miércoles, 15 de febrero de 2012

Peripheral Transmodernities: South-to-South Intercultural Dialogues between the Luso-Hispanic World and “the Orient”

Here is the new book I've edited titled Peripheral Transmodernities: South-to-South Intercultural Dialogues between the Luso-Hispanic World and “the Orient”. Newcastle, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. In both printed and digital versions. 332 pages

Introduction (pages 1-9)

Ignacio López-Calvo
University of California, Merced

Frequently, large metropolitan cities have subway
services that extend from suburban neighborhoods
to the center; however they do not offer connecting
service between the suburban subcenters themselves.
This is an analogy for what occurs in intercultural dialogue.
(Enrique Dussel19)

This volume is a collection of essays dealing with the critical dialogue between the cultural production of the Hispanic/Latino world and that of the so-called Orient or the Orient itself, including the Asian and Arab worlds. The term “Transmodernities” used in the title is borrowed from the Argentine philosopher of liberation Enrique Dussel to suggest a transmodern “pluriverse” (including European and postcolonial worldviews, such as the Asian, African, Latin American, and Islamic ones) that refuses to be homologized into a globalized (or Americanized), univocal hegemonic culture. As we see in these essays, the Europeans’ cultural others (peripheral nations and former colonies) have established an intercultural and intercontinental dialogue among themselves, without feeling the need to resort to the center-metropolis’ mediation (hence the epigraph to this introduction). These South-to-South dialogues tend not to be as asymmetric as the old dialogue between the (former) metropolis (the hegemonic, Eurocentric center) and the colonies. Dussel’s term also contests the idea that Modernity is a uniquely European phenomenon. In this way, it attempts to transcend (and calls for moving beyond) the concepts of Modernity and Postmodernity by incorporating non-western knowledges, always from a critical and ethical perspective. In his view, many other now peripheral (but formerly central) world cultures have contributed to Modernity: “A future trans-modern culture–which assumes the positive moments of Modernity (as evaluated through criteria distinct from the perspective of the other ancient cultures)–will have a rich pluriversity and would be the fruit of an authentic intercultural dialogue, that would need to bear clearly in mind existing asymmetries” (18).

These essays about Hispanic and Latino cultural production (most of them dealing with literature but some with urban art, music, and film) attest to the veracity of these abstract, philosophical thoughts, echoing and providing vivid examples of de-colonizing impetus and cultural resistance. In some of them, we can find peripheral subjectivities’ perception of other peripheral, racialized, and (post)colonial subjects and their cultures. They also reflect critical diasporic thought, border thinking, and everyday living in contact zones. Others problematize the hegemonic and Occidentalist discourse of the center as well as its echo: the colonized minds in the periphery. According to Dussel, this transversal and transmodern intercultural dialogue should produce the “mutual liberation of universal postcolonial cultures” (16). Yet, as Ramón Grosfoguel reminds us, our knowledges are always situated: “we always speak from a particular location in the power structures. Nobody escapes the class, sexual, gender, spiritual, linguistic, geographical, and racial hierarchies of the ‘modern/colonial capitalist/patriarchal world-system’” (4). From this perspective, it is important to take into account the locus of enunciation of this volume: there is no denying that, while several of the contributors were born in Mexico, Chile, India, Korea, and other peripheral and semiperipheral countries, all of them (except for Suk Kyun Woo, who writes from Korea), belong to the American academy. In any case, this social location does not necessary mean that the critics are on the side of western hegemonic discourse. By the same token, critics writing from the South are not always on the subaltern side.

Moving on to the essays themselves, in hers, Debra Lee-DiStefano, opens the discussion regarding the role of theory, specifically orientalism, in the study of Asians in the Americas. She attempts to open a dialogue regarding what is, and perhaps what should be, the relationship between theory and texts written by Latin Americans of Asian descent. She points to Saidian Orientalism as a useful tool and briefly discusses its reception within the Academy.

In “Walking the Talk: Saris, Sarapes, and Elephants in green Suits,” an essay that completes the chapter on theoretical and practical approaches, Roshni Rustomji (with Luz de la Rosa) describes their project on the construction and uses of collaborative and contrapuntal narratives in the different processes of colonialism and counter-colonialism. These narratives are collaborative and contrapuntal in the sense of a discourse in which dual or multiple “voices” discuss a set of personal and public narratives focusing on the themes of construction of resistance to colonialism. A series of personal and public narratives are presented as examples of Orientalism and its off-shoots, followed by a brief exploration of the possible uses of the concept of assimilation in counter-colonization, or resistance to colonization.

Chapter 2, Spanish American Literature and Culture, includes five essays. In the first one, Rosario Hubert analyzes three Latin American novels that are set in Asia: La Gruta del Toscano (2006) by Ignacio Padilla, Mongólia (2003) by Bernardo Carvalho, and Los impostores (2002) by Santiago Gamboa. She argues that the representation of the Oriental in these works responds to a cosmopolitan gesture that negotiates the relationship between displacement, literature, and the marginal site of enunciation of the Latin American writer in three ways. Firstly, the narratives’ extraterritorial impetus questions the mandate of articulating an exotic Latin America (magical realism) as a way of universalizing itself. Thus, instead of presenting a vision of Latin America, these novels present a Latin American vision of the world. Secondly, the construction of Asian poetic spaces denounces the exoticizing notion of Orientalism. These novels remove, refute, and ridicule the cultural particularities of the Oriental spaces to theoretically critique exoticism. Thirdly, the authors discuss the travel literature that universalized the exotic images of the Oriental. They reveal its one-dimensional rhetorical apparatus through a fragmentation of voices bound by one single fictional narrator that edits and rewrites the traveler’s account. Thus, according to Hubert, these authors recast, from a peripheral site of enunciation, the vast catalogue of European travel writing through fiction.

In turn, Sandra M. Pérez-Linggi looks at José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi’s use of the Orient in El Periquillo Sarniento (1816). She explores how theoretical tools such as Said’s Orientalism fall short in determining how to interpret Oriental “otherness” from the marginalized Spanish colony which was New Spain. By looking at the details of Lizardi’s life, the novel itself, the colonial relationship between Mexico and the Philippines, and Chinese history, it becomes clear that his ideology mirrors that of the Criollos of his time. As a marginalized Spanish-American male of European ancestry whose career as a journalist had been brought to a halt, Lizardi finds ideological refuge in the liberal ideals that inspired the French Revolution. Lizardi is not concerned with the fate of marginalized Mexicans but with himself and those like him who must become national fathers capable of transforming the nation. Given this political goal, Pérez-Linggi reveals how Lizardi uses the Chinese island of Saucheofú to represent the ideas of that alternate European hegemonic discourse which he supported. Since so little was known about China in Mexico, Lizardi’s utopia uses the Orient as a blank canvas on which he paints his French-inspired idyllic society.

Suk Kyun Woo, in the third essay of this chapter, argues that José Martí’s image as a hero of the independence of Cuba and a prophet who foretold the US imperialist expansion, has not always contributed to the full understanding of his thought and career, since it tends to lock him within the frame of the nation-state or Latin America. As Martí lived in an era of reconfiguration of the map of imperialism in which some countries came on stage and others were leaving, a broader approach is required. Under this premise, his article locates Martí’s time and life in the context of “early globalization” between late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Defining Martí’s times as an era of “global coloniality,” Woo examines Martí’s ideas about racism, a basic mode of operation of the global coloniality.

In the fourth essay, after a brief historic contextualization of R. H. Moreno-Durán’s novel Mambrú, Moisés Park focuses on two instances in the book: Marilyn Monroe’s visit in 1954, and the confession of a Colombian soldier who had an erection when he saw the ruins in Seoul. Park reads these fragments taking into account Marcusean notions of Eros and Thanathos, and recalls Picasso’s representation of the Shinchon Massacre, depicted in his 1951 oil painting Korean Massacre. He concludes by reflecting on traum, the misuse of sexual signs to compel forgetfulness, and how hegemonic powers take biopolitical dimensions in what Park refers as the Marilyn Monroe Doctrine.

Rebecca Riger Tsurumi closes chapter 2 with a study of three short stories by the Peruvian Carlos Yushimito del Valle. In “Oz,” Yushimito tells the story of how an old Japanese inventor and his friend, a mechanical brainchild whom he has promoted as a gifted chess prodigy, deal with ethical dilemmas that will change their lives completely. In “Ciudad de cristal,” a young Peruvian Nisei boy is forced to adapt when he is left in the care of his elderly grandmother, after his father is taken away to the U.S. internment camp in Crystal City, Texas. Feeling friendless and alone, he becomes obsessed with the image of fighting spiders and learns some of life’s lessons when he goes about trying to capture one for himself. In the third story, “Criaturas aladas,” which forms the basis for Yushimito’s future novel, we follow the path of a Japanese-Peruvian entomologist/photographer who ventures into the central Peruvian jungle in search of a rare, possibly extinct butterfly. Taking risks that belie his cautious nature, he is suddenly forced to wrestle with the dangers of this unpredictable, untamed land.

Chapter 3 is devoted to cultural production from the Iberian Peninsula. Timothy P. Gaster studies the role of gender and the feminine in the discourses of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Spanish and Portuguese authors. He analyzes the image of the Japanese woman in one fictional epistolary novel, Cartas d’um japonez, written by the Portuguese author Alfredo Gallis, as well as in some articles and images found in Spanish and Portuguese literary and art journals of that time period, as examples to highlight certain ideological elements that appear in Portuguese and Spanish discourses on the East. Gaster shows that due to the Spanish and Portuguese desire to reform the nation, the image they create of the Japanese woman often took on the idealized form of a submissive, obedient, clean, beautiful woman, as a contrasting model to/for the supposedly dirty, ugly, unfit, and libertine Iberian woman. He also argues that the use of the Japanese woman as a model became a social and political discourse of hygiene, social control, and discipline promoting obedience and a lack of difference that were intended to reform both societies. His essay highlights the link between making the nation strong, certain conservative political discourses, and gender (hygiene and reform of women) as part of that project. However, it also explores how that conservative discourse was contested and subverted from within through encounters with and explorations of the perverse/other.

Moving on to the second essay of Chapter 3, according to Axel Gasquet, Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyats have a special place within Oriental classical works disseminated in the West at the end of the nineteenth century thanks to Edward Fitzgerald’s philological project, whose first English translation was published in 1859. Juan Dublan was responsible for the first Spanish translation, which was published in Mexico in 1904. Between this year and 1930, eleven different translations into Spanish and several re-editions were made. In this essay, Gasquet addresses two points: a) what motivated the publication of so many translations and editions by young Latin American intellectuals; b) what was the new cultural atmosphere that made this literary and spiritual interest in the Orient possible. In his view, it was not just a trend. The exploration of new models of intellectual inspiration outside Europe, which was particularly urgent after World War I, propitiated the search for new and universal ethical and spiritual values.

Closing the chapter, Svetlana V. Tyutina argues that a direct application of Said’s term “Orientalsim” is problematic in the case of the Cantar de mío Cid (1140), where the process of Orientalization has more than one vector and is defined by a variety of factors. First of them is the gradual shift in powers from Moorish invaders to their Christian opponents during the process of Christian Reconquest. Another factor is the existence of multiple cultural and religious groups, the most prominent ones being Christians, Muslims, and Jews. In the Cantar, these three selves are portrayed differently. While the first two groups are always in a dichotomy caused by their military opposition, the third group is alienated from the society by the two. While the Christian-Muslim relationships generally agree the paradigm proposed by Said, the relations between these two groups and the third group follow a different Orientalization paradigm.

The three essays included in Chapter 4 are devoted to Brazilian narratives. Juan Ryusuke Ishikawa focuses on the analysis of the introduction of the Brazilian haicai through the arrival of the Japanese immigrants at the beginning of the 1900s. He explores the connection of this poetic form with the Japanese migratory phenomenon. After reviewing the arrival of haicai in Brazil, its propagation through Japanese immigrant communities and the establishment of a Brazilian Saijiki or reference book of kigo, Ishikawa addresses the importance of the current grêmios or groups practicing haicai, especially the “Grêmio Haicai Ipê,” whose work has been fundamental in disseminating the haicai with publications, competitions, workshops and regular gatherings, all done in Portuguese. He also analyzes a recent book of haicai by contemporary poet Teruko Oda, a Japanese descendent and member of the Grêmio Haicai Ipê, to see how the haicai has been incorporated into contemporary Brazil. As Ishikawa points out, the haicai is a poem that, through its more than one hundred years of presence on Brazilian soil, has served as a cultural artifact that has bridged life experience and artistic expression.

In turn, José I. Suárez’s essay summarizes the history of Japanese migrants in Brazil, and analyzes an autobiographical work by one of those immigrants: Katsuso Yamamoto’s Toda uma Vida no Brasil (A Lifetime in Brazil, 1984). This works is a series of essays written in Japanese and translated into Portuguese. Questions regarding community identification and reflection are also addressed.
In the third and last essay of the chapter, Martín Camps focuses on the Bernardo Carvalho’s novel O sol se põe em São Paulo, which concentrates on Japanese migration to Brazil during World War II and on the contemporary immigrant neighborhood of Liberdade. Carvalho’s writings are characterized by postmodernism because of his use of paradox, unresolved contradiction, and the blurring of the borders between fiction and reality. The settings of his narratives are always countries abroad and the characters are always looking for someone in another place besides Brazil. Travel is an important trend in his work, which portrays distant places such as Mongolia, Japan, and Russia in his most recent novel. His travels build bridges of a “horizontal orientalism” (Ruy Sánchez) built on mutual respect and recognition of both histories. This study uses the insights of Said (Orientalism), Pratt (Imperial Eye), and Baudrillard (Simulacra) to establish a framework. This novel attests to the idea that Brazilian identity is a work in progress that continues to be negotiated today.

The two essays included in Chapter 5 explore the dialogue between Chicano cultural production and the East. David Simonowitz argues that although Los Angeles claims to be the capital of public art, Tehran, capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran, can boast more mural paintings. Coincidentally, themes in the murals of both cities concern historically-grounded mythologies of displacement, martyrdom, and resistance. In Los Angeles, it is rendered in the topos of Aztlán, the ancient, imprecisely-determined yet colonized homeland of the Aztec-Mexica-Chicanos; in post-Revolutionary Tehran, it is embodied in the narrative of martyrdom of the third Shi`ite Imam Husayn at Karbala, Iraq in 680. Concomitantly, displacement is evoked in the former in the polyvalent maxim “we didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us.” In the latter, the usurpation and subsequent re-emplacement of Shi`ite authority is enunciated in the pragmatic, performative dictum “everyday is `Ashura’; everywhere is Karbala.” These spatial topoi engender different, yet comparably powerful visual discourses. Based on primary sources and fieldwork in Tehran and Los Angeles, and re-applying theoretical approaches refined in one context to the other, this comparative study of how two peoples visually represent themselves also sheds new light on the ways that others imag[in]e them. That the largest population of expatriate Iranians resides in Los Angeles adds further relevance to the comparison.

Jungwon Park, in the second essay, reveals how in early foundational Chicana/o narratives, the transpacific perspective is addressed primarily through war and post-war experiences. His essay examines the representations of Korea and the Korean War in the novels of Tomás Rivera, Rolando Hinojosa, and José Revueltas. “Korea” is depicted as a dangerous and unfathomable place for Mexican American protagonists. Thus, the war experiences are employed to reflect on Chicanos’ precarious condition in an American society that has yet to accept them as equals. Chicanos’ identity is created and confirmed through the awareness of their marginality and “otherness” in the war. However, the encounters with another “Other” (Korea and Korean people) serve to provide possibilities of ethics and ethical relationships that constitute a sense of transnational community.

Roselia Barragán-Ekhause’s essay, in Chapter 6, focuses on the work of the Spanish-language Moroccan author Ahmed Ararou and its dialogue with Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges’s opus. She explores how a critical dialogue between these texts is possible through a “southern-subaltern” intercultural exchange. Borges’s and Ararou’s works enter a dialogue without the necessity of transversing the “center” of hegemony. Barragán-Ekhause studies the literary strategies they use to address the trope of the other and identifies two main aspects: the labyrinth structure of the narrative and the psychological aspects applied to the individual’s ability for scission. She also highlights the importance of the Arabian Nights as an infinite text in their works.

The two essays in Chapter 7 that close the collection are devoted to cultural studies: one focusing on music and the other one on film. Alicia Ramos-Jordán analyzes two music artists who are characterized by not belonging to a national identity and by being products of hybridization processes of different languages, cultures, and countries. As is well known, the link between these three elements is indisputable. She also highlights how the mixture of these ingredients leads to the creation of a new language, a different culture, and a country without borders. Ramos-Jordán claims these new processes of mixing and identity search are based on new forms that differ from those used in modernity or postmodernity; they are new identities that are created particularly in large cities and border areas, and that, due to permanent exiles and migrations, follow their own creation processes, which differ from the classic concepts of identity, culture, and country.

Closing the volume, Marco Valesi analyzes the approach to otherness and its impact on intercultural relations in two Clint Eastwood’s fims: Gran Torino and Invictus. Cinematographic representation, according to Valesi, has replaced socio-economic control forces in the classical Marxist scheme and created spaces of intermediation in which social narratives converge, generating dynamic representations of cultural identities.

Works Cited

Dussel, Enrique. “Transmodernity and interculturality: An Interpretation from the Perspective of Philosophy of Liberation.” Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de México-Iz, 2005. http://www.enriquedussel.org/txt/Transmodernity%20and%20Interculturality.pdf, accessed 25 August, 2011.

---. “Transmodernidad e interculturalidad (Interpretación desde la Filosofía de la Liberación)”
UAM-Iz., Mexico City, 2005.
http://www.afyl.org/transmodernidadeinterculturalidad.pdf, accessed 25 August, 2011.

Grosfoguel, Ramón. “Decolonizing post-colonial studies and paradigms of political-economy:
Transmodernity, decolonial thinking, and global coloniality.” Transmodernity 1.1 (2011):
http://escholarship.org/uc/item/21k6t3fq#page-1, accessed 24 Aug. 2011.

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