Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fragmented Voices and Bodies of Recovery

The Insubordination of Signs, really gave me a lot to think about, most of which I am still trying to process my way through. I am drawn to the fact that the memory lost as a result of the military regime in Chile remains suppressed, if only because it would threaten the very fabric of political reconciliation whose entire premise was to put the past in the past. For Richard, all that remains are residues, “fragments of experience…no longer speakable in the language that survived the catastrophe of meaning” (5). I am interested in this idea of fragmentation as the after effects of erasure and trauma. Richard describes how the military regime banished dissident voices and identities and prevented their representation, leaving them nameless and inexpressible. Those banished identities and narratives remain excluded in the postdictatorship.

I am really interested in locating this within queer studies, where conversations about erasure and recovery of fragments of experience are key to many queer narratives and theory. I’m thinking of An Archive of Feelings by Ann Cvetokovich in particular, where she discusses a queer approach to trauma that examines the recovery of those experiences already embedded in an archive—an “archive of feelings” that she defines as “an exploration of cultural texts as repositories of feelings and emotions, which are encoded not only in the content of the texts themselves but in the practices that surround their production and reception” (7). Needless to say, in Latin America during many of these moments of dictatorship and military regimes, queer bodies were equally erased and became part of an invisible institution of other dissident bodies and voices. I am thus interested in the process of recovery and how that relates to the body: does the body remember?

Richard writes,
Memories associated with the subaltern registers of the domestic and the popular, the urban, the feminine, and the biographical-erotic, entered as contraband into the upper regions of cultural representation, to contest the hierarchies of race, class, and gender fixing the scale of distinctions and privileges consecrated by traditional art (13).
Recovery is a form of disruption then, which is queer in nature. But how is fragmentation made whole again? Is the subaltern experience always a fragmented one? Richard is obviously not talking about queer discourses, but I think her work informs my own in terms of me thinking about how I locate the queer subject in Latin America. In a context where homosexuality is an invisible institution and only based on sexual positionality, where then do we locate same-sex desire in the postcolony? I wonder if Richard provides me with a historical context in which recovery of the fragments is happening. I just wonder if this recovery and remembrance reproduces violence in the body. And even then, who gets to recover? Which dissident voices get to rearticulate their voices? Do we get to speak to those who are permanently disappeared?


  1. Rearticulation of dissident voices, fragments that are given an unified voice, for some reason brings me back to this idea that all Richards (and Piglia in his novel) can do with the fragments of those dissident voices, those failed philosophers, is to quote them, to cite them a place in the future, to proliferate them through discourse. To keep saying "dijo ____" as Piglia does with one narrator as que quotes the other, whether its Tardewski or Renzi.

  2. I believe that Richards also touches on queer studies when she brings up Claudia Donoso and Paz Errázuriz’s book "La manzana de Adán." This might be an interesting point to jump off from when considering the questions that you raise in relation to Chile.