Sunday, January 11, 2009


Encouraged by a quite marvellous response to my brief discussion of pre-emptive criticisms of posthegemony (and many thanks to "a latinamericanist"), here's another of those shallow swipes, from one of Abril Trigo's introductory overviews in The Latin American Cultural Studies Reader:
Deconstructionists stretched subaltern studies' central concept of subalternity, based upon the irrepresentability of the subaltern, inasmuch as she or he is always exterior to any hegemonic formation, to its very limits, and rejected any form of strategic suture as a mere disabling of the subaltern absolute epistemological negativity. In this manner, deconstructionists took the subalternist project to its logical consequences: the blind alley of post-hegemony and postpolitics as the ultimate radicalization (Moreiras 1996a). Cornered by its own aporias, subalternism reacted with a radical return to the very positions against which it had built its identity. This internal polemic [between deconstruction and an affirmation of the nation-state]--personal differences aside--led to the dissolution of the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group. (369)
Now, there has been an enormous amount of ink spilled on the question of why the Latin American subaltern studies group split up--no doubt more ink thank the group itself spilled while it existed. The latest arena for the strangely persistent return to this traumatic demise is Hernán Vidal's Treinta años de estudios literarios/culturales latinoamericanistas en los Estados Unidos (which would seem strangely difficult to get hold of; it doesn't help that the webpage of the Instituto Internacional de Literatura Iberoamericana is so out of date it still lists Mabel Moraña as its director of publications; well, there's a whole 'nother history of institutional struggles there...). I don't propose to add to the discussion of the split, or at least not now.

But Trigo's passing reference to the "blind alley of post-hegemony" has always struck me as odd, and for some time I really did think of referring to it in the introduction to my book.

It's odd not least because Trigo is undercutting the authors, and indeed even the specific essays, that he is supposed here to be introducing: he specifically name-checks Alberto Moreiras (the reference is to "Elementos de la articulación teórica para el subalternismo latinoamericano: Candido y Borges"), whose essay "Irruption and Conservation: Some Conditions of Latin Americanist Critique" is included in the reader's final section; and that section also includes George Yúdice's "Latin American Intellectuals in a Post-Hegemonic Era."

But it's odd also because in fact Alberto's essay in this volume doesn't even mention posthegemony, while Yúdice (whose essay does) is no deconstructionist, was never a member of the subaltern studies group, and is surely not the target of Trigo's critique.

So the sideswipe is doubly misplaced: it shouldn't (one would have thought) be here at all, as a matter of professional responsibility if not courtesy; and it appears rather to miss, or to mistake, its mark.

Not to mention that the whole point of the deconstructionist version of subaltern studies is precisely to avoid closure, to hold off the kinds of political and theoretical suturing that could fit the metaphor of a "blind alley." Or even the fact that, as I hope to show, there is plenty more down this alley than Trigo lets on.

Indeed, if we are to talk of metaphors drawn from roads and alleys, it is as through Trigo wants to place a "no through road" sign squarely in front of a wide-open vista whose existence he has to acknowledge, however awkwardly, but which he would rather nobody bothered to explore. "Stick to the highway," he's telling us.

No comments: