Date: Sat, 11 May 1996 11:21:39 -0400 (EDT) From: Radhika Gajjala <rxgst6+-AT-pitt.edu> Subject: concluding part of speech I have kept in reserve the question of Ollantay, because it is directly connected to this last issue in a way that is strikingly different than Jose Gabriel's claim to be the Inca in the Genealogia. In some ways, Ollantay is in fact the most derivate and "European" of the three texts, combining as it does the baroque allegorical model of state theater--as in Calderon's La vida es sueno--with what came to be known as the comedia tierna in the Spanish Enlightenment--Jovellanos' El delincuente honrado is the best known example of the genre, which anticipates bourgeois melodrama. The play is based on an Inca legend set in the period before the Spanish Conquest about a commoner, Ollantay, who is one of the leading generals of the Inca army and who falls in love illicitly with the daughter of the Inca and has a child with her. When the Inca learns of this, he reacts by imprisoning his daughter and forcing Ollantay to flee to his native province. There Ollantay raises an army to challenge the Inca's authority and recuperate his wife. In the course of the war, the old Inca dies and is replaced by his son, Tupac Yupanqui, the brother of Ollantay's wife. Ollantay's army is eventually defeated, however, and Ollantay himself is brought in chains to Cuzco to stand trial for treason. In the legend, Ollantay is put to death for his transgression; in the play, however, he is (partly through the mediation of his daughter, Yma Sumac) forgiven by Tupac Yupanqui and appointed as, in effect, a sort of vice-Inca (he will rule in Tupac Yupanqui's place when the latter is away), and reunited with his wife and child. If we were to read the Ollantay in the same spirit as the Memorias of Juan Bautista, that is as a "national allegory"--in the sense Fredric Jameson uses this term--anticipating the Wars of Independence of the early nineteenth century, the hero's frustrated love affair and eventual rebellion against the old Inca would symbolize the dissatisfaction of an emergent creole class with the still dominant structures of power of the colonial ancien regime, represented by the Bourbon dynasty and its viceroyalties. What is interesting about the Ollantay for our purposes here, however, is 1)that it was written in Quechua-- and therefore for all practical purposes was inaccesible to a creole audience--and 2)that, despite its reliance on the formula of the Spanish comedia, its models of cultural and political authority are ultimately Andean, rather than European. While the representation of the old Inca against whom Ollantay rebels can certainly be read as a symbol for the Spanish Bourbons, it might also have suggested to the local audiences who saw the play in 1780, as the Tupac Amaru rebellion was spreading, the more immediate and not at all "symbolic" possibility of restoring the Inca state as such. With an important twist, however: the new Inca state suggested at the end of the Ollantay is no longer based on a principle of strict caste authority such as dominated the traditional Inca system; it is, rather, a state that allows precisely for the accesion to power of non-aristocratic subjects like Ollantay. Is it a case here of the infiltration into or contamination of a "purely" Andean conception of the state by proto- democratic ideology or the European idea of enlightened despotism (which itself was based historically in part on Enlightenment concepts of the Inca state)? Ollantay may be seen as a case of transculturation, since it involves at both aesthetic and ideological levels an explosive combination of Andean and European elements that could only have been stabilized into the cultural expression of a new national-popular had the 1780 rebellion succeeded. But it is important to see it as involving a transculturation from below that embodies ultimately not so much the ways in which an emerging creole "lettered city" is adequate, or becomes progressively more so, to the task of representing the interests of the indigenous population, but rather how that population appropriates aspects of European and creole literary and philosophical culture to serve its interests.It is important to note that it is not a question of the distinction between a project that has a concept of "nation" articulated in literature and print culture, as in Benedict Anderson's well-known hypothesis, and one that does not, that is simply tribal or community-based, or regional, precisely because it lacks the representational capacity to project an "imagined community" beyond those limits.13 It is a question, rather, of different conceptions of the subject- form of the nation (and of different types of intellectuals and intellectual culture). Steve Stern explains that: In Peru-Bolivia, in the late colonial period, peasants did not live, struggle, or think in terms that isolated then from the emerging "national question." On the contrary, protonational symbols had great importance in the life of peasants and small-holders. *Yet these protonational symbols were tied not to an emerging creole nationalism*, but to notions of an Andean- or Inca-led social order. Andean peasants saw themselves as part of a wider protonational culture, and sought their liberation on terms that, far from isolating them from an overarching state, would link them to a new and just state (Stern 1987, 76; italics mine) . To see texts like the Genealogia or the Memorias as adequately representative of the interests at stake in the Tupac Amaru rebellion, then, not only obscures the fact of the production by an indigenous peasantry of a sense of the national-popular that, while it may have involved elements of European culture, did so in a way subordinate to its own struggle for hegemony.14 It also amounts to an act of appropriation which excludes that peasantry as a subject conscious of its own history, incorporating it only as a contingent element of another history (of the modern nation- state, of the Enlightenement, of Peruvian literature), whose subject is also an Other (creole, Spanish-speaking, letrado, male). I would like to move from the Tupac Amaru rebellion at this point, however, to consider briefly a contemporary text about indigenous resistance and rebellion in the Americas that I have already had occasion to mention more than once here, I, Rigoberta Menchu15. As you know, Menchu's narrative begins with a strategic disavowal of both literature and the liberal concept of the authority of private experience that literature can engender ("My name is Rigoberta Menchu. I am twenty three years old. This is my testimony. I didn't learn it from a book, and I didn't learn it alone."), and any number of subsequent passages imply a critique of what literacy and books represent in the power systems that affect the narrator's possibilities of liberation or even survival. At the same time, however, it is clear that Menchu constructs her account not only from an oral, "non-Western," pre-capitalist model of story-telling (of the sort Walter Benjamin portrayed in his wonderful essay "The Storyteller"). In narrating her own testimonio, she is clearly also drawing on her experience as a lay catechist, whose function (which involves the Book of Books of Western culture, so to speak) is to dramatize and allegorize the biblical stories she tells in order to provoke discussion about their present-day relevance to the lives of her congregation. I have argued elswhere that it would be yet another version of the native informant of classical anthropology to grant testimonial narrators like Rigoberta Menchu only the possibility of being witnesses, not the power to create their own narrative authority and negotiate its conditions of truth and representativity. "This would be a way of saying that the subaltern can of course speak, but only through the instituitionally sanctioned authority--itself dependent on and implicated in colonialism and imperialism--of the journalist or ethnographer, who alone has the power to decide what counts in the narrator's 'raw material' and to turn it into literature (or 'evidence')" (Beverley 1993, 97). What a text like I, Rigoberta Menchu forces us to confront is the subaltern not only as a "represented" subject but also as agent of a transformative project that aspires itself to become hegemonic. In terms of this project, which is not our own in any immediate sense and which in fact involves structurally a contradiction with our position of relative privilege and authority, the testimonial text is a means rather than an end in itself. In particular, becoming a writer, producing a literary text, reading and discussing that text in a classroom cannot be in themselves the solution what Rene Jara calls the "situation of urgency" that generates the testimonio requires, whether or not these things actually happen. That solution has to be something other than the testimonio's circulation as a written text within what Alberto Moreiras calls, on the model of Said's idea of Orientalism, academic Latinamericanism. In other words, it is not only our purposes that count in relation to a testimonio like I, Rigoberta Menchu. The key thing to understand in this respect is that the subaltern does not want to be subaltern: it wants to be dominant or at least equal. Since the subaltern is constructed discursively in the first place as the "other" of the dominat culture, however, such a desire must of necessity involve a negation or radical inversion of the authority of that culture. This recognition is what distinguishes our project from one which would seek simply to "represent" the subaltern or register its presence in social history, and it is here in particular where we confront directly Florencia Mallon's carefully argued observations on the implications of a subalternist perspective for historical method and technique (Mallon 1994). Where Mallon sees subaltern studies as a new way of doing social history, now more capable of registering the presence and influence of subaltern groups, we are more inclined to see it as involving (among other things) a critique of academic history itself, of its pretension to represent the "other" adequately without questioning its own institutional involvement in structures of power/knowledge that are directly implicated in the production of the elite/subaltern distinction in the first place. In this sense, the argument of Mallon's recent book on peasants and the state in Mexico and Peru seems to us to "suture" unduly the people/nation opposition in Latin American social history, by claiming to establish the effective presence of the subaltern in the conformation of the local and national state. We prefer to leave this gap open or to widen it even more. I also need to differentiate the Subaltern Studies proposal from the larger project of a Latin American Cultural Studies, within which we initially inscribed it.16 It is not only that cultural studies perpetuates, as I suggested earlier (see note 3), an understanding of cultural agency still dominated by the idea of transculturation. Although animated--via the model of the Birmingham School--by a real concern with subaltern agency as materialized in popular culture, and by theoretical and political inputs coming from the New Left, feminism, marxism, deconstruction, anti-colonial struggles and the like, in its eventual institutionalization within the academy and the foundations cultural studies more and more seems to have taken on a purely descriptive relation to the emerging "scapes"--to borrow Arjun Appadurai's term (as in technoscapes, demoscapes, culturescapes, etc.)--of global culture it seeks to map. It is one thing to move beyond the unhappy synthesis of dependency theory and Frankfurt School-style anxiety about the bad effects of mass culture that dominated an earlier phase of Latin American cultural critique, but in its present incarnation--I take Canclini's Culturas hibridas to represent the state of the art-- perhaps cultural studies confuses adequate description of cultiural change with the forms of subaltern cultural agency as such. As such, I would argue that it risks becoming a new form of academic costumbrismo. I think we are all beginning to understand that what we do in critical theory, communications and cultural studies, new historicism, subalternist historiographies, postcolonial critique, and the like, can be--according to the logic of what Bordieu calls "effects not desired"--complicit in producing discursively what I sometimes call a transnational postmdernist sublime. The phrase is only partly ironic: the function of such a sublime- -as a new sensorium or aesthetic-cognitive remapping--would be to adjust the humanities and the field of culture generally to the new patterns of domination, exploitation, and immiseration produced by globalization, just as the Romantic sublime of Kant and company did for an earlier stage of capitalism in the nineteenth century. The trajectory of Appadurai's own work and of the transnational cultural studies journal he co-edits, Public Culture, is itself symptomatic of this danger, as is in a different way something like the Benetton ad campaign that used testimonial and documentary material drawn from subaltern situations to persuade affluent transnational consumers to buy that company's clothes. Cultural studies may or may not have political consequences, depending on how it is articulated (its capacity to draw the left away from what Garcia Canclini calls a "Gutembergian" concept of cultural agency is salutory, in my opinion). By contrast, the subalternist project is necessarily a partisan one, something like a secular version of what Liberation Theology calls a "preferential option for the poor," and it shares with Liberation Theology the essential methodology of "listening to the poor," to use Gustavo Gutierrez's phrase.17 Here I am speaking only for myself; other members of the Group aren't comfortable with this comparison, mistrusting with good reason a rhetoric that relies even metaphorically on the claim of organized religion to speak for the poor. What we do agree about, however, is that subaltern studies is--to quote our Founding Statement again--"a question not only of new ways of looking at the subaltern, new and more powerful forms of information retrieval, but also of building new relations between ourselves and those human contemporaries whom we posit as objects of study" (Beverley et al. 1995, 121).18 We do not, in this sense, claim to represent the subaltern; we register instead the way in which the knowledge we construct and impart as academics is structured by the absence or difficulty or impossibility of representation of the subaltern. This is to recognize, however, the fundamental inadequacy of this knowledge and of the institutions that contain it, including the university, and therefore the need for social change in the direction of a more radically democratic and non-hierarchical social order.
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