistic project. The critic shows how this notion of “pueblo” becomes manipulated as an object of power as it is increasingly identified with the Sandinista movement, resulting in the exclusion of other societal elements. Throughout this discussion, a clear example emerges of how revolution and political change – even that which aims for more equitable power distribution – can create new hegemonies and fringes within a nation.

The continual rethinking of theoretical discourses has been necessary to keeping pace with the multitudinous shifts and changes experienced throughout the region. Such changes have occurred intranationally through revolutions, regime changes and population shifts, but have also occurred internationally as Latin American nations emerge onto the global sphere. Theoretical reconfigurations should not only consider Latin America as a geographical area or culture, but also as a “scene” within the movement of globalization, considered in terms of the market, diaspora, late capitalism and transnationality. We see the importance of transnational reimaginings in Junyoung Verónica Kim’s article that explores perceptions...


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pp. 137-142
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