Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Haunting and Hospitality

In Infrapolitical Literature: Hispanism and the Border Alberto Moreiras touches upon the concept of haunting many times, especially in relation to thought, literature, and otherness.  Early in his discussion, haunting is briefly connected with hospitality: “Whatever arises is new, yet thought must welcome it.  Haunting is the condition of all hospitality, or hospitality is the condition of haunting” (185).  In this way, the otherness of the world is what visits, or perhaps intrudes upon, thought or consciousness.  Haunting shares a relationship with hospitality in that it is always both within and outside its host.  What haunts is always incorporated and yet othered, set apart.  Perhaps there is a fruitful connection to both Derek Attridge and Jacques Derrida in this discussion of hospitality.  In The Singularity of Literature, Attridge describes how the “dominant mode of mechanical reading can be modified or interrupted by a somewhat different relation to the work.  Not all works will have something to offer to a reader’s openness to alterity, of course, but when one does, mechanical and instrumental interpretation is complicated by what we may term readerly hospitality, a readiness to have one’s purposes reshaped by the work to which one is responding” (80).  Attridge’s conception of “readerly hospitality” is more specific than Moreiras in that it describes the hospitality of the reader, the host, to the otherness of fiction.  Moreiras seems to be applying this hospitality to encounters with otherness that exceed the literary and extend to the political, historical, infrapolitical, etc..  In Of Hospitality, Derrida writes that “absolute hospitality” is something that is “graciously offered beyond debt and economy, offered to the other, a hospitality invented for the singularity of the new arrival, of the unexpected visitor” (83).  This “absolute hospitality” that Derrida describes as being “invented” is also an important element of this puzzle—which not only informs Attridge’s notion of singularity in literature, but also speaks to Moreiras’s concept of hospitality and haunting.  If we are to believe that haunting is the condition of all hospitality and that hospitality is the condition of haunting, which Moreiras posits, then there must be some kind of inherent singularity, inventiveness, that is born of this relationship.  There also must exist a kind of graciousness or offering, which when applied to more political contexts may become increasingly problematic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ethics and the Political

This week’s readings were as interesting as they were challenging. I really enjoyed Moreiras on the thriller genre as ethical. The idea that a crime against another person is a suspension of ethics and that the thriller is an ethical response is interesting. Today at lunch Moreiras spoke a bit about the difference between radical evil and diabolical evil, in which radical evil is self interested, and diabolical evil is to hurt another person- which plays out in his discussion of the thriller as an ethical reaction, and his idea that moralism protects autonomy and not heteronomy. I’m not positive what he meant by every perspective through structural articulation is already an ethical perspective- I think this relates to the extraliterary within the literary? I was also interested in the way Moreiras writes about the ethical and the political. In his articles, the ethical undoes or deconstructs? the political and vice versa- the political undoes the ethical.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Crime in Fiction and the Secret of the World

Several themes struck me as I read this weeks essays on infrapolitics (or “lo impolítico” for Espósito), such as the idea of literature being anti-moral as it to disavow itself from any opportunism - a narrative that self-exposes without an ulterior motive – explored in what Moreiras calls “a non-moralist betrayal of war” contained within Comrac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. But perhaps most enlightening was this idea that within the genre of crime fiction in Mexico lies not only the unveiling of the secret behind a murder but a secret within that secret: “the secret of the world,” an unfathomable secret that surpasses national boundaries. Moreiras’ exploration of the murders in Ciudad Juárez both as novelized by Roberto Bolaños and in reality expresses the paradoxical interaction between the necessity for a political reaction to the suspension of the ethical and the “ethical need to interrupt the suspension of the political” (173) – the infrapolitical quality of Mexican thrillers. I was also intrigued by the connection Moreiras makes between literary nationalism and subalternity and sacrifice and how this particular genre abandons that idea and steps out of the national and into the secret of the world concealed within narratives of murder. That this universal extrapolation contained within the genre of investigation literature, of that anti-moralist complex interplay of ethics and politics, might also hold the key to literature’s not-quite-ethical inpolitical role, a “need for antimoralist revelation,” points to an indefinable but essential function of fiction not only in Latin America but beyond.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Posthegemony: Class Themes

I had not encountered theories of posthegemony, and was enthusiastic (delighted?) to read other (contemporary) articulations of the political and of the way power functions. It was also interesting to continue the theme of difference and sameness which came up in Los Planetas, but from an entirely different theoretical framework. The readings this week actually spoke to a number of themes which have run through the class this semester: the limits of social intelligibility and the disruption to the social order (hegemony) that these representable forces create (even if hegemony excludes them- through the act of excluding that which does not fit is reaffirmed; also Williams on the unifying image today being the exhaustion of unifying images; as well as the idea of inheritance which we have circled around in class (as he states- our inheritance is the exhaustion of modernity it is also what creates subjectivity if I am reading him correctly), as well as memory. According to Williams, hegemony is active forgetting it is the repression and exclusion  of heterogeneity. He uses the language of the specter and haunting to address that which does not fit the hegemonic model. He also spoke to Gabrielle Basterra’s lecture on the ethics of the radical other, addressing the exposure of hegemonic to radical alterity- an outside which signals a different way to think, and the other thought within thought- the heterogeneous, disruptive, interruptive remainder to and within hegemonic reflection (149).

Exposed Failure

Posthegemony endeavors to "redescribe and reconstruct an image of society that no longer depends on society's own self portrayal" in order to recognize cultural struggles that offer the best likelihood of changing the current exclusionary and unjust structure and order of society (p. xv). Beasley-Murray posits that within the academy we must replace and rethink concepts like consent, ideology, and identity, along the lines of concepts like affect, habit, and multitude.

I am intrigued by the move of this book is making to critique cultural studies and to problematize the false dichotomy between consent and coercion in politics. I find it interesting the role censorship also plays in these processes and Beasley-Murray is interested in exposing the failure of hegemony and why hegemony can't work. Accordingly, posthegemony works "to uncover what has been obscured in these substitutions and to outline the means by which its suppression has been achieved, enforced, naturalized, and legitimated" (p. 63).

In this works that we've read thus far there seems to be a trend in exposing the failure of systems of power and political theories in place. I'm wondering if that's what Latin American theory is defined by; that is; a process of uncovering what is hidden by signs and codes that obscure cultures and societies.

By the way, Jon Beasley-Murray has an entire blog dedicated to posthegemony:, just in case anyone wanted to check it out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Construct of Hegemony: Productive or Not?

      After reading both Gareth Williams’s The Other Side of the Popular: Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America and excerpts from Jon Beasley-Murray’s Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America, I have noticed important differences in the ways that both writers discuss the concept of hegemony.  While Williams questions and deconstructs the use of the term hegemony and any kind of hegemonic binary, Beasley-Murray seems to take Antonio Gramsci’s notion of hegemony and run with it.  In the Introduction of his book, Beasley-Murray defines his use of the words hegemony and posthegemony as follows:

“By ‘hegemony,’ I do not mean mere domination.  To say ‘posthegemony’ is not to say that domination is at an end.  Command and control, exploitation and oppression, still manifestly continue… Nor by hegemony do I mean the concept in International Relations of a single dominant world power.  It may be that such a power no longer exists, but this is more a symptom of posthegemony than the main issue.  By hegemony I mean the notion, derived from the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, that the state maintains its dominance (and that of social and economic elites) thanks to the consent of those it dominates.  Where it does not win consent, this theory suggests, the state resorts to coercion.  By contrast, in stressing the role of habit (rather than opinion) I point to processes that involve neither consent nor coercion” (x)

      Here, Beasley-Murray is defining his use of these words and fleshing out his perspective on hegemony and posthegemony within the context of Antonio Gramsci’s model.  Clearly, these terms prove to be productive and useful in Beasley-Murray’s discussion—they form the foundation for his theory in regards to what he terms as “habit” but also to his opinions on the larger subjects of power, politics, order, society, etc… In fact Beasley-Murray goes so far as to admit to advancing the concept and term posthegemony on the next page: “I am not the only person to have advanced a concept of posthegemony, though this book is the first to define it at such length and in these terms” (xi).  This open agenda runs in sharp contrast to that of Williams, who problematizes the use of the terms and concepts of hegemony and posthegemony.  Over and over again Williams shows the instances in which political moments in Latin America cannot be confined to such terms and binary lines of thinking.  Williams problematizes not only the use of these terms, but the entire approach that such analysis would tend to advance.  Especially in the first section of his book, “Closure,” Williams provides a long catalogue of failed analyses of Latin American socio-political life in his quest for a viable discourse and approach to this subject.  The question that I would posit is this: to what extent are these terms helpful and to what extent are they stifling?  Is there a possible alternative paradigm that is missing from the equation?  What would the alternative look like?

Zombieland: Dos Caracoles, the Caracazo and Split Screens

George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978)

            What struck me in Jon Beasly-Murray’s Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America was a juxtaposition I made between the discussion on habit and how its both complacent and an instrument of hegemony under Pinochet’s dictatorship yet unpredictably reactionary after Venezuela’s thirty years of democracy. While the zombiesque shoppers traverse the neoliberal mall of Dos Caracoles in Santiago, Chile, unable to congregate in one space and going about their architecturally channeled routine of window shopping comodification, the multitude rises against higher prices in public transportation in the Caracazo uprising in 1989 while Hugo Chávez was sleeping. The effect of posthegemony is almost like an unforeseen metaphorical zombie apocalypse. Out of the numbing effects of capitalist hegemony rises a post-ideological subversiveness unaware of its power. Perhaps Venezuela’s shattered split-screen televisual coup/countercoup 2002 confusion is an augur of what’s to come in Chile as it distances itself from the Pinochet dictatorship – one screen, one perspective, is no longer capable of capturing the complete narrative. Some screens switch to the telenovela in an attempt to censor, others with the protests thinking they are on the right side of history, then within 48 hours it all turns around on itself to the point that the media’s camera does not know where it should be pointing because it is unclear who is actually in control. Hegemony is no longer possible.